Spice Rubs for Your Holiday Roast

Whether you’re cooking prime rib, pot roast, top round or brisket, a roast is a great way to feed a holiday crowd. A roast makes for a substantial meal, pairs well with any of your favorite side dishes and offers the promise of leftovers the next day.

A roast can always be seasoned with salt and pepper, but for the holidays we like to spice things up a little. The spice aisle is full of pre-made spice blends, but you can easily personalize your holiday meal by simply opening up your spice drawer at home and mixing together a dry rub of your own.

Dry rubs can contain however many spices you want to add. They also usually contain salt, although you can leave this out and simply salt the meat to taste after it cooks. You can add equal amounts of each spice, or add more of a specific spice so its flavor dominates. How much rub to use on a piece of meat ultimately comes down to personal preference, but a good place to start is 1-2 tablespoons per pound of meat.

Many people feel that whole spices you grind yourself right before using have more flavor, but pre-ground spices are fine, too (as long as they haven’t been sitting in your cupboard for a year). Since the spices will be subjected to heat while cooking the roast, you don’t necessarily have to toast any of the spices beforehand to bring out the flavor. The rub can be applied right before cooking and like the name suggests, should be rubbed into the meat, not just sprinkled on top.

If you open your spice drawer and don’t feel inspired, it might be time to branch out and bring new flavors to your kitchen. Peruse the entire spice aisle at the grocery store or visit ethnic markets, which are great places to discover spices you’ve never used before. You can also try one of the dry rubs below, which are sure to “spice” up your holiday meal.

The following rubs cover approximately 3-6 pounds of meat…

Cardamom Orange Rub

  • 1 tablespoons cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon dried orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Cocoa Cinnamon Rub

  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon allspice

Herbs and Garlic

  • 2 tablespoons dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon dried garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon

Spicy Paprika Rub

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

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20 thoughts on “Spice Rubs for Your Holiday Roast”

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  1. I love to use smokey paprika. Like chipotle but I can use a lot more of it.

  2. Nice post (why am I hungry now?), but why use onion powder and dried garlic? I grew up with onion powder and garlic powder, then used frozen garlic to save time when my kids were little. Now they all taste gross to me. I prefer the real McCoy. I’m sure most of the health benefits are lost in those products, along with the taste.

  3. I’ll admit I tend to stay with the same spices over and over again. Nice to see you’ve incorporated a lot of the traditional X-mas spices, I’ll definitely be giving some of these a test drive in the coming weeks.

  4. This post came at exactly the right time. I just picked up a rabbit for my impending Christmas feast and was looking for some inspiration on how to make the most of it. I think a few modifications to that spicy paprika rub may be just the thing!

  5. I have always preferred dry rubs on ribs and all types of meats. I eat a low sodium diet so I have been using a number of the spices you recommend for years.

    There are so many interesting spices to experiment with. Good Post.

    Best – Mike

  6. Perfect timing – just picked up a chuck roast for tonight and will slow cook it with the cocoa cinnamon rub, which sounds the most festive 🙂

    1. Update: It was a subtle, but delicious seasoning for our chuck roast last night. I was expecting a little more punch from the black pepper, but it was still delicious. After rubbing on the spices, I browned the roast on all sides and then cooked it in the crock pot on low for 6 hours. Mmm mmm good!

  7. Wonderful post. I have been looking for ideas that will perk up roasted meat.

  8. Not so sure about that “Herbs and Garlic” rub! The ingredients list says to just throw a teaspoon in there. That might be a little too much iron for my diet. 😉

  9. great stuff..thanks…! if you add a pinch of oregano to that cinnamon rub you would have the spice mix for my chili…

  10. Gracias, Mark! I picked up a 4 pound prime rib roast today from my favorite butcher (who carries goose lard, so you know they’re legit), and was thinking about what I wanted to do for a rub beyond the usual salt and peppar. This is my first time cooking prime rib for the family and you’ve given me some great ideas. I’m looking forward to making stock with the bones too.

  11. Does onion powder have any wheat/carby fillers? Sometimes I use it as a bit of a thickener and it sometimes gives me that “ohhh yummmmm” feeling that flour can and it makes me suspicious. The ingredients on my bottle just say onion powder but I don’t know about the regulations for labeling spices.

  12. Great ideas for spice rubs.
    On lamb I like to use what I call the Scarborough Fair rub. Use Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme in equal parts.

  13. I tried out the spicy paprika rub on a piece of beef topside (not too sure what that joint is called in US). Great success I liked the way the spicyness stayed on the outside crust so there was also meat that was plain.

  14. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS POST… now that it is February!! heh

    SHOOT I love to make roast… this is a great way to create variety…



    28 lbs down
    32 lbs to go

  15. Yum. One of my new favorite shopping experiences is the Savory Spice Store — I spend an hour checking out their spice mixes and coming up with new ideas for my kitchen. Plus, I love their salt selection — Murray River Salt is a new favorite. Better than any candy store!