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Old Bay Seasoning (Recipe: New England shrimp boil)


When I was growing up in the metro New York area, my Cousin Martin was growing up in Maryland.

Several times a year, we packed up the car and drove south to visit. My father loved to drive, and, even more, loved to discover new routes to the same old places. A detour of 50 miles was perfectly acceptable, if the road proved interesting or scenic, or if we found a shack with great food along the way.

As we motored through Delaware into Maryland, the road stayed the same but the food changed.

We were driving through crab country.

Every little roadside eatery sold crab cakes, and every concession stand at the highway rest stops sold Old Bay Seasoning. It was the best souvenir of our travels, and my mother always picked up a tin on the way home.

Those tins my mother bought fifty years ago looked exactly like the one on my spice rack today. Developed as a seasoning for Chesapeake Bay blue crabs, Old Bay's signature product hasn't changed since 1939.

The proportion of spices in Old Bay Seasoning remains a secret, but the ingredients are listed: celery salt (salt, celery seed), spices (including mustard, red pepper, black pepper, bay leaves, cloves, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon) and paprika.

Sure, you can use it on blue crabs, but Old Bay earns its keep in The Perfect Pantry by being far more versatile. Add some to meatloaf, deviled eggs, potato salad, burgers, lobster rolls, grilled salmon, or Bloody Marys. Or, get even more creative with coconut split pea soup, crab and andouille jambalaya, zucchini crab cakes, turkey "steak", shrimp and chorizo, or smoked salmon bisque.


I've written a bit about this iconic seasoning before, so the nice folks at Old Bay recently sent me samples of their newest products to try. Three seasoning blends tweak the basic formula with garlic and herbs, lemon and herbs, and blackened peppers. All delicious, but the one that most appeals to me is Old Bay 30% Less Sodium Seasoning, which took a basic egg salad to a whole new level.


New England shrimp boil

Really, you don't need a recipe for egg salad, so try this shrimp boil, one of several variations on the theme available on the Old Bay web site. This one comes from renowned seafood chef Jasper White, owner of the Summer Shack restaurants in Boston. If you can't find the Portuguese chourico, substitute chorizo or any spicy sausage. Serves 6 generously.


3 Tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
2 qts chicken broth or stock (homemade or low-sodium store-bought)
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
4 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning, divided
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1-1/2 lbs red or yellow small new potatoes
1 lb small boiling or cippolini onions, peeled, left whole (or use frozen pearl onions)
1 lb chourico or linguica sausage, or chicken chourico, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ears fresh corn, shucked and cut into 2-inch pieces (omit if it's not corn season)
30 small littleneck clams, scrubbed and drained
2-1/2 lbs unpeeled extra-jumbo shrimp (16-20 count)
2 lemons, cut into wedges


Heat oil in a 12-quart stockpot on medium heat. Add garlic; cook gently  for 2 minutes without browning. Add chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, 3 Tbsp of the Old Bay, and pepper. Bring to a boil.

Stir in potatoes. Return to boil. Cook, covered, 5 minutes. Add onions and sausage. Cook, covered, 5 minutes. Add corn (if available) and clams. If ingredients are not covered by broth, add up to 2 cups water to cover. Cook, covered, 10 minutes or until clams open and corn is tender, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp. Return to boil, stirring gently. Cover. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 to 8 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink.

Drain cooking liquid. Pour contents of pot into large serving bowl or platter. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbsp Old Bay. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Florida crab cakes
Jennifer's Criminal Crab Cakes
Barbecued brisket
Mexican spiced fish

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Wow, has this got me craving fries with Old Bay or what!

I am so tempted to buy every spice I learn about at Perfect Pantry =D

I absolutely love shrimp and Old Bay Seasoning, this would be such a fun one-dish dinner party! I am going to bookmark this and try it out...thanks for the easy, delicious recipe.

Heavens yes that was the spice box most often on the counter in use when we lived in Mobile!
The low salt one in the egg salad sounds wonderful.

I always love the stories behind the recipes.

i have never seen this spice before..i dont know if it exist in france..im so tempted to have one and try

LOVE old bay! Simplest use...steam/boil 1 lb shrimp in 2 bottles of corona and 1 tbsp Old Bay. Ice and serve with favorite cocktail sauce. Best Shrimp ever.

on a different note today's entry leads me to another question.. is the salt the only difference between celery salt and celery seed? I always think they are totally different part of the celery. maybe an item for a blog entry?

Great seasoning---great recipe. Old Bay is perfect for shrimp, crab, and as you mentioned, Bloody Marys. I have two tins in my pantry now: the original and garlic & herb...love them both!

I just did a post on shrimps. There's nothing like old bay!

I love how you weave personal stories, unique ingredients and yummy recipes from both your site and others. I haven't used this spice, but now I'm curious... I wonder if it would make a good addition to my veggie meatloaf recipe?

Did you get the pot too?

Thank you to referring the zucchini crab cakes I blogged about in your post!

I'm a big fan of Old Bay. I can't get Zatarain's in NYC and if I don't feel like making my own spice pack, Old Bay always does the trick.

I've had a can of Old Bay sitting on my shelf untouched. I need to get it out and make some of these dishes!

Baltimore has always had crab mania. Sadly, the Chesapeake Bay crab harvest is a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of what it once was. Oysters too, and both the immediate and long-term outlook for the health of the bay is grim.

But on a lighter note, you have me rethinking my dinner plans. It's dangerous to take a look at something like this right before I leave the office!

What a great little backstory. I love this stuff but sadly my pantry is lacking!

O hell, I'm on the next plane over. Save me some now.

Alex, I love this on fries, too. One of my guilty pleasures.

Noobcook, I'm glad to hear that, because it meas you will be trying many new things!

I do too, and unlike crab, shrimp is available year-round here, because none of it is local.

MyKitchen, I think I'll always associate Old Bay with the South, even though I can buy it in my little Rhode Island town's grocery.

Mae, thank you so much.

Dhanggit, EB, Neil: I'm always happy to send you some pantry love. Please email if you'd like Old Bay to come your way.

Carol, love your shrimp recipe -- will definitely try it. Thanks! And yes, celery salt is just celery seed ground with table salt. I've written about celery seed, but I don't keep celery salt in my pantry.

Sandie, if one tin is good, two are better! I like the garlic flavored Old Bay, too.

Veron, I'm sharing the link to your post, because I've never seen anything like those blue-and-white prawns: http://kitchenmusings.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/09/some-alien-prawns-and-how-not-to-cook-baby-octopus.html

Ari, I use Old Bay in meatloaf, in tomato sauce, and sprinkled on roasted veggies, so I'm guessing that no matter what your veggie meatloaf recipe, the Old Bay would work well. Please let me know if you try it.

Nate, I did, and donated it to our local food pantry. They were delighted.

HoneyB, you're welcome!

Lisa, Zatarain's products are finding their way into supermarkets here in RI, so they should be more available everywhere now. I've used the Zatarain's crab boil, too -- it's delicious.

Mrs. L., yes, please, pull that Old Bay off the shelf and sprinkle it on something!

Julie, it's so sad about the Chesapeake Bay crab harvest. I have fond memories, going back to childhood but also quite recently, of delicious crab dinners on the Eastern Shore -- and even of whacking crabs at Crisfield's.

That sprinkle of seasoning definitely perks up the egg salad!

There's a tin in the cabinet - it's high time for an Old Bay reunion! Those new varieties sound like fun. (And I have a certain fondness for anyone who buys spices as a souvenier of a car trip!)

I enthusiastically agree that Old Bay is best for a shellfish boil, the perfect baseline seasoning for a shrimp salad. Now, let's see if I can find some wild-caught crustaceans. Wish me luck.

Reminds me of my time in Baltimore. Someone even had an Old Bay Christmas tree in my funky neighborhood!

Your comment about going different routes each time fascinates me. I love that. We get so caught up in getting places quickly and often time overlook the little roadside treasures along the way!
I love Old Bay seasoning. A must in every pantry!

Tigerfish, it really does make egg salad (and I love love love egg salad) even better!

TW, my mother wasn't much of a cook, so she would buy most of those Old Bay tins to give as gifts to friends when we returned to NJ. I thought it was a great idea then, and now, of course, I do the same thing whenever I travel!

Susan, shrimp salad or (gasp) lobster rolls with a bit of Old Bay are just delicious.

Mary, I would have loved to see that tree!!

Kristen, I think I inherited my father's wandering gene, but not his sense of direction! Fortunately Ted has a wonderful sense of direction and loves to discover the back roads even more than I do.

I love egg salad and the idea of it w/ Old Bay sounds fabulous. I also really love the idea of the meandering road trip, life is more interesting on the side roads- dontcha think?

I always add a big spoonful of Old Bay to my rib rub. The spices in it are so good on pork. I bet the garlic one would really be good in a rub too.

I love Old Bay so much. They sent me the starter kit too after they saw a previous post I had done on Old Bay Shrimp. How lucky are we?! The first recipe I tried was the "New York Shrimp Boil" that came with the kit and it was fantastic. I've never thought of adding it to egg salad. That sounds delicious! Seriously, I love the stuff so much I can eat it right out of the container :)

Thanks for the post! I got some Old Bay in a food exchange last year, but wasn't real familiar with it. I don't think it's used so much on the West Coast (although certainly available) and, well, definitely not in France! You gave me some good ideas for what to do with it.

Having lived and worked in Ocean City Maryland, I often crave Old Bay seasoning on seafood. Thinking of the simplest pleasure; sitting on a wharf,crab mallet in hand and a jug of cold beer!

I only wish I could find Old Bay in the UK.

Callipygia, yes, life is more interesting on the side roads. That should be the title of a book.

Susan, I think it's great that Old Bay is trying tome new flavor variations, and they'd be perfect for dry rubs. Then you could enhance the flavor by bumping up any one of the ingredients.

Madeline, it's fun to think of how many ways you can use things that are already in your pantry. Of course, that's the whole point of this blog!

Betty, certainly Old Bay started as a regional product, in the area around the Chespeake Bay. And though there is similar seafood on the west coast, they developed their own spice blends to cook it.

Kevin, I do love Ocean City, too.

Betty, Kevin, readers: I'm always happy to send you some Old Bay (or any other pantry item you see here). Please send me an email if you're interested.

Old bay and shrimp go so well together. My little yellow can needs to be replenished.

I have some spicy Meequez sausages and new potatoes waiting for me at home. I can't wait. But shessh... where do I get Old Bay here in Singapore. Sigghhhh.....

Jude, I'm never without a can on my spice rack. Please replenish right away!

MagiKpiper, I'm happy to send some, if you wish. Email me about it.

Thanks Lydia for the offer. But guess what??!! I found em' at one of the many Grocer stores catering for expat here. Cost me SGD5.50. I sprinkled it on my fried potatoes... YUMM-MMEEE!

I bought a tin of OLD BAY last year when i got a chance to Baltimore. I found out that little yellow can just goes well with almost every kind of food. For God's sake, i found OLD BAY was sold in COSTCO at the time when i was just back to Taiwan. I was just planing to buy a new one in COSTCO last month, you know what ?? i could not believe my eyes that COSTCO did not sell OLD BAY any longer. I really like to know where i can get OLD BAY again!! I miss that
tasting so much!!

Believe it or not Old Bay seasoning is the "secret ingredient" in my chicken and dumpling recipe...I used it once when I was out of poultry seasoning and YUM

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