A classic sweet and spicy Memphis Dry Rub Recipe from Marlowes of Memphis. Bring the great taste of Memphis to your grilled ribs or other BBQ recipes.
The recipe is now right-sized for the home cook and adjustable to your needs, using only pantry ingredients for great taste.
Sugar—white, but I frequently use brown sugar
Seasoned salt—Lowery's or similar
Pantry ingredients—garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, salt, black pepper
Black Magic seasoning —optional. See discussion in the FAQs.
Memphis Dry Rub is sweet and full of spices, perfect for smoked ribs, but works well for other pork, brisket, and chicken. Or for any other smoked meat.
This recipe is from the famous Marlowe Restaurant in Memphis (on Elvis Presley Boulevard). The restaurant gave the recipes to Guy Fieri, but adjustments were needed since the original recipe (apparently already cut down) produced 11 ½ cups of rub.
When to use this rub
Use this rub on ribs like Grilled Baby Back Ribs, Crock Pot Baby Back Ribs, Baked Ribs, or Grilled Boneless Ribs. Or pulled pork like Oven Pulled Pork, Crock Pot Pulled Pork, or Grilled Smoked Pulled Pork.
This rub has been the base recipe for some of my favorite recipes, which will also become some of your favorites. Start with a favorite for many people, The Best Grilled Pork Tenderloin - Memphis Style, and try Grilled Memphis Boneless Country Style Pork Ribs. Serve them both with Memphis Barbecue Sauce - A Wonderful Thing.
⏰How long to leave dry rub on meat?
As little as 30 minutes will infuse many flavors into meat, but up to 24 hours is the maximum. Longer will allow the salt in the rub to change the meat texture.
✔️Tips to get it right every time
- This rub is good enough; you don't need a sauce. If you use a rub, serve BBQ sauce on the side; do not apply it during cooking.
- Dry rubs and the sauce you use should complement each other. I suggest my Memphis sauce listed below or another sweeter sauce like a Kansas City or St. Louis sauce. Not a Carolina vinegar-based sauce.
- This is generally a rub for ribs, but you can use it anywhere that a dry rub is needed.
- There is not much sugar in this rub, so don't pack it on as much as the higher sugar-based rubs.
- I like to use dark brown sugar instead of white sugar.
- There is also a large amount of salt between the seasoning salt and regular salt in the recipe. I usually use half the salt and use coarse salt that cuts it even more.
↕️How to adjust the recipe size
Even though the original recipe was "cut down," I would say it was not really "Cooking For Two" friendly nor home cooking friendly as originally published. The rub was 11 cups, and the Black Magic was 12 cups. So, I cut it down to a more reasonable size.
The recipe is now set to make ½ cup (8 tablespoons) of dry rub, which is the amount for one slab of baby back ribs. I always make double or more and store it for later.
Use the recipe card and adjust the number of tablespoons. Remember 3 teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon. 1 cup is 16 tablespoons.
How to store dry rub
Like all spices, dry rub loses flavor over time. But we can minimize it. If stored correctly, you will still have a good flavor for up to 6 months.
- Store airtight in a glass container.
- Store in a "right-sized" container that has no more air than needed.
- Store away from light.
- A cool area is best, but do not refrigerate or freeze.
Several different seasonings are called Black Magic, but we are referring to Marlowe's version of a classic Southern seasoning mixture here.
It brings a spicy Creole flavor that is similar to blackening seasoning. It is commonly added to fish, chicken, or steak.
No, it is your rub—you will still have a great rub without it. The seasoning shares several spices with this rub but does add a touch of other flavors and some heat, but it is not mandatory.
As a substitute, you can add a pinch of cayenne pepper, blackening, or Creole seasoning to replace it.
Memphis Dry Rub Recipe
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 4 teaspoons sugar - or brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons seasoned salt - Lowery's
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Black Magic seasoning - skip if you don't have
- Mix well.
- Store in an airtight container.
Your Own Private Notes
- This recipe makes ½ cup (8 tablespoons) of rub, the amount used on one slab of baby back ribs.
- Use the recipe card and adjust the number of tablespoons. Remember 3 teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon. 1 cup is 16 tablespoons.
- The original recipe uses Black Magic seasoning. The post discusses this, but skip it if you don't have it. A few substitutes are discussed in the post.
- I usually use brown sugar instead of white sugar.
- Dry rubs and the sauce you use should complement each other. I suggest my Memphis sauce or another sweeter sauce like a Kansas City or St. Louis sauce. Not a Carolina vinegar-based sauce.
- This is generally a rub for ribs, but you can use it anywhere a dry rub is needed, like pulled pork or chicken.
- This rub has very little sugar, so don't pack it on as much as the high-sugar rubs.
- There is also a large amount of salt between the seasoning salt and regular salt in the recipe. I usually use half the salt and coarse salt that cuts it even more.
- This will keep fresh in tightly closed containers for up to 6 months. More storage tips in the post.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Publisher's Note: Originally published June 26, 2010. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.