Unlocking Maximum Flavor: Seasoning Shrimp with Old Bay

This easy Old Bay shrimp recipe is ready in minutes and brings out the bold flavors of the most famous seafood seasoning. Fresh lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and a kick of heat from Tabasco balance the dish, and the earthy notes of fresh thyme finish it off. With its delicious buttery pan juices, you can serve it over rice, or our favorite, mashed potatoes.

Shrimp is one of the most versatile and popular seafood ingredients. From shrimp scampi to shrimp tacos and classic shrimp boils, there are endless ways to enjoy these tender, sweet morsels from the sea. But to truly make shrimp shine, proper seasoning is key. And one of the all-time best seasonings for shrimp is Old Bay.

This iconic Chesapeake Bay spice blend packs an umami punch that perfectly complements the briny flavor of shrimp. If you’ve only used it for boiling shrimp, you’re missing out on a world of possibilities. Read on to learn how to elevate your shrimp game by seasoning with Old Bay.

What is Old Bay Seasoning?

Created in Baltimore in the 1940s Old Bay is a proprietary blend of spices including celery salt, mustard pepper, paprika, and other secret ingredients. Its distinctive yellow tin with red lettering is a staple in seafood restaurants up and down the East Coast.

While originally created for crabs and shrimp, Old Bay’s balanced flavors work well on all kinds of seafood, poultry, potatoes, corn and more. It provides a salty, spicy kick along with warm, earthy notes.

Why Season Shrimp with Old Bay?

Old Bay’s unique blend of flavors complements shrimp perfectly

  • It enhances brininess Old Bay contains celery salt which has a naturally salty seafood-like flavor. This intensifies the inherent briny taste of shrimp.

  • It provides savory depth: Ingredients like black pepper, paprika and mustard seed lend a robust, layered umami taste.

  • It offers a touch of heat: A mild dose of cayenne and other peppers gives a pleasing little kick.

  • It supplies a tangy accent: Spices like ginger, mace and cloves brighten and balance the blend.

Old Bay truly brings out the best in shrimp. It spices them up without overpowering their sweetness.

Old Bay Shrimp Cooking Methods

While best known for boiled shrimp, Old Bay can be used to upgrade shrimp prepared using many different cooking methods:

  • Grilled shrimp: Lightly coat peeled shrimp in olive oil and Old Bay before grilling. The spices provide tons of extra flavor as the shrimp chars.

  • Sautéed shrimp: Cook shrimp quickly in butter or oil with Old Bay. The heat releases the seasonings’ aromas.

  • Baked shrimp: Sprinkle Old Bay on shrimp before roasting in the oven. The dry heat concentrates the blend’s savory notes.

  • Air fried shrimp: Old Bay combined with breadcrumbs or panko makes amazingly crispy air fried shrimp.

  • Shrimp tacos: Sprinkle on minced shrimp as you sauté it for killer shrimp taco filling.

  • Shrimp dip: Fold Old Bay into creamy shrimp dip or cocktail sauce for an extra flavor punch.

A little sprinkle of Old Bay can upgrade shrimp prepared using a wide variety of cooking methods beyond boiling.

Old Bay Shrimp Recipes to Try

Looking for new ways to enjoy Old Bay shrimp? Here are some must-try recipes:

  • Old Bay shrimp boil: Boil potatoes, corn and sausage with head-on shrimp seasoned in the pot with Old Bay.

  • Grilled Old Bay shrimp skewers: Alternate shrimp and vegetables like zucchini and red pepper on skewers seasoned with Old Bay.

  • Old Bay shrimp tacos: Top corn tortillas with sautéed shrimp seasoned with Old Bay and avocado.

  • Old Bay shrimp and grits: Make creamy grits and scatter sautéed spicy Old Bay shrimp on top.

  • Old Bay shrimp fried rice: Stir shrimp seasoned with Old Bay into fried rice with veggies.

  • Old Bay shrimp cocktail: Rim glasses with Old Bay and serve with chilled poached shrimp.

The possibilities are endless! Old Bay can also be used when making shrimp salad, seafood pasta, gumbo and more.

Tips for Seasoning with Old Bay

To get the most flavor when seasoning shrimp with Old Bay, keep these tips in mind:

  • Add Old Bay early in cooking so the flavors have time to develop.

  • Use it in both dry rubs and wet marinades so it penetrates the shrimp.

  • Sprinkle it directly on shrimp instead of just mixing into a sauce or marinade.

  • Let shrimp sit 5-10 minutes after seasoning to allow flavors to permeate.

  • Use fresh shrimp within 2 days for best results, as Old Bay intensifies over time.

  • Add extra lemon, garlic or herbs to balance Old Bay’s boldness.

  • Use reduced-sodium Old Bay to control salt levels in recipes.

With the right technique, Old Bay can make your shrimp irresistibly savory.

For shrimp that packs a flavor punch, look no further than classic Old Bay seasoning. This timeless Chesapeake spice mix not only perfectly seasons shrimp for boiling, but also adds incredible flavor to shrimp prepared using methods like grilling, sautéing and more. Revel in the tangy heat of Old Bay shrimp at your next seafood feast!

how to season shrimp with old bay

What is Old Bay Seasoning?

Old Bay Seasoning is a mix of salt, celery seed, black pepper, red pepper, paprika, and other spices. It was first made by the Baltimore Spice Company to flavor crab and shrimp.

In the early 1900s, the Old Bay line of passenger ships sailed the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore to Norfolk, Virginia. That’s where the name comes from.

The brand was sold to McCormick & Company in 1990, but the flavor has remained the same. McCormick now makes other Old Bay products, such as a version with less salt, ready-made cocktail sauce, and a crab cake mix.

You should try our baked or pan-fried crab cakes if you like the way Old Bay tastes.

How to Make Old Bay Shrimp

Here’s a basic overview of how this dish is prepared. For detailed, step-by-step instructions and a complete ingredient list, please refer to the printable recipe card below.

To sauté the shrimp, melt the butter in a pan, add the shrimp, and sprinkle with Old Bay Seasoning. Sauté for about three minutes.

MAKE THE PAN SAUCE: Drizzle with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and a dash of Tabasco. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.

FINISH THE DISH: Add the shrimp to the sauce and toss until they are covered. Add some black pepper and serve.

Plump, Juicy Old Bay Shrimp

How do you cook shrimp with Old Bay Seasoning?

Easy, spicy, steamed shrimp with Old Bay seasoning. Great for a super-quick dinner with a salad. Bring water, vinegar, and seafood seasoning to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Add shrimp and stir. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and steam, stirring once or twice, until bright orange in color, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain.

Do fresh bay leaves work the same as dried spice bay leaves?

Yup. The drying process does not diminish its aroma or functional properties, as the herb is rich in essential oils that are not lost with heating. The ideal is to add it to the bay leaf at the beginning of cooking, as it releases the aromas slowly.

How do you cook shrimp in Old Bay?

1 In a medium saucepan mix vinegar water and OLD BAY. Bring to boil on medium heat. Gently stir in shrimp then cover. 2 Steam 2 to 3 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Drain well. 3 Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with OLD BAY® Cocktail Sauce. Plan your meals, build your digital pantry, save recipes, and more!

Can You boil frozen shrimp with Old Bay Seasoning?

Yes, you can use frozen shrimp when boiling with Old Bay seasoning. However, it is important to properly thaw the shrimp before boiling. Place the frozen shrimp in a bowl of cold water for about 15-20 minutes or until they are fully thawed. Drain the water before boiling.

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