The 12 Best BBQ Rubs for Flavorful Meals

Have you ever taken that first bite of a meal at a friend's backyard barbecue, and found yourself woefully unimpressed? There's no flavor, and there's no pizazz, it's just plain…bland? If you’ve been there, then you know that the seasoning used on any aspect of a meal can make or break it, and not using seasoning is a cardinal sin that will lead you straight to bland town. You can’t change the food your neighbor or friend prepares, but you can ensure that you don’t make the same mistake when cooking!

Whether you’re entertaining for a crowd, or you just like to use the barbecue for fast and easy meals with flavor, then barbecue rubs are no doubt already on your radar. These rubs aren't just for the outdoor grill. They can be used during indoor cooking as well. And they aren't just for meat—the best spice rubs can add a dash of interest and delicious taste to everything from vegetables to pastas and sides. In this article, we dig a little deeper and look at some of the best BBQ rubs you can buy. Our reviews offer an in-depth look at spice mixes from a variety of brands, so you can find one to suit your taste buds and your style.

Best Pick

Bad Byron's Butt Rub Barbeque Seasoning BBQ Rubs

Bad Byron's Butt Rub Barbeque Seasoning BBQ Rubs A top-ranked spice rub that takes your grilling to master-chef heights, this rub has a smoky, rich flavor profile that’s not too spicy to appeal to a wide range of tastes.

Budget Pick

Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub

Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub A sweet heat blend that's designed to offer mouth-watering flavor without a budget-busting price tag, this rub is essential for the at-home griller with taste.

Quick Comparison: Top 12 Best BBQ Rubs

1. Bad Byron's Butt Rub Barbeque Seasoning BBQ Rubs  

A kosher, gluten-free spice mix designed to have a balanced flavor that can be used across the board on a variety of food items, Bad Byron’s Butt Rub Barbeque Seasoning works for everything from meat and poultry on the grill to vegetable and pasta dishes made on the stove or in the oven.

The flavor blend of onion, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika and chipotle combines to create a smoky finish with just a touch of heat to add depth of flavor.

The seasoning mix can be purchased in two different sizes: 4.5 ounces and 26 ounces, so you can get the right amount for your needs. An attractive label on the bottle ensures this blend makes a great gift or display item in your kitchen. Plus, you can still use this rub if you do not eat sugar, as it’s sugar-free.

Pros

  • Kosher and Gluten-free formula
  • Sugar-free to fit a variety of diets
  • Salt added so no need to put in extra
  • Two different sizes ensure you can purchase what you need

Cons

  • Some users find that the formula can be a bit salty
  • Those who are sensitive to spice may find the chipotle too hot or smoky
  • Seasoning blend is a touch strong – a little goes a long way!

2. Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub  

Developed by the professionals at Killer Hogs, The BBQ Rub is designed to bring out the natural flavor in any type of meat.

Its sweet, smoky flavor is designed to complement a wide variety of foods, while also creating a mahogany bark on the outside. A variety of spices elevate the flavor profile, including brown sugar, white sugar, and evaporated cane juice.

Beyond that, it's a stellar rub for everything from baked potatoes to fire-grilled vegetables. The Killer Hogs team has won championship BBQ contests with this rub, so it might just be the right mix for your next grilling session if you want to wow your family and friends. As an added bonus, the mix also features salt so that you don’t have to add any extra when doing your cooking.

Pros

  • Added salt, so no need to add extra
  • Crafted to create a mahogany bark on the outside of eats
  • Suitable for grilling and smoking
  • Has a touch of sweet for those who like a rich yet sweet flavor

Cons

  • Used as a preservative in the mix, MSG can cause gastric issues for some
  • Contains sugar, so this is not a suitable choice for those who are on specific diets or who need to avoid sugar for health reasons
  • Some users state that the rub is more flavorful before cooking

3. Traeger Grills SPC174 Seasoning and BBQ Rub  

A rub that’s made in the United States and crafted with all-natural ingredients, the Traeger Grills SPC174 Seasoning, and BBQ Rub is made with meat-lovers in mind.

Reviewers rave about the flavor of this rub, while the aluminum tin packaging has a stylish look that makes it great for gifting.

Crafted to complement a wide range of meat and poultry options for proteins that stand out at any barbecue or event, this rub boasts 100% Kosher ingredients and is free of gluten and non-GMO. The taste of the rub features garlic and chili pepper flavors, and it’s made in the USA.

Pros

  • All-natural ingredients
  • Kosher
  • Gluten-free and non-GMO
  • Easy to store tin
  • Attractive label
  • USA made

Cons

  • Contains added sugar
  • Some reviewers disliked the small size of the tin (10.4 oz)

4. BBQ BROS RUBS - Ultimate Barbecue Spices Seasoning Set  

Not sure what type of rub you want? The BBQ BROS RUBS {Southern Style} - Ultimate Barbecue Spices Seasoning Set comes with three different mixes for variety that packs a flavor punch.

The set features Carolina Style, Memphis Style, and New Orleans Style rubs. Each seasoning is created with its namesake city in mind. Carolina Style is spicy, Memphis Style features onion, garlic, and sour cream, and New Orleans has a creole touch that pairs well with all types of seafood. 

BBQ Bros is a popular brand that uses non-GMO and gluten-free ingredients in their rubs. These hand-crafted rubs can be ordered with gift wrapping, for a host gift that is sure to impress. Plus, these high-quality seasoning mixes can be used everywhere from the kitchen to the grill.

Pros

  • Gluten-free, no MSG, non-GMO, and low sodium
  • Three different spices ensuring there’s something for everyone
  • Great gift option
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Contains sugar (Memphis and Carolina style)
  • Carolina style may be hot for some

5. Dirt - Sasquatch BBQ Espresso Chile Beef Rub  

A unique rub that celebrates “getting dirty,” the Dirt - Sasquatch BBQ Espresso Chile Beef Rub combines the flavors of activated charcoal and espresso into a sweet and spicy mix suitable for everything from burgers and brisket to soups and stews.

This large container offers 20 ounces of flavor for commercial and at-home chefs.

Made and packed fresh in the USA, this flavorful rub adds dynamic flavor to anything you smoke or grill. It’s especially delicious with red meat and park, and it creates a tasty, crusty bark on the outside of the meat when you use it on the grill. Use this rub to ensure that your meals are always unforgettable and different.

Pros

  • Spicy with a touch of sweet
  • USA made
  • Large container
  • Unique flavor

Cons

  • Contains small amounts of sugar
  • The flavor profile is out of the ordinary, and not all tasters will like
  • Contains espresso powder which some individuals might be sensitive to

6. Plowboys Yardbird Rub  

A 4-time winner of the American Royal World Championship, the Plowboys Yardbird Rub is a Kansas City style BBQ dry rub that offers a punch of mouth-watering flavor to ribs and chicken.

Featuring hints of paprika, chili pepper, garlic, onion, and mustard flour, this is a classic seasoning for everyone from novice grillers to barbecue masters.

This award-winning, extra bold rub is designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of diets, with no MSG or carbohydrates so you can stick to your health goals. It’s also made in the USA, for all-American great taste and quality.

Pros

  • Rich flavor has mass appeal
  • Made in the USA
  • Trace amounts of sugar for 0g net carbs
  • Award-winning flavor

Cons

  • Some tasters have called it too salty
  • Does contain some preservatives
  • Sugar amount is trace but present if you are sensitive to sugar

7. BBQ BROS RUBS - Ultimate Barbecue Spices Seasoning Set  

Looking for a mix of rubs or a great gift for someone in your life? Look no further than The BBQ BROS RUBS {Western Style} - Ultimate Barbecue Spices Seasoning Set.

This set comes with three different mixes for a variety of flavors to fit your needs. The set features California Style, Kansas City Style, and Texas Style rubs.

Each seasoning is created with its namesake city in mind. California Style is great for big game meats, Kansas City Style packs plenty of heat, and Texas Style delivers sweet heat. BBQ Bros is a popular brand that uses non-GMO and gluten-free ingredients in their rubs.

They offer gift wrapping that can be included, ensuring this is an easy gift for the chef in your life, or for a host or hostess when you come to visit. Each rub can work for smoking, grilling, or anywhere else in the kitchen where a punch of flavor is needed.

Pros

  • Gluten-free, no MSG, non-GMO, and low sodium
  • Three different spices ensuring there’s something for everyone
  • Makes a great gift
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Products contain sugar (Kansas City and Texas Style)
  • Kansas City Style may be too hot for some tasters

8. Applewood Smoked BBQ Awesomeness by Wayward Gourmet  

A smoky, spicy rub with a touch of sweetness, the Applewood Smoked BBQ Awesomeness is a South Carolina original that’s made with Cowboys in mind.

Ideal for grilling and smoking, this rub is free of MSG, gluten, sugar, and salt to fit a wide range of dietary needs. Plus, you can find a size that’s right for your kitchen, with a variety of container sizes.

Handmade in the USA, this seasoning blend is perfect for everything from pork and chicken to steaks and beyond. Use it in the kitchen or on the grill for food that’s always flavorful and never boring!

Pros

  • Gluten-free
  • No MSG
  • Salt and sugar-free
  • Spicy yet sweet
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Might be too spicy for some
  • Best on ribs and red meat, not as suitable for poultry

9. Lambert's Sweet Rub O' Mine  

Enjoy the flavor that made Mark Lambert’s pork shoulder the 2013 champion of the Memphis in May BBQ championship when you use Lambert's Sweet Rub O' Mine.

This three-time world champion dry rub makes pork shine but is also a great addition to anything on the smoker or barbeque.

Boasting a delicious blend of seasonings including onion, garlic, paprika, chili powder, and mustard flour, this made in the USA spice rub is an essential for at-home chefs and BBQ aficionados. Whether that’s you or a friend or family member, use this rub anytime you want meat that stands out. It’s great on vegetables, too!

Pros

  • Championship-winning flavor has mass appeal
  • It comes in a 12.5 oz. container
  • Best on ribs and red meat
  • Not too spicy, great for kids

Cons

  • Contains sugar
  • Contains MSG
  • Added salt

10. Slap Yo Daddy BBQ Rub  

Award-winning Pit Master Harry Soo created Slap Yo Daddy BBQ Rub to appeal to a wide range of taste buds so everyone can enjoy the flavors.

The sweet notes stand out, while a touch of heat elevates the profile to unforgettable. Carefully made in small batches, this artisanal rub is suitable for use on almost any food item that needs a flavor boost. 

Crafted in the USA, this rub comes in attractive packaging that adds an extra dash of style anywhere you display it. Or, you can give it to anyone on your list who likes grill or cook. Regardless of how you use it or whether you gift it, it’s an essential grilling partner.

Pros

  • Sweet taste with a touch of spice
  • Made in the USA
  • Great for gifs and displays
  • Award-winning
  • Gluten- and MSG-free

Cons

  • Contains salt and sugar
  • Touch of spice may be too spicy for some
  • Contains BHA and anti-caking ingredients

11. Rudy's Texas Bar-B-Q Dry Rub  

With humble beginnings in Rudy's Texas Bar-B-Q Restaurant & Store, the Rudy's Texas Bar-B-Q Dry Rub has transcended local fame and become a famous rub across the country.

Proudly made in the USA, this rub is an all-purpose flavor enhancer for everything from meat to vegetables.

Designed to have mass appeal to diners of all ages and tastes, Rudy’s boasts a rich, dynamic blend that is sure to have mouths watering. Use it for your next barbecue, or give it as a gift that’s sure to wow.

Pros

  • Rich flavor
  • USA made
  • No MSG
  • Use on a variety of foods

Cons

  • Contains added salt
  • Sugar has been added
  • Some may find it too spicy

12. The Salt Lick BBQ Original Dry Rub  

Originally crafted in Driftwood, Texas, in 1967, The Salt Lick BBQ Original Dry Rub has been a favorite among Texans for decades.

The classic flavor has a bold flavor profile and is known among Driftwood for taking pork and ribs to the next level. Rich and intense, this rub is great for smoking and grilling.

Regardless of your dietary needs, this rub can fit into your diet nicely. It is free of MSG, and also features no sugar. Stick to your healthy eating plan while ensuring your meals are flavorful with this tasty rub.

Pros

  • MSG and gluten free
  • Sugar-free
  • USA Made
  • Great for smoky, rich flavor

Cons

  • May be too bold and spicy for some
  • Contains added salt
  • Some have described the taste as having a lot of pepper

Things to Consider Before Buying Spice BBQ Rubs

Few things in life are as rewarding as enjoying a mouth-watering meal with friends and family. Whether your food is prepared on a grill, smoked, baked, or pan-fried, you want it to have as much flavor as possible. You can't do that with salt and pepper alone. You need a delicious mix of spices that brings out the vibrant essence of the food and adds just enough kick to get the whole group drooling—and asking for more.

That’s where BBQ spice rubs come in. They certainly aren’t just for food prepared on an outdoor grill. They can be used on any type of meat, pasta dish, or vegetable to level the flavor up from ho-hum to knock your socks off. Some of the most popular food items to dress up with pre-mixed spices include:

  • Chicken
  • Pork ribs
  • Brisket
  • Turkey
  • Steak
  • Pork chops
  • Vegetables like peppers, onions, potatoes, and green beans
  • And pretty much any other food item

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to select a rub that has already been mixed. While some people like to mix up their own, it can be hard to get the mix just right when you're not a professional and when you don't have access to a huge pantry full of spices. Spice mixes on the market today are crafted by those who love spicing things up, so you're most likely to find more unique blends out there than what you might create on your own.

Flavors to Savor

How can you make the right choice for your palette and the meal you’re cooking? You’ll first want to consider what type of tastes you enjoy the most. If you prefer things on the sweeter side, or if the meal you are cooking is for younger eaters who might be less inclined to venture out of their comfort zone, look for rubs that have a touch of sugar. You'll either see sugar in the ingredients list or other sweet ingredients like honey or agave nectar. These can add a softer finish for those who like the sweet stuff.

If you like a hotter finish to your food, look for rubs that bring the heat. Ingredients to watch out for include jalapeno, chipotle, habanero, or any other pepper. These will add either a dash—or a large amount—of fire to whatever you’re grilling.

Whatever flavor profiles you’re into, you can find a rub that fits the bill. Read the ingredients and ensure you’re getting what you like. As always, do a quick taste test before covering your entire meal with the mix.

Nutrition Considerations

No matter what diet you follow, or even if you consider it a four-letter word that you never say, there's a rub to meet your particular dining needs. Many can be found suitable for some of the most common dietary requirements out there. Some diet factors to consider include:

  • Is it Kosher? If you follow a Kosher diet or are preparing a meal for someone who is, ensure you look on the label for a Kosher option.
  • Does it have gluten? Whether you have Celiac Disease, a mild gluten intolerance, or are on a strict no-gluten diet, you can find spice rubs that fit the bill. Many will list "gluten-free" on the label to make it easy. If not, search to see if any ingredients contain gluten, such as barley or wheat powder. Also, it’s important to remember that cross-contamination can occur even if there are no ingredients with gluten—so take that with a grain of salt (pun intended).
  • Is there sugar? If you are a diabetic or for some other reason are on a strict no-sugar diet, look at the label for any sugary additives. Any ingredient that might add sweetness, whether its actual sugar or something else with a sweet taste, could cause a spike in blood sugar. Choose a rub without the sweet stuff—there’s plenty out there!

Ingredients aren't just essential because of the diets you might follow. They also make a difference when it comes to overall health and wellness. What we mean is that you might not follow any specific diet, but you are looking for the highest quality product that doesn't contain a bunch of additives.

There's a wide variety of rubs on the market that are all-natural, so pay careful attention when you're shopping for one to try. Non-GMO options are also available.

Another sneaky ingredient to watch out for that can be a bit controversial is MSG. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is used to enhance the flavor of many different foods. According to The Mayo Clinic, MSG has been anecdotally shown to cause some adverse reactions in various people.

While the FDA recognizes the ingredient as "generally safe," you might be one of those who suffers from ill-effects. These can include nausea, sweating, headaches, flushing, and more. For this reason, packaging must consist of this ingredient so that consumers can be aware it has been used in the mix. If you know that you have issues with MSG, steer clear of rubs that use it.

Overall, most seasoning rubs can fit into whatever dietary restrictions you might have. They can help you stick to a healthier diet. When you are cooking low-calorie meals, or sticking with Paleo or Keto diets, adding extra flavor can help you to stay interested in cleaner eating, and help you stay away from the junk.

Storage and Longevity of Seasoning Mixes

Most seasoning rubs come with a pretty impressive shelf life. As long as they don’t contain any type of additives that go bad—don’t worry, most don’t—a dry rub can last for up to six months when stored correctly. And that’s not to say that a rub will go “bad” if you try to use it past six months. You’ll just find that the seasoning will have lost its potency over time.

To store correctly, place your spice rub in an airtight storage container in a cool, dry place. Most rubs will come in packaging that is suitable for storage, so you can generally keep it in the plastic or glass container that it came in. However, if the lid isn't as tight as it could be, you might find that your jar has a sturdy cover and creates a more airtight seal.

Judge a Book by Its Cover

Some people could not care less about how their spice rub appears. But for some, the label can add a dash of decoration that elevates the spice rack to show-off worthy status. Just like hot sauce, some people love to collect their weird, pleasant, artistic, and just plain funny labels that many rubs have on their packages today. If this is important to you, you can find rub mixes that bring a laugh to your day.

Buying Rubs for Grilling, Smoking, and Cooking

You know what you're looking for in terms of taste and presentation, and now it's time to grab the good stuff and get cooking! Rubs aren't hard to find. You can purchase high-quality mixes from various brands pretty much anywhere, including:

  • Supermarkets
  • Farmers’ Markets
  • Specialty cooking stores
  • Online stores

Once you’ve found the rub that fits all your needs, you’re ready to prep the tastiest meals you’ve ever made. Using dry rubs isn’t rocket science, but there are a few different methods to try, depending on what you are preparing.

The most popular method of using a dry rub is to apply the rub to the outside of the meat liberally. With rub, you can handle quite a bit, but obviously, you don't want to go overboard. Once you've covered the entire piece of meat, let it sit for 15 minutes to an hour. Then, cook as desired.

An overnight method can also be used, and this option can tenderize even the toughest cuts of meat. After rubbing as much of the seasoning mix as you want into the meat, cover it and place it in the refrigerator overnight. The rub will work its magic while you sleep, bringing all the good moisture inside of the meat out and making it even more tender.

Another option is to mix the rub with oil or butter, and then baste any type of food before cooking. Although this takes the rub from dry to wet, it can also add a lot of rich flavor to whatever it is that you’re cooking. You can also try this method with a vinaigrette or light oil and vinegar mix, to ensure you’re giving your meats an intense hit of flavor that lasts.

Traditionally, rubs are used in the ways listed above, but many people love the delectable spice blends so much that they prefer to add them to other foods besides meats. Soups, stews, and chillis can get a drool-worthy boost when unique rubs are added during the cooking process, while rubs can be sprinkled on top of finished recipes, too. Almost any food can get bumped up to a level ten on the flavor-meter with an extra sprinkle of spice.

Conclusion

Choosing the best BBQ rubs can be a difficult decision, especially when shopping online when you can’t see or taste the product in person. However, you gain access to far more choices when on a website than you might in your local grocery store. Look for flavors that appeal to you, whether you like to breathe fire or veer more towards the sweet side. Pay careful attention to your diet considerations, and always read ingredient labels if you have any sensitivities to specific ingredients. Regardless of your dietary and taste needs, there’s a rub out there for you!

We hope that these reviews and considerations have helped you narrow down your search for the rub that's going to make your next neighborhood barbecue a success. Whether you're new to the world of dry rubs or you just want to find a tasty, unique mix to add to your barbecue arsenal, we've got your back!

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