Chipotle BBQ Spice Rub & Sauce

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I’m a firm believer that with great BBQ comes great dry spice rubs. They are the quintessential component to cooking on any grill for a number of reasons. Dry spice rubs allow you to coat whatever protein you’re about to put on your grill with less worry of it caramelizing to the point of burning. There are fewer flame flareups when using dry spices to season the food you grill, preventing the actual protein itself from charring beyond the point of no return. And much like a wet marinade, dry spice rubs do what you hope any pre-seasoning will do — they give immense flavor to the food you are grilling. The longer you let your rub sit on your protein, the deeper the flavor will go.

I love making spice rubs. For one, they keep for quite some time, and you can basically put any spice you want into a rub, giving you full control over the flavor of your dish. And while we are primarily focusing on grilling, spice rubs work just as well with pan-searing, broiling, roasting, frying and braising. In essence, there is rarely a time when utilizing a dry spice rub is wrong.

I find that many of the dishes I make start with a blend of spices that ultimately find a home on the protein star of the show. And since we are celebrating grilling this week, I share with you today a rub that has become my go-to whenever doing anything related to BBQ.

My Chipotle BBQ Spice Rub packs an assortment of punches. There is raw flavor, subtle sweetness and layers of heat derived from a plethora of sources. And my Chipotle BBQ Sauce uses this very rub to add an unexpected and welcomed complexity, bringing anything you slather it on to new heights. While the recipe has some pretty decent heat, the levels of fiery spice are easily adjustable, making this recipe a perfect base for all palettes.

To kick off Grilling Week on the blog, I share with you my Chipotle BBQ Spice Rub and Sauce — two recipes of which I’ve held onto for years and never plan on letting go!

Chipotle BBQ Spice Rub & Sauce

For the spice rub:

(yields 1 1/4 cups)

2 tb plain chili powder

2 tb chipotle chili powder

2 tb granulated garlic 

2 tb ground cumin

2 tb kosher salt

2 tb dark brown sugar

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp cracked black pepper

1 tsp cracked green pepper

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Mix in a mason jar until the spices are fully incorporated.

For the sauce:

(yields 4 cups)

1 small sweet onion, diced (roughly 1 cup)

3 chipotle chilis in adobo, chopped

2 cups ketchup

1/3 cup worcestershire sauce

2 tsp coarse ground mustard

1 tsp white wine vinegar

4 tb butter

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup dark brown sugar

1/3 cup Chipotle BBQ Spice Rub

Sauté the onion in the butter over medium heat for 15 minutes until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic. Sauté for another minute. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir to incorporate and simmer over medium to medium-low heat for 10 minutes.

For a semi chunky sauce, leave as is. For a smoother sauce, emulsify the sauce with a hand emersion blender or strain through a sieve. Tip: emulsifying the sauce is recommended if you are looking to enhance the flavor of the sauce with additional caramelized onion flavor.

Store in a container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Creative liberties:

As I mentioned before, there is quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to both the flavor and amount of heat in this rub and sauce.

  • For additional chili flavor, play around with what chili powders you use. There are quite a bit of them out there. You can use ancho chili powder (which is hot) in place of chipotle (which is also hot) or use both in place of the plain chili powder (which is not hot) for added complexity and heat.
  • If your palette doesn’t agree with spicy (hot) foods, omit the use of chipotle chili in the rub and use 4 tablespoons of plain chili powder instead. You can also skip the crushed red pepper flakes.
  • To lessen the amount of heat in the sauce, omit the use of the chilis in adobo and replace it with 1 tablespoon of plain chili powder.

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