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The Ultimate Magic Dust Rub

This Ultimate Magic Dust Rub is easily one of my favorite rubs to use on pork ribs and pork roasts. The deep rich, earthy flavors of the cumin and chili powder are offset by the sweet heat combination of the brown sugar and cayenne. This ultimate magic dust rub is also a great addition to pork injection marinades.

spices for BBQ rub

Who invented magic dust rub?

Magic Dust was invented by the late Mike Mills, the famous Pitmaster and owner of 17th Street Barbecue in Illinois. Mill’s famous seasoning mixture remains popular today and contains sugar, earthy spices like cumin and chili powder, and savory items like garlic and paprika. Mike used to always brag that the shakers of Magic Dust on the table were the restaurant’s most stolen item.

What you’ll need to make a Magic Dust BBQ rub recipe:


Make a big batch of this rub and store it in an airtight container in the cupboard for up to one year-

  1. Paprika: Look for a sweet or American variety. Avoid smoked or spicy paprika.
  2. Sugar: Really, any fine ground sugar will do. I use finely ground turbinado sugar to give a light molasses flavor. Avoid large crystal variations.
  3. Cumin: The powdered variety. If you’d like a fresher flavor, you can toast the cumin seeds and grind them in a spice grinder. Use 6 tablespoons of cumin seeds to yield 3 tablespoons of ground cumin. Place seeds in a skillet over medium-high heat and move the seeds around until they become fragrant and slightly darker. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the seeds to a clean bowl. Let them cool entirely before pulverizing.
  4. Chili powder: Use a mild American-style chili powder for this rub.-Brown Sugar: Use dark brown sugar for this magic dust rub. It contains a more robust molasses flavor, which caramelizes nicely on low and slow-cooked meats. This recipe also calls for white sugar.
  5. Salt: Regular salt or you can use coarse salt like kosher or sea salt. Don’t use any salt with a very large crystal.
  6. Black Pepper: A fine or medium ground is sufficient.
  7. Granulated Garlic: This recipe calls for 1/4 cup, but you can cut that amount in half if you aren’t a fan of garlic flavor. You can substitute garlic powder but cut the amount in half or 2 tablespoons since garlic powder is much finer.
  8. Cayenne: This spicy powder provides the heat necessary that makes all the magic in this magic dust rub. You can halve the amount if preferred.
  9. If you are a visual learner, please watch my video below!

How to apply dust:

Combine all of the magic dust ingredients and either sprinkle or pat in on by hand, or you can fill up a large metal spice shaker and apply it as pictured below. Cook as directed!

applying rub

Like this Magic Dust Recipe? Try these!

Ultimate Magic Dust Rub

The Ultimate Magic Dust Rub

This is one of my favorite seasoning rubs for ribs and pork roasts. It certainly has earthy flavors but it is tempered by a little sweet from the sugar. This is enough rub for a large cookout. So if you have several racks of ribs or a couple pork butts to throw on the smoker, then try this one out.
Photo by:  daniel subiabre/Depositphotos
4.80 from 10 votes
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Course: Rubs
Cuisine: American BBQ
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 Cups
Calories: 429kcal


  • 1/2 cup paprika (not smoked)
  • 1/4 cup sugar I use Turbinado Sugar
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup cumin powder
  • 1/4 cup granulated garlic or 2 tablespoons of garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne (use less if preferred)


  • Combine rub ingredients in a medium bowl making sure to work out any clumps from the brown sugar. Use immediately.
  • Store any unused rub in an air tight container in the cupboard for up to 6 months after preparation. Give it a good shake before using to remix the ingredients.
  • Discard any remaining rub that has come into contact raw meat.
  • Double or triple the recipe and save for future uses!


Calories: 429kcal | Carbohydrates: 83g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 14704mg | Potassium: 1721mg | Fiber: 20g | Sugar: 31g | Vitamin A: 12424IU | Vitamin C: 54mg | Calcium: 442mg | Iron: 28mg

Looking for more ideas? See my list of the best BBQ Pork Rib Rubs.

Apply your spice rubs like a professional with a spice shaker (aka Dredge). This one from Winware has a heavy build, is machine washable, and holds plenty of spice rub. Plus it costs about $7. Just make sure you don’t use this to store your rubs. It isn’t airtight.

I had encountered Mike Mills on a few occasions. He was a legend in barbecue. His 17th Street Barbecue in Murphysboro, IL, is on most people’s crawl list. The Murphysboro “Praise the Lard” BBQ Competition attracts the best of the best.

At the Jack (the Jack Daniel’s Invitation World Championship BBQ Competition), our meeting was more than a quick ‘hello’ in a crowded room. Jack Daniels had invited me to be a guest judge, and Mike was a perennial feature of that competition.

One of the many traditions of the Jack is the apron signing. Every judge gets a black apron and a silver sharpie. While waiting for the first barbecue to be turned in, people talk and sign each other’s aprons, like yearbook day on the last day of the school year.

At this event, Mike walked straight up to me and asked for my autograph on his apron. The first one for that year. We swapped aprons and talked for a few minutes as people queued up for Mike’s signature. In turn, they got mine, and I got theirs. He asked me about what I do, we talked barbecue, and eventually, we sat down to start the job of judging barbecue.

Mike Mills passed away in December of 2020. His passing left a hole in the legacy of barbecue that will never be filled.

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