The sizzle and smell of a roast chicken in the oven is hard to beat. If you're in search for some flavor change-ups, this is the place for you. With our Test Kitchen's homemade rub recipes, you can make a citrus-herb chicken, tomato-basil chicken, spiced apricot chicken, and more.

By Katlyn Moncada
October 19, 2020
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With so many delicious ways to enjoy chicken, a roast chicken might not sound like the most exciting dish. Well, I'm here to change your mind. Sure, salt, pepper, and a few herbs are great, but a rub can really infuse your baked chicken with tons of bold flavor. To prepare a homemade rub for chicken, all you have to do is process butter, spices, and herbs until smooth. Those flavors will leave you with a memorable chicken dinner the whole family will enjoy. So grab your food processor and rubber spatula (for scraping the bowl) and let's get cooking!

Credit: Andy Lyons
Learn How to Cook a Whole Chicken in the Oven

Homemade Rubs for Chicken

These chicken rub recipes make enough to cover a whole roast chicken. You can add or reduce the amount of each ingredient depending on the size or portion of the chicken you make.

Dilled Honey Mustard

In a food processor ($50, Target) combine ½ cup snipped fresh dill; ½ cup sliced shallots; ¼ cup snipped flat-leaf parsley; 3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard; 2 Tbsp. softened butter; 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed; 1½ tsp. salt; and ½ tsp. black pepper.

Barbecue Bacon Rub

In a food processor combine 4 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled; 4 chopped green onions (white and green parts); ¼ cup ketchup; ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley; 1 to 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce; 1 Tbsp. molasses; 2 tsp. chili powder; and 1 tsp. salt.

Citrus-Herb Rub

In a food processor combine ½ cup chopped fresh basil; ¼ cup each of flat-leaf parsley and coarsely chopped onion; 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint; 2 tsp. chopped fresh sage; ½ tsp. cracked black pepper; 1½ tsp. salt; finely grated zest of ½ a lemon; and finely grated zest of ¼ of an orange. Pulse to finely chop. With processor running, add 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a slow, steady stream.

Moroccan-Inspired Spice Rub

In a food processor combine ½ of a yellow onion, coarsely chopped; ¼ cup toasted slivered almonds; ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley; 3 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed orange juice; 2 Tbsp. brown sugar; 2 tsp. orange zest; 2 tsp. ground cumin; 1½ tsp. salt; 1½ tsp. ground turmeric; 1 tsp. ground coriander; ½ tsp. ground cinnamon; ¼ tsp. ground cloves; and ⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper.

Spiced Apricot Rub

In a small bowl, soak ½ cup chopped dried apricots in 2 Tbsp. bourbon, brandy, or orange juice for 15 minutes. In a food processor combine soaked apricots and bourbon (or other soaking liquid), ¼ cup chopped red onion, 2 Tbsp. softened butter, 1 Tbsp. lemon zest, 1½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, and ½ tsp. ground allspice.

Tomato-Basil Rub

In a food processor combine ½ cup each fresh basil leaves and chopped oil-packed dried tomatoes; ¼ cup cut-up fresh chives; 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar; 2 tsp. dried oregano; 1 tsp. salt; and ½ tsp. black pepper. Cover and pulse until finely chopped. With processor running, slowly add 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a steady stream until nearly smooth.

How to Use Chicken Rub

To apply these rub recipes to chicken, loosen skin on the whole chicken (or pieces) then carefully lift and spread paste under the skin, smoothing as evenly as possible. Our Test Kitchen recommends covering chicken tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerating overnight before roasting in the oven. Cook chicken according to your recipe's instructions or use our classic roast chicken recipe as a guide.

Your juicy chicken dinner wouldn't be complete without sides! Keep your holiday stress-free with some delicious make-ahead sides. Or work on maintaining your calorie goals with a healthy side dish or salad. Have leftovers? Turn your roasted chicken into an entirely new dish such as pulled chicken sandwiches or chicken salad.

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