Homemade, Sugar-Free Barbecue Rub

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

If you’ve taken a look at the ingredients list of your favorite barbecue rub, you may have been surprised to see that many commercially-available rubs have some form of sugar in them. There are definitely sugar-free rubs to be found, but wouldn’t it be better to just make some of your own?

This recipe is courtesy of my friend Jeremy, who has his own Kansas City Barbeque Society competition team, SeaDog BBQ. This rub has a nice, even taste with a hint of spice thanks to its use of chipotle powder.

Yields about 3/4 cup.

You’ll Need:
4 tbsp kosher salt
4 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder, toasted preferred
1 tsp ground celery seed
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp chipotle powder

To make this rub, carefully add half of the salt to half of the paprika, then combine a pinch of the garlic powder, then…just kidding. Just throw it all together, and enjoy.

35 thoughts on “Homemade, Sugar-Free Barbecue Rub

    1. I get mine from a local Penzey’s store, but you can also order it from them online. I think I’ve seen it at Whole Foods as well. Barring that, you can buy dried chipotle chiles, toast them in a dry skillet for a couple minutes, then pulverize them in a blender or spice grinder, and finally sift them. I’m sure other pure chile powders would probably work here too, like ancho or New Mexican, if you find those instead.


        1. oh, you HAVE to check out sweet freedom farm in NM for chile powder and whole dried chiles! she was my source when i had my little harissa business that went nowhere. still working my way though pounds and pounds of chipotle mecco, guajillo, ancho, NM mild, chimayo, de arbol, and cascabel chiles. CRAP!! her site is down! i hope its temporary… http://www.sweetfreedomfarm.com/


          1. If you have whole chiles, I recommend the cookbook Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibanez. I’ve checked it out from the library twice already, and it’s one of my favorite cookbooks from last year. Lots of adobo sauces and pastes made from dried chiles to use as cooking sauces or marinades. And salsas of course. Very paleo-friendly, too, if that matters to you.


          2. it does matter to me, and im so thankful for your suggestion! i used to live in mexico when i was about 18, and have never been able to replicate the amazing food i ate there. there are so many duds in the world of mexican food. ill go check out the book, and thanks so much!


  1. If you can’t find ground celery seed you could replace the 4 tbsp. of kosher salt with 4 tbls.+ 1tsp. celery salt since celery salt is approx. 90% salt. You would get the flavor and be keeping to the recipe.


    1. Celery Salt is usually 1 part Celery Seed to 2 parts salt.

      Commercial Celery Salt and other Spice mixes usually contain preservatives that are good at expanding the shelf life of their product but not really all that great for people to eat.

      I recommend buying a spice grinder. Your food will taste far better with fresh ground spices, you’ll know exactly what you’re feeding your family, and you can “tweak” recipes to your exact preferences.


  2. This was fabulous! When I eat Paleo I never do it 100% because I usually use all of the sugar and msg filled condiments and seasonings. However, I’m doing a Whole30 and searching for a substitute for my usual rub. I really didn’t expect to like it and figured I would go back to my usual crap when I was done with my Whole30. I was very wrong! This rub is my new favorite and I will now be my new “usual”. Thanks for sharing!


  3. I made this for some deer backstrap and it was delicious. A bit salty for me, but delicious. We quick seared each side in lard from free range pigs and the steaks were nice and red still in the middle. I recommend it!


  4. Why do BBQ rubs have sugar in them? I too make my own without it, but is / was there a purpose for sugar in the rub?


  5. This rub is fantastic! I smoke ribs in my apartment from time to time, and while I’m not on a paleo diet, I do try to limit my sugar intake and sugar in my dry rub is just not necessary. I found this on a Google search, and everyone who’s had it has raved about it. So, kudos!


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