BBQ Chicken Rub Recipe

Published on June 12th 2022 by Sarah Leadon.
Last updated on May 15th 2024
This recipe, developed through the collective effort of at least six experts, underwent meticulous research and testing for over three months. Learn more about our process in the art and science behind our recipes. This post may contain affiliate links. Read our Disclosure Policy.
BBQ chicken rub spices in a spoon on a wooden countertop

A good BBQ Chicken Rub is sweet yet savory and made with various spices. This BBQ chicken rub features smoked paprika, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, dried thyme, kosher salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. 

Of course, we could not give you a BBQ chicken rub recipe without firing up the grill and showing you how to make BBQ chicken, or you may try our bet recipe of a BBQ Chicken Sandwich. We used chicken drumsticks, but feel free to use any part of the chicken you desire. However, don't forget to adjust the cooking time as needed. 

First, we coated the chicken drumsticks with oil, then seasoned them liberally with the dry rub and let them marinate for 30 minutes. Next, we cooked the chicken on a hot grill until it was slightly charred to create the most delicious chicken that would pair well with a salad, cauliflower rice, or whatever side you desired. 

How long do you leave rub on chicken?

The rub needs time to penetrate the meat which means the longer it sits, the more intense the chicken's flavor will be. You should let the chicken marinate for a minimum of 15 minutes. However, you can leave the rub on the chicken for up to 4 hours before cooking it. 


Do you oil chicken before seasoning?

In short, yes you should oil your chicken before adding seasoning. Usually, chicken is dried with paper towels to remove the excess moisture. Therefore, the spices will not cling to the chicken's surface because it is dry. Adding oil to the chicken gives the seasonings something to stick to. 


Should you put BBQ sauce on chicken before grilling?

If you add BBQ sauce to the chicken before grilling it, you will end up with burnt chicken. The BBQ sauce most likely contains sugars that will caramelize and burn if it's added to the chicken too soon. It's best to apply the BBQ sauce to the chicken during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking time. This way, the sugars will caramelize just enough to create a delicious coating rather than a bad-tasting burnt coating. 


Is dry rub better than marinade?

The difference between dry rub and marinade results in a similar purpose of flavoring any meats or vegetables. During the grilling process some marinades containing high amounts of sugar can burn easily on the grill when in direct contact with the heat. This is where a dry rub can save the day, it allows plenty of flavors to penetrate without burning the items on the grill. 

Author: Sarah Leadon
Average: 5 (4 votes)
Total rating includes sum of all comments and anonymous votes.

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Time & Serves

Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins
4 persons


BBQ Chicken Rub
  • 2 tablespoons Smoked Paprika


  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar


  • 1 tablespoon Chili Powder


  • 2 teaspoons Garlic Powder


  • 2 teaspoons Onion Powder


  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin 


  • 2 teaspoons Dried Thyme


  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt


  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper


  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

BBQ Chicken Drumsticks
  • 8 Chicken Drumsticks 


  • 4 tablespoons Olive Oil


  • 1 tablespoon Canola Oil


BBQ Chicken Rub

Add the smoked paprika, brown sugar, chili powder, onion powder, cumin, thyme, salt, and pepper to a small bowl. Whisk to combine until it is free of clumps. 


BBQ Chicken Drumsticks

Pat the chicken drumsticks dry with paper towels. To a large bowl, add chicken drum sticks. Add the oil to the chicken and toss to coat.


Season the chicken liberally with the BBQ rub and let it marinate for 30 minutes. 


Grease the grills cooking grates with the canola oil and heat it to medium-high. 


Arrange the chicken drumsticks on the grill and cook them for 25-30 minutes, turning the drumsticks over every 4-5 minutes with a pair of tongs until it has an internal temperature of 175ºF using a kitchen thermometer.


Remove the BBQ chicken drumsticks from the grill and place them onto a serving dish. 


Let the BBQ chicken drumsticks sit for 5 minutes before serving. 

Sarah Leadon

Delve into the fusion of food and mood with Sarah. Discover the emotional journey within each recipe. Beyond the kitchen, she's an avid reader and music lover, lost in the rhythms of life.

More posts by Sarah Leadon

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Sarah Leadon

Delve into the fusion of food and mood with Sarah. Discover the emotional journey within each recipe. Beyond the kitchen, she's an avid reader and music lover, lost in the rhythms of life.

More posts by Sarah Leadon