Zesty Rib Rub Recipe

What good is a rack of ribs without an excellent rub? This zesty blend is the perfect thing to complement your barbecue while adding tons of flavor. All you need to do is a little mixing, and then you're well on your way to enjoying this nice rub to go on your ribs — or anything else, for that matter. Another plus: You can make the rub ahead of time and store it in an airtight container until you're ready to use it.

Recipe developer Stephanie Rapone of Pantry to Plate is the brains behind this rub, which is a must for the next time you're craving ribs. "I love that I can make it in advance and enjoy it on so much more than just ribs, to be honest! I'll double or triple it and throw it on pork tenderloin or chicken on the grill on a weeknight," Rapone says. One of its special ingredients is inspired by her own experiences camping: "I have a friend that used to make ribs on the campfire when we would go camping together, and she always used orange zest in her rub." How cozy does that sound?!

Gather the zesty rib rub ingredients

Once you are ready to start, make sure you have all of the ingredients required: brown sugar, chipotle powder, ancho chile powder, salt, paprika, dried thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and a naval orange. Other than a mixing bowl, a fork, and a jar to store it, the only equipment you need is a zester.

Wash and zest the orange

The first thing you will need to take out is your orange; go ahead and zest it into a small mixing bowl. "I strongly recommend using a microplane-style zester to ensure the pieces of zest are really fine," Rapone advises. "Other styles tend to make coarse zest, which doesn't blend in as easily with the rest of the ingredients." Another tip: Zest the orange directly into the bowl (rather than onto a board), so that all of those fragrant oils that are released are included in the final product.

Why is this rub zesty anyway? Well, the special ingredient "brings freshness and complexity to round out the earthy flavors from the chile powders and thyme," Rapone explains. 

Combine the ingredients

Add the orange zest to a bowl and then toss in the rest of the ingredients. Use a fork to stir them all and to break apart any clumps of brown sugar.

If you want to cut the spice a little, you can use a mild chili powder blend instead of the chipotle. "It makes me think of pork carnitas with the orange and chile together, but then the brown sugar and thyme make it more barbecue-like," Rapone says. 

Store in an airtight container

Once you finish combining the ingredients, put the rub in an airtight container, which will help keep it fresh for a while. Store it in the container until you are ready to use the blend. "I recommend using it within a month. Since there is the orange zest in it, store it in the fridge," Rapone notes.

Rub, serve, and enjoy

Whenever you are ready to make a rack of ribs, lather them up with this delicious rub and cook them however you prefer. Whether you like your ribs in the oven, the smoker, the grill, or the slow cooker, this rub is the perfect addition.

Zesty Rib Rub Recipe
5 from 38 ratings
What good is a rack of ribs without an excellent rub? This zesty blend is the perfect thing to complement your barbecue while adding tons of flavor.
Prep Time
Cook Time
zesty rib rub in jar
Total time: 10 minutes
  • 1 naval orange
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle powder
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  1. Zest the orange into a small mixing bowl.
  2. To the bowl, add the rest of the ingredients. Mix with a fork, breaking up any clumps of brown sugar.
  3. Store the rub in the fridge in an airtight container. Use on ribs or any other meat with your preferred cooking method.
Calories per Serving 27
Total Fat 0.4 g
Saturated Fat 0.1 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 6.3 g
Dietary Fiber 1.6 g
Total Sugars 4.0 g
Sodium 59.1 mg
Protein 0.7 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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