Rib Rub

published May 19, 2024
Rib Rub Recipe

Make the very best ribs with this five-ingredient rib rub.

Makes1/2 cup

Prep2 minutes

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overhead shot of two racks of ribs being seasoned with the dry rub.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

One thing I always do as spring picnics heat up into summer cookouts is mix up a batch of rib rub. Despite what the dozens of highly branded and cleverly pitched spice blends lead you to believe, rib rubs can be super simple. My go-to rib seasoning mix has just five ingredients — all of which are already in my pantry and probably in yours as well. Here, a savory-sweet combination of brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper is all you need to coax the very best flavor from the pork ribs you’re making. Whether you’re a newbie at the grill (we’ve got a ton of tips to help you get started) or are a seasoned pro, this is the rib rub that will make every rack a winner. 

Why You’ll Love It

  • There’s no need to buy specialty spices or pay an upgrade for packaged seasoning mixes when you want to make the perfect ribs this summer. This rib rub calls for just five spices that you likely already have in your pantry.
  • This simple rub is the perfect balance of savory and sweet and lets the delicious flavor of pork ribs shine. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Key Ingredients in Rib Rub

  • Brown sugar: Light or dark brown sugar adds sweetness to the rub with a hint of molasses flavor. 
  • Paprika: Paprika gives this rib rub a mild peppery flavor. Opt for smoked over sweet paprika for a smoky flavor — especially if you’re not cooking ribs on the grill or smoker.
  • Kosher salt: Salt is essential for seasoning anything you’re cooking — including ribs. We’ve tested this recipe with both Diamond Crystal and Morton kosher salt. 
  • Garlic powder: Add even more savory flavor to the rib rub with garlic powder. This spice is made by drying fresh garlic and grinding it into a fine powder. Make sure you’re not using garlic salt, which can tip the seasoning scale. 
  • Black pepper: Freshly ground black pepper will deliver more of its signature bite than pre-ground pepper. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

How to Make Rib Rub

  1. Combine seasonings. Mix the brown sugar, paprika, kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder together in a bowl or jar until combined. 

Helpful Swaps

  • This rib rub makes enough to season two racks of ribs, and you can choose between St. Louis-style spareribs and baby back ribs. Don’t limit yourself with this versatile rub. Use it to season other grilled and smoked meats including pork tenderloin, pork chops, pork shoulder, and chicken. 
  • This rub is an all-purpose seasoning mix for ribs; it has a balance of sweet and savory spices. Once you’ve tried the recipe as written, experiment with adding other spices like dried mustard powder, ground cumin, chili powder, and more.

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips 

Combine the spices and store at room temperature for up to one month. If you plan on making ribs several times over the course of the season, make a big batch and portion out only what you need.

What to Serve with Rib Rub

Season racks of ribs with this rub, then use the cooking instructions from these recipes.

Serve tender, seasoned ribs with seasonal sides.

Rib Rub Recipe

Make the very best ribs with this five-ingredient rib rub.

Prep time 2 minutes

Makes 1/2 cup

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup

    packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    smoked or regular paprika

  • 2 tablespoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place 1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons smoked or regular paprika, 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine. This makes enough for 2 racks of pork ribs.

Recipe Notes

General tips: This recipe includes salt. If you’re following a recipe that calls for seasoning ribs separately with salt before adding the rub, you can leave the salt out and season to your liking.

Storage: Store rib rub in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.