How to make Sweet BBQ Rub in just 4 steps

Looking for a game-changer for your BBQ? Our sweet BBQ rub delivers irresistible flavor and enhances meats and veggies to perfection. Elevate your grill game with this easy BBQ rub.

A wooden spoon filled with a heaping amount of Sweet BBQ rub rests across the top of the glass storage jar.

A sweet BBQ rub is a flavorful blend of spices and seasonings used to enhance the taste of meats and vegetables before grilling or smoking. It typically combines sweet and savory ingredients to create a balance of flavors. While there are many variations of sweet BBQ rubs, this basic recipe is a must try.

Ingredients for Sweet BBQ Rub

Our sweet BBQ rub combines brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, and more for a mouthwatering flavor explosion that will tantalize your taste buds.

Main ingredients

  • Brown Sugar: Brown sugar adds sweetness and depth of flavor to the BBQ rub. It caramelizes during cooking, creating a delicious crust on the meat or vegetables. The molasses content in brown sugar also contributes a subtle hint of richness and enhances the overall taste profile of the rub.
  • Sea Salt: Sea salt provides seasoning to the rub but also enhances the flavor of the other ingredients. It helps to draw out moisture from the meat, promoting a juicier and more tender result. If you do not have fine sea salt, substitute 1:1 with table salt.
  • Ground Black Pepper: Black pepper brings a mild heat and earthy flavor to the BBQ rub. It complements the other spices and helps to balance the sweetness of the brown sugar. Additionally, black pepper adds complexity and depth to the overall taste profile, making the rub more well-rounded and flavorful.
  • Smoked Paprika: Smoked paprika is responsible for adding a distinct smoky flavor to the BBQ rub. It enhances the grilled or smoky notes of the meat and gives it a delicious depth. Smoked paprika also contributes a vibrant reddish color to the rub, making the dish visually appealing. If you do not have smoked paprika, substitute with any paprika variety you have on hand.
  • Roasted Garlic Powder: Roasted garlic powder imparts a rich, savory, and slightly sweet flavor to the BBQ rub. It enhances the overall umami taste of the dish, adding complexity and depth. Roasted garlic powder brings a mellow garlic flavor without the sharpness of raw garlic, ensuring a balanced and harmonious blend of flavors. If you do not have roasted garlic powder, substitute it with regular garlic powder.
  • Onion Powder: Onion powder adds a subtle yet distinct onion flavor to the BBQ rub. It provides a savory and slightly sweet note that complements the other ingredients. The addition of onion powder helps to round out the overall flavor profile and contributes to the delicious taste of the final dish.
  • Ground Mustard: Ground (dry) mustard brings a mild tang and subtle spiciness to the BBQ rub. It adds a touch of complexity to the flavor profile and enhances the overall taste experience. Dry mustard also helps to balance the sweetness of the brown sugar and complements the other spices in the rub.
  • Ancho Chili or Cayenne Pepper: Ancho chili or cayenne pepper adds heat and a touch of smokiness to the BBQ rub. The choice between ancho chili or cayenne pepper depends on the desired level of spiciness. Ancho chili brings a mild, earthy flavor with a hint of fruity sweetness, while cayenne pepper delivers a hotter kick. Either way, these peppers contribute to the overall flavor profile and provide a delightful heat to the final dish.
The ingredients for Sweet BBQ Rub.

How to Make Sweet BBQ rub

Experience BBQ perfection in just 4 simple steps. Simply coat your meats or veggies generously with the sweet BBQ rub and let the flavors work their magic on the grill or in the smoker!

  1. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients.
  2. Mix well until all the spices are evenly incorporated.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasonings according to your preference.
  4. Store the sweet BBQ rub in an airtight container or a sealed plastic bag until ready to use.
A wooden spoon filled with a heaping amount of Sweet BBQ rub rests inside a small blue bowl filled with freshly prepared Sweet BBQ Rub.

Why this Recipe Works

  • The combination of sweet and smoky flavors creates a tantalizing taste experience.
  • The balance of spices enhances the natural flavors of the meats or vegetables.
  • The brown sugar in the rub caramelizes beautifully, adding depth and richness.
  • The easy-to-follow instructions ensure a foolproof and delicious outcome.
  • The versatile rub can be used on a variety of proteins and vegetables.
  • The rub helps to form a flavorful crust on the grilled or smoked food.
  • It’s a crowd-pleasing recipe that will leave everyone craving for more.

Recipe Tips and Kitchen Tricks:

  1. Pat dry the meat or vegetables before applying the rub for better adherence.
  2. Allow the seasoned food to sit for at least 30 minutes before grilling or smoking to allow the flavors to penetrate.
  3. For an extra kick, add a pinch of cayenne pepper to the rub.
  4. Experiment with different wood chips or charcoal flavors to add smokiness to your BBQ.
  5. Use indirect heat for longer cooking times to prevent burning the sweet rub.
  6. Keep a close eye on the grill temperature to ensure even cooking.
  7. Baste the food with a glaze or sauce during the last few minutes of cooking for added moisture and flavor.

Recipe Variations:

  • For a spicy twist, add chipotle powder or cayenne pepper to the rub.
  • Substitute brown sugar with coconut sugar or maple syrup for a unique sweetness.
  • Incorporate herbs like thyme, rosemary, or sage for an aromatic dimension.
  • Experiment with different types of paprika, such as smoked or sweet, for varying flavor profiles.
  • Customize the salt level to your preference by adjusting the amount in the rub.
  • Create a tangy version by adding a touch of citrus zest or juice to the rub.
  • Add a dash of your favorite BBQ sauce to the rub mixture for a flavor infusion.

Serving Suggestions

  1. Rub the sweet BBQ rub on smoked pork shoulder before slow-smoking.
  2. Season Air Fryer corn on the cob with the sweet BBQ rub and serve as a tasty side dish.
  3. Sprinkle the rub on roasted vegetables for a flavorful and aromatic twist.
  4. Enhance the flavor of grilled shrimp by coating them in the sweet BBQ rub.
  5. Create a mouthwatering pulled pork sandwich by seasoning the meat with the sweet BBQ rub and serving it on a soft bun with coleslaw.

Storing, freezing, and reheating instructions

Storing, Freezing, and Reheating Instructions:

  • Store the sweet BBQ rub in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
  • It is not necessary to freeze the rub as it has a long shelf life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q: Can I use the sweet BBQ rub on seafood? A: Absolutely! The sweet BBQ rub works well on various seafood, such as shrimp or salmon, adding a burst of flavor.

Q: Is the rub suitable for vegetarians or vegans? A: Yes, the sweet BBQ rub is vegetarian and vegan-friendly as it contains no animal products.

Q: Can I adjust the sweetness of the rub? A: Certainly! Feel free to adjust the amount of brown sugar in the rub to suit your desired level of sweetness.

Q: How long can I store the sweet BBQ rub? A: When stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, the sweet BBQ rub can last for up to 6 months.

Q: Can I use the rub for oven-baked dishes? A: Absolutely! The sweet BBQ rub can be used to add flavor to oven-baked dishes, such as roasted chicken or baked vegetables.

A close up image of the side shot of a wooden spoon filled with a heaping amount of Sweet BBQ rub which is resting across the top of a small glass storage jar.

Wine & Cocktail Pairings

Wine Pairings:

  1. Zinfandel: The fruity and spicy notes of Zinfandel complement the sweet and smoky flavors of the BBQ rub.
  2. Rosé: The crisp and refreshing nature of a chilled Rosé provides a lovely contrast to the richness of the BBQ flavors.
  3. Malbec: The bold and robust character of Malbec pairs well with the intense flavors of the BBQ rub.

Cocktail Pairings:

  1. Classic Mojito: The bright and citrusy flavors of a Mojito provide a refreshing contrast to the savory BBQ rub.
  2. Spicy Margarita: A Spicy Margarita with a kick of jalapeño adds a delightful heat that complements the smokiness of the rub.
  3. Whiskey Sour: The smoky and sweet notes of a Whiskey Sour harmonize beautifully with the flavors of the BBQ rub.
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Sweet BBQ Rub 3

Sweet BBQ Rub Recipe

Ronda Eagle | Kitchen Dreaming
EASY Sweet BBQ Rub Recipe takes just 5 minutes to prepare and uses ingredients already in your spice pantry. Don't buy a prepackaged mix when you can very easily make your own. This recipe yields 1/2 cup of seasoning blend.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course BBQ, grilling, Seasoning and Sauces
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 45 kcal


  • 1/4  cup  brown sugar , light or dark
  • tablespoon  coarse sea salt [See Note 1]
  • teaspoon ground black pepper
  • teaspoons  smoked paprika [See Note 2]
  • teaspoons  roasted garlic powder [See Note 3]
  • teaspoons  onion powder
  • teaspoon  ground dry mustard
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ancho chili or cayenne pepper , more or less to taste [See Note 4]


  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container or glass jar for up to 6 months.


  1. If you substitute coarse sea salt for iodized (table) salt, reduce the amount by half (since course sea salt has a larger grain size). Use only 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt in the mix instead of 1 tablespoon.
  2. Smoked paprika may be substituted with hot paprika or sweet (plain) paprika. Using hot paprika will significantly increase the heat in this rub. Adjust ratio to your own tastes.
  3. Roasted garlic powder may be replaced with plain garlic powder. I love the roasted garlic flavor.
  4. Ancho chili powder (dried smoked poblano peppers) has a subtle smoky flavor and mild heat for a more pronounced heat in the flavor profile use cayenne pepper and adjust to taste.
  5. Nutrition is calculated based on the recipe as written. Additions, omissions, or substitutions will change the calculated values shown. The addition, omission, or substitution of ingredients will alter the nutritional information shown. Nutrition percentages are based on a 2000-calorie diet. The FDA recommends 80 micrograms of vitamin K.


Serving: 1tbspCalories: 45kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 721mgPotassium: 76mgFiber: 1gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 735IUVitamin C: 1mgVitamin E: 1mgVitamin K: 2µgCalcium: 15mgFolate: 3µgIron: 1mgZinc: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

10 thoughts on “How to make Sweet BBQ Rub in just 4 steps”

  1. Thanks for the tip on rubbing the wet mustard on the ribs since I dont have dry mustard. Can hardly wait to try it today. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Making some spare ribs and there will be a 4 year old that hates anything spicey. So, I’m looking for a way to make a rub without any heat involved. Can I use your rub and not add any of the spices that have any heat to them and have it still taste good? Can I just use salt, brown sugar and sweet paprika?

  3. I wanted to use your BBQ rub and country rib pressure cooker recipe, however I don’t have dry mustard and neither does the store close to me. Can I substitute with regular mustard and, if so, do I it put on the ribs first and then season? Thank you for any help.

    • Hi Wanda,
      Also called ground mustard. Sorry for the confusion. If you use prepared wet mustard you could use a super light coating of maybe a tablespoon total brushed across all the ribs and then coat with the seasoning.

  4. Sounds great & i agree about the roasted garlic. How ever i will have to use the sweet paprika rather than the smoked and I’ll have to put some other chili powder in that is not the ancho as it too is smoked. Excited to try the pork country stle ribs in the Instant Pot.
    Honestly I’m surprised that if you have sensitivity to GMOs that smoked spices or smoked Foods don’t bother you. I get major migraine head aches any time I eat anything that has smoke seasoning, Liquid Smoke, or has been smoked. I also can’t eat pork if it’s cooked over an open flame, i.e. gas grill.

    • Hi Teena,

      I don’t have a sensitivity to GMOs. I have a sensitivity to MSG which is not in any of the smoked spices I use. The smoked foods we eat come from our own smoker so we know what goes into them. Everyone’s triggers are different though so what isn’t a trigger for me very well may be a trigger for you and vice versa.


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