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


4.24 from 26 votes
Rub for Grilled Chicken
The BEST Sweet Rub for Grilled Pork and Chicken
Prep Time
5 mins
Total Time
5 mins
A simple sweet based rub with pantry ingredients that will elevate and grilled or smoked meat!
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
  1. 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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75 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. 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.


  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. 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.

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