Skip to Content

Easy Dry Rub for Ribs – 5 Fabulous Spices!

This is the BEST dry rub for ribs – and just five ingredients! Brown sugar, smoked paprika, coarse salt, freshly-crushed black peppercorns and some garlic powder to bring it all together.

This is the BEST dry rub for ribs - and just five ingredients!

If you have never tried using a dry rub seasoning for ribs and barbecue, you’re in for a treat; rubs can be simple, like this five-ingredient recipe below or they can be elaborate 12-ingredient blends. If you’re making a rub for the first time, simpler is better but it won’t be long before you begin experimenting and adding your own optional ingredients.

What is the key to a good rub? In many cases a combination of sweet and salty. Our version has brown sugar and smoked paprika together along with peppercorns, garlic powder, and salt. The brown sugar brings just enough sweetness to the blend to enhance the flavor without overpowering the meat.

The exterior of dry rub ribs begin to form a crisp crust when exposed to heat. This crust is called the “bark,” and it provides the backbone to the tender ribs.

Which Is Better, Dry Rub Or Marinades?

Some people swear by a dry rub for ribs and other dishes, but some prefer a marinade. Is there an advantage? Marinades are often acidic and can be used to tenderize meat. If you marinate a more delicate cut of meat it is crucial to time it well–too long in the marinade and a piece of seafood could get tough.

A rub is good for any meat you don’t need to tenderize with a marinade, and there are those who feel a rub is best added just before cooking. And with that in mind, a rub could be the less time-consuming option if you have a busy kitchen or grill to deal with when preparing your meal.

How To Apply The Dry Rub For Ribs

To begin, don’t confuse a dry rub with a dry brine. The difference between the two is that a dry brine is rinsed off after having coated the meat for an extended period of time. Dry rubs do NOT get washed off. They are cooked with the rub still on the food.

  1. Remove the membrane from ribs (quick guide here).
  2. Blot the meat dry with paper towels.
  3. Use the “wet hand/dry hand” method. Use one hand to apply the seasoning and the other to thoroughly rub it into the meat.
  4. You can coat the ribs with olive oil or mustard first to help it stick, if you prefer.
  5. Apply the rub to the top side or both sides of the rib racks and generously or not. This is to preference, whether you prefer a very flavorful exterior which can be too powerful for some and delicious to others.

The recipe below comes together very quickly, and applying it to the meat is just as easy. The trick to remember with a dry rub is that the more it is rubbed into the meat, the better the flavor. You want to dust the surface of the ribs lightly with the rub; avoid over-coating the meat for best results.

How Long To Dry Rub Ribs?

As a general rule wait at least fifteen minutes prior to cooking and two hours if you can. This will enhance the flavor and create a delicious crust. Ribs can sit in dry rub overnight, up to 12 hours. Any longer and you risk drying them out. Always refrigerate rubbed meat during this process.

Smoked Paprika

The recipe below specifies smoked paprika, which adds some extra flavor to the ribs. If you need to use regular paprika instead, feel free to switch them and you can always add a bit of natural liquid smoke from burning hardwood to your barbecue sauce if you’re missing that smoky component.

Those who make their ribs on the grill likely won’t opt for that, but if you’re baking the ribs it may be worth considering.


You don’t have to glaze a rack of dry-rubbed ribs, but some do like to apply a glaze to chicken after a dry rub. The presence of the glaze isn’t “cheating” because it isn’t dry. It’s more of a finishing touch. Some enjoy a glaze made of equal parts maple syrup and soy sauce but you’ll find your own ratio and flavor combinations to use with the rub with a little experimentation.

Dry Rub for Ribs     

The amount of dry rub in this recipe is enough to cover the top of a large rack of ribs; if you prefer more rub to your ribs then, by all means, double the spices–especially if you’re not planning on finishing your ribs with a good barbecue sauce. You can serve these dry rub ribs with no sauce, but some will want it no matter how good the ribs themselves may be.

This is the BEST dry rub for ribs - and just five ingredients!

Dry Rub for Ribs

Yield: 0

This recipe will make enough for a thick coating on the top of a large rack of meaty ribs. If you prefer your rub on both sides of your ribs (or just like a LOT of rub, feel free to double the recipe).


  • 3 tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons crushed black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder


  1. Mix all ingredients together. Rub over 2 racks of ribs and prepare ribs as desired.
  2. Refrigerate for at least 2 to 4 hours and up to 12 hours.


It's ok to substitute smoked paprika for regular paprika. Add a bit of liquid smoke to your barbecue sauce if you’re missing that smoky component.

Store any leftover dry rub in a cool dark place. Dry rubs are generally good for six months.

Kristy Bernardo
Latest posts by Kristy Bernardo (see all)


Monday 16th of March 2015

Dry Rub for Ribs - just 5 fabulous spices! via @thewickednoodle


Friday 13th of March 2015

Dry Rub for Ribs - just 5 fabulous spices! via @thewickednoodle

Laura @MotherWouldKnow

Wednesday 11th of March 2015

I didn't grow up eating ribs, but as an adult I've come to love them. Mostly we do them long and slow in the oven or on the grill, but always with sauce. I can't wait to try this rub - isn't it sometimes called Memphis-style? As a matter of fact, I can imagine making a bunch of this and giving it away as holiday gifts. Such a simple, but flavorful gift.

Kristy Bernardo

Friday 20th of March 2015

That's a great idea to give it away as gifts, Laura!

Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence

Wednesday 11th of March 2015

This is fantastic! I make a similar blend for my slow cooker pulled pork recipe.

Kristy Bernardo

Friday 20th of March 2015 pulled pork!!

Shannon @ Dinner from the Heart

Wednesday 11th of March 2015

Even when my hubby is actually smoking the ribs, I still use smoked paprika in the rub! This is a delicious combo. Great rub. :)

Kristy Bernardo

Wednesday 11th of March 2015

Thanks, Shannon!

Skip to Recipe