The Best Dry Rub for Ribs

BBQBarbecuePorkSpice Mix

This BBQ Spice Rub isn't just for ribs! It also goes great on pork chops, pork loin, and pork shoulder! You can even add it to your favorite BBQ sauce for an extra kick.

Photography Credit: Irvin Lin

I grew up in St. Louis, where we take our BBQ seriously. Though there are myriad styles of BBQ, I always have a simple, go-to BBQ spice rub on hand for pork and ribs.

I’ll use it as a base from which to add layers of flavors, then add sauce on top. Other times I’ll use it as is (especially on pork chops) for an easy and quick meal.

BBQ Spice Rub for Pulled Pork - overhead shot of red spice rub in jar

WHAT’S IN THIS DRY RUB

This BBQ rub uses a lot of dark brown sugar to give it sweetness and a tiny flavor of molasses that the brown sugar imparts. There’s also mustard and cayenne to give it a little bit of heat and smoked paprika to add a touch of smokiness.

Onion and garlic powder round out the flavor with their aromatic notes, and tiny bit of allspice is the secret ingredient that will have your guests asking “what’s in this rub?” at the dinner table.

WAYS TO CUSTOMIZE THE RUB

Like all spice blends, you can customize it to your own taste:

  • If you like your BBQ rub less sweet, use less brown sugar (reduce to 1/2 cup) or swap it for coconut sugar to make it paleo-friendly.
  • Consider more pepper or reduce the salt to suit your palate.
  • Omit the allspice or substitute it for cinnamon or nutmeg to add some earthiness. Omit the cayenne if you don’t like spicy.
  • Add red chili peppers, Korean chili flakes, or Aleppo peppers for more complex spicy notes.
  • Add cumin or coriander for some more depth.

BBQ Spice Rub for Pulled Pork - bowl of spices

USE THE BEST HERBS AND SPICES

Dried pantry herbs and spices will lose potency and flavor over time, and for this spice rub, you definitely want fresh dried herbs and spices.

Most spices last 2 years when properly stored, though it depends on the herb or spice. The best way to test is to crumble a pinch of the spice or herb with your fingers and then smell it. If the herb or spice smells musty or you can barely smell it, you probably need to replace it.

Pro tip: Use an airtight glass jar to mix the ingredients together and you’ll save on cleanup!

HOW LONG DOES THIS RUB LAST AND HOW SHOULD I STORE IT?

Store this spice rub in an airtight container in the pantry with the rest of your herbs and spices, clearly labeled with the date. If the spices you used are fresh, the rub should last about a year, though the brown sugar might harden a bit in the meantime. This makes the rub difficult to use, and so you should make a new batch when and if this happens.

All Purpose BBQ Pork Spice Rub - jar of bbq spice rub

HOW TO USE THIS SPICE RUB

This spice rub is great on pork chops, pork loin, pork shoulder/butt, and ribs. You can use it by itself or in conjunction with your favorite BBQ sauce for an additional flavoring.

FOR RIBS:

If you’re using it on ribs without any other seasonings or ingredients, rub the ribs all over with the spice mix, applying it liberally until no more rub will stick to the ribs. You can grill right away or you can let the ribs rest for an hour or overnight in the refrigerator for the rub flavor to penetrate.

Grill over low heat (200°F to 250°F) like you would these Memphis Style Ribs, flipping the ribs every hour for about 4 hours (although depending on the heat of your grill it can be up to 6 or 7 hours).

FOR PORK SHOULDER BUTT/ROAST:

Generously rub the spice mix all over the pork shoulder roast. Get the rub into all the crevices! Wrap it well in butcher paper or plastic wrap and place it back in the fridge overnight to let the rub spices infuse flavor into the roast.

The next day, proceed to cook the meat with the method you like. Use a slow cooker to make BBQ pulled pork tacos similar to these Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos, a pressure cooker for these carnitas, or grill it slowly to make sure it gets some smoke, like in these BBQ Pork Shoulder on a Gas Grill.

FOR PORK CHOPS:

Drizzle a little bit of oil over the pork, then sprinkle and rub in as much spice blend as you want. Like the ribs, you can rest the chops for an hour or in the fridge overnight, or cook them right away. Grill or pan fry as you normally would.

Just keep a lookout for high heat, as the sugar in the rub burns easily. Lower heat for both methods of cooking is recommended.

You can also sous vide the pork chops, although if you do be sure to sprinkle more rub on to the chops right before the reverse sear. But again, remember when reverse searing the meat, cook it at a low temperature as the sugar in the rub will caramelize and burn above 250°F.

WANT SOME INSPIRATION FOR THESE RUBS? CHECK IT OUT!

The Best Dry Rub for Ribs Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (or 1/2 cup if you prefer a more savory rub)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon allspice

Method

1 Mix: Place all the spices in an airtight glass jar and shake gently to combine.

2 Store: Store in an airtight container for up to a year.

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Irvin Lin

Irvin Lin is an IACP award-winning photographer, food writer and recipe developer, blue-ribbon baker, public speaker and occasional social media consultant. His blog is Eat the Loveand his first cookbook is Marbled, Swirled and Layered.

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One Comment

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  1. Garrett

    My husband does something similar to this but adds chipotle for smoke and (a bit of an out there ingredient) amchoor powder to give it a tang. Amchoor is a sour powder made from dried mango and can be found online or in Indian markets. Super epic.

    xxxxxyyyyy

BBQ Spice Rub for Ribs - bbq spice label on jarThe Best Dry Rub for Ribs