This homemade dry rub for ribs is the best rib rub recipe for baby back ribs, spare ribs, or just about any other kind of meat!

Textured baking pan with two racks of baby back ribs and small bowl of spice mixture. One rack of ribs is rubbed with spices.

A little known fact about me: I hate most product packaging! Anything that I can transfer to a clean, beautiful mason jar and store that way, instead of in it’s original packaging, I do.

So, an entire shelf of one of my kitchen cabinets is filled with various sizes of mason jars, with every pasta, grain, dried fruit and toddler snack imaginable.

I also have a small corner devoted to jars of homemade spice rubs and seed blends, like the homemade taco seasoning I sometimes use for taco soup slow cooker, and the everything bagel seasoning that I sprinkle on . . . everything.

And today, I’m sharing my best rib rub recipe. Use this dry rub for ribs in conjunction with either my root beer ribs or slow cooker baby back ribs recipe, or simply slather ribs with this rib seasoning and grill them up! It’s even great on lamb lollipops!

Why you need to make your own Rib Rub

I make my own dry rub for ribs in oven for the same reason I make my own salad dressings (like tahini dressing), sauces (General Tso’s meatballs) and marinades (like Greek marinated chicken and buttermilk chicken marinade): I can control what’s in it!

I’ve purchased pre-packaged meat rubs before, and sometimes they’re OK. But often, I’m simply not happy with the flavor.

Sometimes they’ll only taste like salt and not much else, or sometimes there is just wayyyy too much rosemary, and it overpowers everything else in the rib seasoning.

When I make my own pork rib rub recipe, I can go heavier on the spices that I really like (chili power, garlic powder, onion powder) and go lighter or omit the ones I’m not as crazy about. I do the same thing for my spicy potato chips seasoning.

Ten small ramekins filled with various ground spices for a dry rub for ribs, on wooden table.

This is the Best Rib Rub

Even though salt is the predominant ingredient in this dry rub for ribs (as it is in most dry rubs), I sometimes refer to this as a brown sugar rib rub, since there’s quite a bit of that too.

The molasses flavor of brown sugar is a nice way to add a touch of sweetness to savory foods, and it’s a key element in my harissa bbq sauce as well.

The balance of the salt and the sugar in this rib seasoning means the finished ribs have a sweet and savory quality. The chili powder and paprika give the ribs a deep brick red color, while the ground mustard and cayenne give them a little kick (I love a kick of cayenne in my bacon gravy recipe, too).

The Best Rib Rub for Ribs – Baby Back or Spare!

I most often use this dry rub for ribs recipe on baby back ribs, simply because they’re my favorite. But this brown sugar rib rub can also be used on spare ribs. This article from Eater does a good job of explaining the difference between baby back ribs and spare ribs.

And I don’t JUST use this pork rib rub recipe on ribs. Since I always have a jar of it in the cabinet, I reach for it for just about any grilled meat, including steak, chicken and even salmon for my salmon pasta recipe! It’s also great on Instant Pot short ribs.

Don’t forget the side dishes for ribs to complete your meal!

Handmade ceramic bowl filled with a dry rub for ribs spice mixture, with small spoon inserted in it.

What you’ll need to make the Best Dry Rub For Ribs

  • Kosher salt – this enhances the overall flavor of the meat, as well as all of the other ingredients in the rub.
  • Chili powder – this adds a bit of heat and a subtle smokiness, which is always a great flavor pairing for ribs.
  • Garlic powder – this adds a savory and aromatic element to the rib rub.
  • Light brown sugar – this adds a touch of sweetness but also helps the meat caramelize as it’s cooking.
  • Onion powder – adds a subtle onion flavor and contributes to the overall savory taste.
  • Paprika – adds a rich red color and mildly sweet, smoky flavor.
  • Ground cumin – adds an earthy depth of flavor and warmth.
  • Ground mustard – adds a tangy flavor.
  • Ground black pepper – adds a mild heat and pairs well with the other spices.
  • Cayenne pepper – adds a hot and spicy kick. The amount can be adjusted according to personal preference for heat.

Dry Rub Variations and Customizations

While this dry rub for ribs is perfect as it is, you can also customize it and try different variations to suite your taste preferences. Here are a few ideas for different varieties:

  • SPICY – Add more cayenne pepper, as well as a pinch of red pepper flakes. I’ll do this for my oven baby back ribs quite a bit.
  • SMOKY – Use smoked paprika in place of traditional paprika to add a deep smoky flavor to the meat.
  • HERBY – Experiment with adding dried herbs like oregano, rosemary and thyme to add an herbaceous element to the rub.

Other ways to use the Best Rib Rub

While this rib rub recipe was developed specifically for ribs, it’s quite versatile and can be used to enhance a variety of meats and even vegetables. Here are a few ideas:

  • PORK CHOPS – Rub pork chops with this dry rub before cooking to add a sweet and savory flavor to your chops.
  • CHICKEN – this is one of my favorite seasonings for grilled or even baked chicken.
  • FRENCH FRIES – it sounds strange, but tossing homemade or frozen French fries with this dry rub for ribs really takes the fries to the next level.

Storing Rib Rub

Dry rub for ribs can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container. It can last up to six months, but for best flavor, try to use it within three to four months.

Several small bowls of various ground spices on wooden tabletop.

Dry Rub for Ribs FAQs

How long should dry rub be on ribs before cooking?

Short answer: At least 15 minutes, but it’s kind of up to you, and there’s really no wrong answer.

Long answer: Depends on how deep you want the flavor to be, and if you’re using a sauce or not. The longer the dry rib sits on the ribs, the deeper the flavor will be.

And if you’re planning to smoke or grill the ribs with JUST the dry rub (no sauce), you’ll probably want a more pronounced flavor from the rub, since it’s your only flavoring agent. In that case, I usually rub the ribs in the morning and refrigerate them all day before grilling.

But, if you’re planning to slather the ribs with a thick and sticky barbecue sauce (like my country style pork ribs oven), you can cook the ribs 15 minutes after you rub them.

Can you dry rub ribs too long?

Don’t let the rub sit on the meat any longer than about 12 hours or so. Any more than that, and the meat can start to dry out, similar to a curing effect.

Is a dry or wet rub better for ribs?

Both dry rubs and wet rubs for ribs have their merits, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference.
A dry rub helps create a flavorful crust, and is simple to prepare and store for future use.
A wet rub gives you the opportunity to include things like citrus juice, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. It can create a glaze on the outside of the meat, but needs to be refrigerated and doesn’t have a long shelf life.
I prefer the simplicity and ease of storage that comes with a dry rub for ribs.

Textured baking pan with two racks of baby back ribs and small bowl of spice mixture. One rack of ribs is rubbed with spices.

Dry Rub Recipe

Yield: Just over 1/2 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

This homemade dry rub for ribs is the best rib rub recipe for baby back ribs, spare ribs, or just about any other kind of meat!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. In small bowl, stir together all ingredients. Store at room temperature, in airtight container, for up to 1 month.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 9 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 20Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 868mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g

Nutrition information is for 1 tablespoon of rub.

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