Spice Up Your Cooking with Rubs

Want a quick, easy way to enliven seafood, chicken, turkey, and duck breast, as well as burgers and steaks? Homemade rubs take just minutes to make from spices and dried herbs that you probably already have in your kitchen.

Here’s why to DIY

While you can buy premade rubs at the supermarket, making your own gives you more flavor options and ensures that you’re not getting excess sodium, added sugars, or gluten fillers, which can be found in many commercially produced herb and spice rubs. You’ll also save money by making your own, especially if you buy herbs and spices in bulk.

Here’s the rub!

Rubs couldn’t be easier and work especially well on grilled or sautéed poultry, meats and fish. Simply stir together the dried herbs and spices of your choice and voila! You’re ready to rub. Here are a few to try.

  • If you’re making boneless, skinless chicken or turkey breasts: Combine 1 tablespoon each ground coriander, ground cumin, and ground fennel, 1 teaspoon turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon each cayenne pepper (or to taste) and salt.
  • If you’re making skinless duck breasts: Combine 2 teaspoons each dry mustard and sweet paprika, 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder, and 1/4 teaspoon each freshly ground black pepper, ground cinnamon, and sea salt.
  • If you’re making steak or burgers: Combine 2 tablespoons smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon each ground coriander, ground cumin, dry mustard, and dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • If you are making shrimp: Combine 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste), 1/2 teaspoon each ground coriander and ground cardamom, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt.
  • If you are making fish fillets or steaks: Combine 1 teaspoon each dried basil, dried oregano, and lemon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt.

Rub tips

Experiment by making small batches of rubs so that you can see if you like the taste. You can add a little more or less of each of the ingredients you like, and omit any that you don’t like. If you’re salt sensitive, you can omit the salt altogether.

Store spice rubs in airtight plastic containers or jars, and use an indelible marker or sticker to label and date them. Rubs will last for a few months at room temperature if stored in a cool, dry place. Don’t store them near the stove, sink, or dishwasher. If a spice rub gets damp, it may clump up.

To make sure you get the most flavor in cooking, apply the rub before you apply any olive oil or canola oil. Got leftover rub? Stir some into plain nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt for a dip for raw veggies, or use to sprinkle on warm toasted nuts or air-popped popcorn. You could also stir a pinch or two of your favorite rub into low-fat, light, or regular mayo and use as a sandwich spread on whole-grain or whole-wheat bread.

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