This homemade dry rub for ribs is customizable, cost-effective, and can also be used for chicken, brisket, pork shoulder and even burgers.

Textured baking pan with two racks of baby back ribs rubbed with dry rub for ribs.

Why you need to make your own Rib Rub

I make my own dry rub for ribs for the same reason I make my own salad dressings, sauces and 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 cumin, and it overpowers everything else in the mixture.

When I make my own dry 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.

Use this best rib rub recipe in conjunction with either my oven baby back ribs or slow cooker baby back ribs recipe.

Why You Will Love This Dry Rub for Ribs

  • Buying pre-made rubs can be expensive, especially if you’re hosting a barbecue and need a large amount. Making your own rub is cost-effective, using spices you likely already have in your pantry.
  • This rub isn’t just for ribs! Its versatile flavor profile works wonders on a variety of meats, including chicken, beef brisket, pork shoulder, even burgers!
Handmade ceramic bowl filled with a rib rub recipe, with small spoon inserted in it.

The Best Rub Recipe for Baby Back or Spare Ribs!

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.

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 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 recipe 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.

Ten small ramekins filled with various ground spices for rib rub, on wooden table.

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 best 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 that makes this the best dry rub for ribs.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Home Chef Tips for this Rib Rub Recipe

  • When you’re ready to use your rub, make sure your ribs are dry by patting them down with paper towel. Then, apply the rub generously, ensuring it covers every nook and cranny.
  • Don’t forget the sides for ribs to complete your meal!
Four slabs of baby back ribs rubbed with the best rib rub, on a rimmed baking pan.

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, and my family does it all the time!

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?

At least 15 minutes, but no longer than 12 hours. The longer the dry rib sits on the ribs, the deeper the flavor will be. 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 ribs in oven or root beer ribs), 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.

Dry Rub Recipe

Dry Rub Recipe

Yield: Heaping 1/2 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

This homemade dry rub for ribs is customizable, cost-effective, and can also be used for chicken, brisket, pork shoulder and even burgers.


  • 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


  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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