A delicious blend of sweet and smoky, this sweet chili chicken rub is made from pantry staple spices. Use it as a rub or as the foundation of a marinade for a delicious dinner!
This sweet chili rub combines the savory flavors of chili powder and garlic with the sweetness of brown sugar and the kick of cayenne. It’s a great addition to Mexican meals – I actually made it to go on Chicken Fiesta Bowls. The cayenne can be leveled up or down, depending on your tolerance to heat. We like a little kick, and I would label the amount in this recipe as a medium level of spice.This is easy to make since all of the ingredients are common spices and herbs. You may have everything you need in the pantry right now!
This can also be used as a marinade. Simply mix the rub with some 1/2 cup olive oil and 2 Tbsps white vinegar. You can leave the chicken breasts in for 30 minutes to an hour, then cook as desired for juicy, delicious chicken!
What do I need for Sweet Chili Chicken Rub?
Chili Powder: The secret behind the smoky flavor, chili powder was actually developed as a meat rub originally. Most chili powders also contain a bit of cayenne already, so this helps create a very mild heat on its own!
Garlic Powder, Cumin, and Oregano: Each of these spices helps round out the flavor and bring out the flavor of the chili powder. If you don’t like cumin, you can replace the cumin in this recipe with ground carraway seeds or ground coriander. These have a similar flavor profile, but less kick.
Brown Sugar: Brown sugar provides the sweetness in this rub, cutting the smoke and heat of the other ingredients. It’s that tension in the flavors that makes this rub so delicious!
Cayenne: This ingredient is optional, but I highly recommend adding some if you like a kick to your food. Feel free to increase or decrease (or do away with) the amount of cayenne to meet your tastes.
Salt and Pepper
Oil: We use olive oil to coat our chicken. The oil’s job is to help keep the spices on, and to add fat to the chicken so that it cooks up tender and juicy. Any oil will work here, but keep in mind that changing the oils will change the flavor. Depending on what you’re shooting for, that could be a plus!
Chicken: This recipe makes enough rub for four chicken breasts. You can also use this on tenders, thighs, or any meat you’d like. Just remember to adjust cooking time to match the cut or type of meat you use.
How do I make Sweet Chili chicken?
Start by mixing together all of the spices and the sugar in a small bowl. If you’re just interested in making the spice mix right now, you can stop here and put the mix into an airtight container. It will keep for 3 months.
To use your mix, pour your oil into a bowl. Dip the chicken into the oil, then allow all the extra oil to run off. You want a thin layer of oil all over the chicken, not pools of oil all over.
Once you’ve let the chicken drip for a minute, use your hands to rub spice mix onto both sides of the chicken. You don’t need a great deal of mix to cover each piece of chicken — as the oil mixes in, the spices will spread out.
When your chicken is completely covered in spice rub, you can either cook it immediately, or you can put it in the fridge for up to an hour. Letting the chicken rest before cooking will intensify both the flavor and the heat, so keep that in mind!
If you don’t want to use your chicken rub immediately, you can put it in an airtight container and keep it in a dry place. It will keep for up to 3 months.
Yes! In a gallon bag, add 1/2 cup oil, 2 tbsp of vinegar, and the spice mix. Place your chicken pieces in the bag, seal it, and squish to coat the chicken with the oil and spices. You can leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour, then bake as desired!
Yes! This recipe can be made more or less healthy by your choice of oil. Coconut oil is it the lowest calorie cooking oil, but olive oil, avocado oil, and sesame oils are all excellent choices!
More Chicken Recipes:
Sweet Chili Chicken Rub
- 4 chicken breasts
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp oregano
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp cayenne optional
- ½ cup oil
- In a small bowl, mix together all spices and sugars.2 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp brown sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp cayenne
- Dip chicken in oil, then rub all over with spice mix until covered.1/2 cup oil, 4 chicken breasts
- You can also leave the chicken for up to an hour in the fridge before cooking for a more intense flavor, or cook immediately.
- To bake: Bake chicken at 400° for 12-15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165°. To grill: Cooking times will vary with grill temperature. Flip chicken every 5 minutes and grill until internal temperature reaches 165°To air-fry: Cook at 370° for 10 minutes. Flip the chicken, then cook for 5-7 minutes more, or until internal temperature reaches 165°