Kansas City Rib Rub

A rack of ribs with row of spices for making Kansas City rub

The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 5 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Yield: 1 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
65 Calories
2g Fat
10g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 65
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 6mg 2%
Sodium 55mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 20mg 2%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 116mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Kansas City knows barbecue ribs. In fact, the city lays claim to this cut of pork and a particular way of preparing ribs, having its own combination of spices for rubbing on the rack. This barbecue pork rib rub recipe for traditional Kansas City-style ribs is an excellent way to season the meat, including a variety of common spices along with brown sugar for sweetness. Inexpensive and quick to mix up, this rub has an impressive flavor and is enough for six rib racks.

The ribs are delicious as is, or you can brush them with a good barbecue sauce if you prefer a finger-licking finish. This dry rub is so good that you may want to keep a shaker bottle handy to sprinkle on chicken, pork chops, and sweet potatoes, too.


Click Play to See This Kansas City-Style Dry Rub Recipe Come Together

"This spice mixture is the perfect balance of sweet, smoke and spice. I rubbed it on 2 racks of ribs and had plenty left over for probably 4 more. I smoked my ribs low and slow and the result was incredibly flavorful. I can't wait to use it again." —Danielle Centoni

Kansas City Rub in a glass jar with a spoon with racks of ribs in the background
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup paprika

  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For Using:

  • 1 rack of ribs

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Kansas City rib rub ingredients gathered on spoons and in bowls

    ​The Spruce Eats / Katarina Zunic

  2. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients together.

    Kansas City rib rub ingredients combined in a bowl

    ​The Spruce Eats / Katarina Zunic

  3. Either use immediately or transfer to an airtight container. The rub can be stored up to six months in a cool, dark place.

    Cooked ribs on a slate alongside Kansas City rib rub in a Mason jar

    ​The Spruce Eats / Katarina Zunic

How to Use the Rib Rub

When you're ready to use the rub, be sure that the ribs are dry to the touch; use paper towels to wipe the ribs dry before applying the rub evenly and generously. As a general rule, the amount of rub that sticks to the meat is perfect; stop adding it once the spices begin to fall off. The dry rub is designed to be cooked slow and low (barbecued or smoked rather than grilled; high heat can burn the rub). While a smoker is preferred in Kansas City, you can also prepare the ribs on a charcoal grill, gas grill, or in the oven.

When Should the Rub Be Added to the Ribs?

Salt and sugar are the key ingredients in a good barbecue rib rub. Because the salt can actually begin to cure the meat and result in a "hammy" flavor if left on the ribs too long, dry rib rubs like this are best applied just before cooking—between 10 and 30 minutes is ideal, but an hour beforehand is fine.

Is a Binder Like Oil or Mustard Necessary?

In some barbecue recipes, mustard or oil is added to the ribs before the rub to bind the spices to the meat. Kansas City ribs, however, rely on the natural moisture of the meat instead. Even when patted dry, there shouldn't be any problem getting the rub to stick, so a binder is not needed.

What's the Difference Between Kansas City and Memphis Ribs?

The two cities are famous for their barbecue ribs and both are delicious, but each takes a different approach. Kansas City ribs use a sweet rub with more spices, and many people enjoy them slathered in a Kansas City rib sauce that's also on the sweeter side. For Memphis-style ribs, the rub skips or significantly reduces the brown sugar. Instead of chili and garlic powders, it spices up the rub with more cayenne, and the preference is for a dry rib without sauce.

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