The BEST Sweet Rub for Grilled Pork and Chicken

April 21, 2016

A good Sweet Rub for smoky chicken and pork is ESSENTIAL to have in your grilling arsenal and buying them from the store gets expensive. Up the flavor and lower the cost for your favorite grilled meats by making my sweet rub at home!
Homemade Sweet Rub. Amazing on grilled chicken, pork, shrimp, etc.

Some pitmasters go to the grave protecting their signature spice rub recipes. I’m not that big of a jerk and I like to share with all of you! I seriously love making my own rubs and spice mixtures for the grill and this Sweet Rub for Grilled Pork and Chicken is my all time go-to favorite. It is good on everything, I swear. From pork ribs to simple grilled chicken breasts, this sweet rub with a slightly spicy kick will enhance whatever you throw it on.

The Perfect Recipe for a Sweet Rub. Great on grilled chicken and pork!

If you have the ingredients on hand, make a big old batch and bottle some up for later use or to give to your friends and neighbors as gifts. I can go through one batch just on a couple of pork butts, so don’t be worried that you won’t use it all. In fact, if you’re cooking a lot, just double it to be safe and save the rest for later.

**PRO TIP: This recipes calls for smoked paprika. This is a pretty big deal and adds quite a bit of flavor. There are a TON of varieties of paprika at all different price points, but for the best flavor I always choose smoked paprika that is a rich red color. Sometimes paprika will also be labeled hot or sweet, you can pick the spice level you prefer! If it’s not labeled with anything but “paprika” it is likely mild and pretty bland and won’t add anything to your spice mixture other than color.

Homemade Sweet Rub. Perfect for grilled chicken or pork.
Below, I’ve included links to several of my favorite recipes that are unreal with this sweet rub slathered on, so mix up a batch of your own and fire up that grill! It’s almost summer!!

Apple Jalapeno Ribs
Cider Brined Pulled Pork
Beer Brined Chicken Wings
Big Fat Fatty Burgers


best sweet rub in a glass jar
Print Recipe
4.87 from 15 votes

The BEST Sweet Rub for Grilled Pork and Chicken

A simple sweet based rub with pantry ingredients that will elevate and grilled or smoked meat!
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Barbecue
Servings: 1 serving


  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (hot or mild, whichever you prefer)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  • In a small bowl combine all of the ingredients for the rub. Stir well to combine and store in an airtight container. The spice mix will last in your cupboard for up to a month.
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133 thoughts on “The BEST Sweet Rub for Grilled Pork and Chicken

    1. I always sprinkle the seasonings on both sides of your food before grilling. Don’t put too much on, or it will just fall of when you put it on the grill. Have fun with trying new flavors!

          1. Marlene Nixon Aquino. That is not true at all. I have no idea who Micheal Stewart but, with all do respect, never heard of him as a pro BBQ competitor. I am on the BBQ competition circuit with a team that has won over 40 awards. And, a KCBS competition certified judge. We always “pat” or slightly rub the rub on the meat. As you pat or lightly rub, it will turn to a slather and soak into the meat. If it is layered as a dry rub, it will burn or run off from the juices, depending on what you are Q’ing. Some people will use a yellow mustard to help create the wet slather of the dry rub. You will not taste the mustard once cooked.

          1. Yes it does. I rub my pork, chicken or ribs with Olive Oil and then put the rub on let set for 5 minutes the grill.

          1. —I wash my hands.
            —Squirt prepared mustard on meat and use your hands to get mustard into every crevice of the Turkey.
            — use your dry clean hand to sprinkle the dry rub onto the mustard covered turkey.
            ••• I then wrap the turkey with plastic wrap to completely cover & enclose turkey in plastic wrap.
            Now place wrapped turkey into refrigerator for about
            •• remove plastic wrap add a little more dry rub two parts that rub off and then get to smoking it.

  1. Thank you for providing the recipe to this rub and the directions for smoking the apple jalapeno ribs. Yesterday was my first time grilling ribs and using a smoker ever. It was a success and the family loved it. I was wondering if this rub would also apply equally well to tri tip.

    1. I do not use a rub when smoking salmon. Only a basic brine, salt, brown sugar, water and a little onion powder.

  2. Just fell over this and wonder if it’s salty. I love salt but every recipe I try the salt is overwhelming. Does the brown sugar make it less so?

    1. Hey Pat- it has salt in it, but I’ve never had anybody complain of it being overly salty. You can always do a test batch with slightly less salt and see if it’s alright for you.

      1. My first time at making a rub I was a little heavy handed. Cyan was bit much. So tried some tweeking. Think I got it. Put honey in with failed rub who knew honey needs just a little lol. Added ketchup and some clarified butter. Any other ideas to help my wet sauce?

  3. This has quickly become a “go to” in my spice arsenal. Delicious! I also just have to say, I have not yet tried a recipe from your site that I’ve been disappointed with. Keep up the amazing work!!

  4. Made this rub the other day. I didn’t have the smoked paprika, so I used regular and instead of cayenne I used Korean red pepper powder. Rubbed chicken wings with spicy brown mustard and patted the rub on 🙂 turned out excellent even in the oven!

  5. Could you omit the salt or use a salt free spice in place of the salt? I have a heart problem and can’t have salt but these sound amazing!

  6. I LOVED this seasoning.It’s sweet,spicy and that mustard powder gives everything a bit of tang
    In a lot of rubs the hot spices are overpowering the other spices,but here the sugar solves that! Il also forms a shatteringly crispy crust on meat!

    1. If you don’t want to use the mustard, it’s possible to leave it out entirely. It’s a pretty unique flavor that doesn’t have an easy substitute, but the rub still works great without it!

  7. Hi Susie,
    Saw your rub recipe, can you use kosher salt instead of course sea salt? I have fine seasalt. By the way do you use Penzey for seasonings?

  8. Ive tried making rubs with brown sugar before, but they always clump if they’re left in a container for any amount of time. Do you have any tricks to keep the brown sugar from turning into a rock?

    1. Put container in a zipper bag. If it’s still a rock when you need to use it again, pop it in the microwave for a couple of seconds.

      1. Great tip, Jennifer! I keep it in a sealed bottle and as long as it is well mixed beforehand, I really don’t have trouble with the brown sugar clumping too much.

      1. An orange or lemon peel will soften hard sugar. Also bread. Just do it about a day or so before you need it. I don’t do the microwave trick anymore, the sugar melted inside a clump and I used my hands to crumble it- I got a really bad burn. I also avoid plastic or foamware in there for the same reason, as well as toxicity.

    2. The trick I’ve always used to keep brown sugar from getting hard as a rock is to put a couple of marshmallows in with it. I keep my brown sugar folded down (assuming you have a bag and not a boxed version) and in a ziplock gallon bag. Then I also have the marshmallows in their bag and then put the bag of marshmallows in the gallon baggie next to the sugar.

      I haven’t tried this rub mixture yet, but I plan to. I think a couple marshmallows in the container will work under the same principle.


    3. If my brown sugar gets hardened, I stick it in the microwave for a couple of seconds. Works amazingly well. Try 30 seconds and judge from there.

  9. Does this recipe adjust portions depending on how much you want to make? I thought I remembered making this rub before and really liking it, but I know the rub I made had this really awesome feature where it would adjust the recipe depending on how much you wanted to make… is that a feature you once had? If so, can you turn it back on?

    1. Hey Jessica- the ability to adjust the recipe amount should totally still be there! But I looked and it doesn’t seem to be working. Yay technology. I’m emailing my recipe card designer to see what went wrong. Thanks for letting me know!!

  10. How long do you typically allow the rub to penetrate the meat before putting it on the grill? Also, you mentioned combining the rub with butter to place under the skin. Is this right?

    1. Hey Chris, I just put it on a few minutes before my meat goes on the grill. You can totally combine this with some softened butter and rub under the skin for extra flavor and moisture!

    1. Wondering if you ever tried it without the sugar. I’m sugar free also, would love it with, but I’m going to try it today without. I’m very excited to try all these tips! Thank you for your expertise, heygrillhey! I’m super new to smoking but loving it!

    1. Put the rub on before you put the meat in the smoker. You can put it on the night before if you want it to work into the meat, but I find that putting it on right before works just fine.

  11. I’m a novice. I’ve had my Traeger 1 month. Looking for expert advice. I read somewhere to rub apple cider vinegar on the pork butt before puuting the rub on.

  12. This is exactly what I was looking for!!! Me and the he boyfriend are doing ribs in the smoker this weekend but his are always way to spicy. Like me and his mom backed out and gave them the rest. We just couldn’t do it. So I like sweet and savory and I’m hoping this one does the trick and mine blow his out of the water!

  13. Love the rub!! … I like to use turbinado sugar instead of the dark brown sugar. I like the flavor of the dark brown sugar more BUT it’s so much easier to store using the turbinado sugar. In Louisiana, the humidity quickly turns the rub into a solid. It also can be used in a shaker so it goes on the meat more evenly without as much waste. How come you stopped making the U-Tube videos? This rub would be a great one.

  14. Can this rub be used for meats that’ll be cooked on a skillet? My apartment complex doesn’t allow us to have our own bbq pit/smoker and the ones they do have is dirty and old. Any help is appreciated!

  15. Hey I am smoking a Turkey Breast and was wondering do I marinade the breast and after then allotted time take it out and put dry rub on it or is it just one or the other?
    Thanks Byron
    Any help would be appreciated

  16. I do not have a smoker or grill. Can I put the pork butt in a crock pot or an electric roaster? Any suggestions? Thanks. Girl without a plan but wanting to feed my family good food.

  17. Good morning , having a big birthday party this weekend for my father 79 years young . been following you for a little while ,So i am smoking 4 ten pound butts and gonna try this sweet rub on a big crowd will let you know how it turns out .Thanks for sharing

  18. there are many here among us who have a need not to raise blood sugar. does anyone know if stevia will work instead of brown sugar?

  19. Just curious why you list this rub mixed together as lasting for a month in the cupboard? What in the mix would expire after a month? Using it too often because it is going to be so good. BTW, making your apple filled, bacon wrapped tenderloin for the first time today and getting ready to throw the twice smoke spiral ham on before that. Will finish that in the oven after the wrap.

    1. Homemade there is just nothing in it to keep it from clumping together. Most of the time around here it’s used WAY quicker than that!

  20. I have an allergy to garlic/garlic powder, would it affect the flavor much if I left it out or just added more onion powder in its place? Same question for bbq sauce as well!

    1. I can’t imagine it would ruin it, but it would taste a little different. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

  21. Killer rub. Used it on my smoked Spatchcock chicken i made yesterday…needless to say there wasn’t a bite of chicken left over. Delicious and very flavorful. Definitely will use again and again.

  22. I have been using the exact same Rub ingredients for years and it is just as advertised, I use it on everything and it is great. I have not tried the smoked paprika yet sounds like it will really pick up the flavor a notch .

  23. ok–a little bit disappointed because I could not find the answer to Megan’s question. Do we need the salt??? We are a nation of super salted meals which is the death of us, literally.
    So please answer–do we need the salt??

  24. I’ve always used “Worcestershire Sauce” on meat before the rub…Since no one else has even mentioned W-Sauce,I wonder is there something wrong or unusual in this method…

  25. I’ve been messing around with dry rubs recently. I really hate to pay $12 for 2 bucks worth of spice.

    One thing I’ve been doing is using smoked sea salt instead of kosher. I like the flavor and you can get Alder and Mesquite and I assume other types.

    Something to consider.


    We put this on some chicken thighs.

    This recipe is DELISH. I mean DELISH.

    Did NOT change a THING.

    My husband forgot we didn’t have propane, so we had them marinating for 24 hour hours. Did I mention it was DELISH?!?!

  27. I take the rub, mix it with panko bread crumbs and butter and then pack it in under the skin against the breast. This will bast the turkey with the spices as you smoke and adds flavor to the drippings in the catchpan as well. I also put cut up apples in the cavity of the turkey to further add apple flavor and moisture to the bird.

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