Saucy wings & ribs are great... but sometimes you just want a really flavourful dry seasoning. Here's my Smoky Dry Rub for Wings recipe!
Originally published August 28, 2020. Updated on 5/23/2021
Today I'm sharing another quick, simple, TASTY recipe for flavouring your food - my Smoky Dry Rub for Wings!
Way back when I moved to the US in 2006, I'd never tried wings with a dry rub. IN my world, there were really two options for wings at the time - Hot Wings or Honey Garlic Wings.
Sure, there were *technically* other options... but I generally stayed to those two, and picked which one I was in the mood for.
Then I moved in with my husband, who had like 3 "spices" in his cabinet - Pepper, Mrs Dash, and a jar of some somewhat stale dry rub for chicken wings (and I think ribs?). Not even exaggerating, btw.
There was a bit of culture shock when we moved in together - I'm someone who's never had fewer than 20 herbs and spices on hand, even when I was 16 and living on my own in a studio apartment! (Now I'm up over 78, last I checked. Oops).
It may have been a bit stale, but it packed a ton of flavour! There was definitely a variety of different seasonings in there, and it tasted almost faintly licorice-y. Talking with him just now, we both think it was Famous Dave's Rib Rub.
We didn't end up making wings often - neither one of us are into greasy foods, and baked wings just aren't as satisfying! - but I've thought about that rub over the years.
When we bought an air fryer several months ago, I decided that it was time to revisit the dry wings idea, tinker around and make my own recipe.
Smoky Dry Rub for Wings
So, I set about designing my own dry rub recipe.
I wanted it pepper-forward, smoky, and complex, so that’s where I started.
The pepper and smoke mainly come from two ingredients - smoked paprika and smoked serrano powder - more on that in a bit!
I added some onion and garlic powder, because really... I used them like most people use salt and pepper!
Mustard, cumin, oregano, and thyme work together to accent those base flavours, while brown sugar and smoked sea salt give everything a little boost.
This makes a *fantastic* dry rub. It’s quick and easy to make, and tastes amazing on wings and ribs - as a really easy preparation for them.
Also: The rub is also tasty sprinkled on the fries or tots that usually accompany our wings. Yum!
Smoked Serrano & Smoked Paprika
Now, I'm a HUGE fan of Smoked Serrano Powder, so that was the flavour I started with, and where the heat comes from.
If you haven't had Smoked Serrano Powder, you should definitely get some - it's life changing! I honestly haven't used chili powder in... I don't even know how long, now.
The smoked Serrano powder is just so much better in every way - smokier, spicier, and just with a richer flavour. A little goes a long way, though!
I use it in my Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Smoked Serrano Drizzle and my Homemade Seasoned Salt recipes, plus any time I make chili, so there are a few started ideas for you!
The same goes for paprika. I used to use regular paprika fairly often... until I discovered Smoked Paprika.
World. Of. Difference!
It isn't just a "smoky vs not" thing, the smoked paprika just tastes so much richer and complex to me. Absolutely love it, highly recommend it!
Both of these seasonings are absolutely formative to this recipe. You CAN substitute regular paprika and chili powder if you need to, but it won't be anywhere near as great of a finished product, IMHO.
Air Frying Chicken Wings
As I mentioned in my Honey Jeow Glazed Wings post, we are *completely* in love with our air fryer, the Instant Vortex 4-in-1 Air Fryer, 6 Quart by Instant Pot.
We bought it at the beginning of the pandemic, as a way to possibly make some of the freezer foods we stocked up on more palatable. It's been SO much more than that - and honestly, we've had wings and fries more often in the past few months, than I'd ever have imagined.
It's really become our easy, go-to "I don't feel like cooking" default meal.
The only fat involved is the fat in this chicken skin, so it's actually really not that bad for convenience food.
I was a bit worried that air frying wouldn't provide as good of a base for this Smoky Dry Rub for Wings, thinking that residual oil on deep fried wings were what encouraged the powder to stick.
Nope! It worked just fine! Just like with traditional deep-fried wings, the dry rub sort of melded with the skin to a degree, not remaining as an obvious, powdery, external thing.
So, if you have an air fryer, I absolutely recommend it for cooking your wings for this recipe. If you DON'T have an air fryer, I totally recommend getting one. They really do make fabulous wings!
I'd do differently - if I had my time back - is buy this model instead, as it's a size bigger.
More Seasoning & Condiment Recipes
Looking for some healthy recipes for tasty ways to add a little something extra to your dish? Here are a few ideas:
Canadian Popcorn Seasonings
Chow Chow Relish
Diana Sauces (Replica Recipes)
Honey Dill Dipping Sauce
Honey Garlic Cooking Sauce
Hoppy Dill Pickle Relish
How to Make Compound Butters
Montreal Steak Spice & Marinade
Olive Salad for Muffalettas
Porter's Yogurt & Ice Cream Topping
Roasted Beet Ketchup
Sushi Sauce Recipes
Tangerine Thyme Dry Rub
Thai Cilantro Pesto
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On to the recipe!
Smoky Dry Rub for Wings & Ribs
- Add all ingredients to a spice grinder or mini food processor (optional), blitz until blended
- If making by hand, stir until well combined.
- Store in an airtight container.
More Wing Recipes!
Love wings? Here are a few more ideas for you!