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Best Dry Rub Recipe for BBQ Fish

Kaili loves to cook—from comfort food to fine cuisine—and was the recipient of a silver medal in a food and wine matching competition.

Easy dry rub seasoning you can make in minutes.

Easy dry rub seasoning you can make in minutes.

The Only Dry Rub Recipe You Will Ever Need

Well, for fish, anyway. It is simply that good.

There are all sorts of dry rubs out there. Just Google 'what is a dry rub' and see what comes up...for pork, for ribs, for meat, for pork ribs, for turkey. What, no fish?

I love to use rubs when preparing food for the barbecue, and I was determined to find one that I could use on fish. Most of the rubs created for barbecuing meat are just too spicy for fish ... all you end up tasting is the rub. I finally found a recipe that had potential, and after omitting the sugar that the original recipe called for and experimenting a bit with the ingredients, I finally had a dry rub I really liked on grilled fish.

Since then, we have used this dry rub on many occasions when preparing fish for the bbq. In fact, it has become one of our summer bbq staples. Dry rubs are so versatile and easy to use, and they impart a wonderful taste to the foods you apply them to. You'll find the list of ingredients and easy-to-follow directions for creating this dry rub below. It works extremely well with salmon, arctic char and trout but could also be used with other fish as well.

But first, what is a dry rub?

What Is a Dry Rub?

A dry rub is basically a mixture of finely ground herbs and spices that are used to enhance the flavor of meat, fish, and poultry.

Unlike liquid marinades, which can be messy to work with, dry rubs are just that—dry. You sprinkle the dry rub mixture onto the raw food you are preparing and rub or pat it into the flesh. Dry rubs work best with foods that are being 'dry cooked'—that is baked, dry roasted or put on the bbq or grill.

Dry rubs can be put on the food several hours ahead of time to allow the flavors to penetrate or you can start cooking immediately after applying the rub ... it all depends on how much time you have and the degree that you want the food to pick up the flavors from the rub.

Depending on what you are cooking, the ingredients in the rub really do matter. As an example, most commercially available rubs have salt in them. This may be fine for certain types of meat or even for larger cuts of meat, but if the food sits with the rub on it for any length of time, the salt in the rub will draw moisture out of the food. I personally don't like to use salt in my rubs for that reason.

You will also find sugar listed in the ingredients for most rubs. Sugar caramelizes when it cooks, which is lovely on bbq ribs and meats, but may not be so desirable on poultry or fish.

Many famous chefs have created their own wonderful versions of dry rubs for things like ribs, and you can buy these rubs online. You can also find a variety of rubs in the spice aisle in your local grocery store. Better yet, you can have fun creating your own.

Ready? Let's get cooking.

Just a few ingredients are needed for this dry rub.

Just a few ingredients are needed for this dry rub.

Prep Time (Not Including Rest or Cook Time for Fish)

Prep timeReady inYields

10 min

10 min

Approximately 1/4 cup of rub


  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp dried grated lemon peel


  1. This recipe yields enough rub for four good-sized pieces of fish. If you need more rub, simply double or triple the amounts provided in the list of ingredients. You can store the leftover rub in your cupboard for several weeks.
  2. Add the dry ingredients one by one into your mortar. You can also use a spice grinder if you prefer. Grind the ingredients together until the tarragon and basil are very fine and all of the ingredients are well blended.
  3. With the fish flesh-side up, sprinkle about 1 tsp. of the dry rub evenly over the top of each piece of fish. Press the rub into the flesh with your fingers.
  4. You don't need to add rub to the 'skin side' if you have left the skin on. If you have removed the skin, you only need to apply about 1/2 tsp. of rub on this side.
  5. Store the fish in the fridge to rest until you are ready to cook it. A couple of hours is good, as this will allow the flavors in the rub to penetrate the fish. Or, you can get cooking right away...that is the beauty of rubs.
  6. Pop the fish on the BBQ and follow your usual method until the fish is cooked through. A fish basket works well, or you can try planking. Enjoy!

What Is the Difference Between Garlic Powder and Granulated Garlic?

This recipe calls for granulated garlic, and if you haven't used it before, you may be wondering if it is the same thing as garlic powder.

While garlic powder and granulated garlic are both dried versions of garlic, that is where the similarity ends. Garlic powder is much finer and often contains salt for flavor as well as other ingredients to keep it from clumping. Because it is so fine, it also burns very easily, so it isn't really the best thing to use in a dry rub, especially if you are grilling.

Granulated garlic is a much coarser kind of dried garlic and is the best choice for rubs.

And though you might be tempted to substitute fresh garlic for granulated, you won't get the best results. A clove of garlic won't blend very well with the other ingredients, and the 'heat' that naturally occurs in fresh garlic will change the taste of the rub completely. Dried garlic doesn't have the same heat as fresh, but it does have a wonderful flavor that really works well in a blend of spices and herbs.

Store it in a jar or plastic container with a lid - no need to refrigerate.

Store it in a jar or plastic container with a lid - no need to refrigerate.

What Is Dried Grated Lemon Peel?

Dried lemon peel is just that ... the outer peel from the lemon that has been dehydrated. The peel is the yellow part of the lemon skin, and it is where the natural oils are found. It is these oils that give dried lemon peel its wonderful flavor.

Try to buy the best-dried peel that you can find. Some cheaper blends also contain a lot of the pith, which is the white part of the skin. It is used as a filler and doesn't have as much flavor. Have a close look at the dried peel to see if you can see lots of pith ... if so, keep looking.

You can usually find reasonably good peel at most bulk food and certainly at specialty spice stores. It is also available from several online sources and is sold by weight.

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© 2016 Kaili Bisson