A Brief History of Maryland's Old Bay Seasoning

Old Bay Seasoning
Old Bay Seasoning | © Mike Mozart / Flickr | Old Bay Seasoning | © Mike Mozart / Flickr
Kristina Gaddy

If you’re from Maryland, you know about Old Bay®, and if you’re not, you may have never heard of it. Pronounced more like Ol’bay, the seasoning is traditionally used for seafood, but has grown to be an icon. Read more about the history of this unique Maryland spice.

Loved by over 40s

Old Bay® was a blend of 18 spices invented by Gustav Brunn, a German refugee who came to Maryland in 1939. Named after a ship line on the Chesapeake Bay, the spice grew in popularity during the second half of the 20th century. In 1990, McCormick & Company bought the spice, at which time they didn’t have any plans to distribute it outside Maryland. Today, the company still manufactures it north of Baltimore, and does distribute it to a much wider area. The recipe is the same as it was over 75 years ago, and the can is wonderfully retro. Any restaurant in Maryland, especially those near the Chesapeake Bay, will have the seasoning, and it’s a must for your steamed crabs and crabcakes.

The official ingredients listed on a can of Old Bay® are: celery seed, salt, “spices,” red pepper, black pepper, and paprika. As you may imagine, this leaves a lot of speculation about what those “spices” are and how you can make your own. The internet is full of videos and blog posts about how to make your own seafood seasoning, which can be a good option if you’re not in Maryland (otherwise go to any grocery store and save yourself some effort).


The seafood spice is an icon – you’re almost not a Maryland household without a can in the cupboard, and Maryland food and beverage companies have embraced the spice, putting it in seemingly everything. Flying Dog Brewery based in Frederick, Maryland made an Old Bay® Ale called Dead Rise, while at The Charmery ice cream parlor in Baltimore, Maryland, you can find an Old Bay® Caramel (a local favorite). Utz’s potato chips has an off-license “Crab Chip” flavor and Herr’s has occasional sold Old Bay® Cheese Curls. And it’s not a Bloody Mary in Maryland unless the rim is coated in the spice (and once you’ve had it that way, it’s hard to go back to an un-coated rim). You can also just buy a can to sprinkle on any seafood, or get creative by putting it on popcorn, chicken wings, or focaccia bread.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.