Santa Fe Spice Rub

Well, I’m pretty sure that it is almost nearly official that this is our last real day of summer. It is 84 blissful degrees today. Tomorrow, the high is only 64. Still delightful, but not warm and balmy like I like it.

In honor of summer coming to a close, I’ll be sharing the last and greatest of my summer recipe finds this week. Lots of recipes. Lots of love. Lots of calories and lots of yumminess.

First up is this simple and flavorful spice rub to use for grilled chicken (I’m guessing you could use it for pork and other meats but chicken is how we’ve loved it lately). I’ve made this 3 or 4 times over the summer and it is quickly becoming a staple in our home. Instead of a liquid marinade, the chicken basks in the flavorful pastiness of spices mixed with a tad bit of olive oil. Left to chill out and rubinade (is that the alternative to marinade? good enough for me…) for a while, the grilled chicken retains incredible tenderness and flavor and the combination of spices is an absolute knock out.

What To ServeWe’ve eaten this simply as a main dish with a corn salad and fresh fruit and vegetables on the side. We’ve also sliced it up and devoured it fajita-style: smothered with sour cream, cheese, and guacamole inside of a soft flour tortilla, and seriously, I think I died and went to heaven during that round.

Delicious any way you look at it, this spice rub will make you look like a rock star without hardly any effort at all. Love that.

One Year Ago: Breaded Garlic Chicken in Lemon-Butter Sauce
Two Years Ago: Cheese Rolls with Buttery Parmesan Crust
Three Years Ago: Zuchhini Mozzarella Medley

Santa Fe Spice Rub

Yield: Serves 4-6

Santa Fe Spice Rub

Note: This chicken is served delicious grilled with sides of your choice and is also delicious cut into strips and served in soft tortillas with taco/fajita garnishes.


  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts


  1. In a small bowl, combine all the spices and brown sugar. Stir in the olive oil and mix until a crumbly, moist paste forms.
  2. Place the chicken in a single layer in a 9X13-inch or similar size baking pan. Rub the chicken generously with the spice mixture on all sides. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 10 hours.
  3. Grill the chicken over medium heat until cooked through, about 6-7 minutes per side, depending on the size and thickness of the chicken breasts. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. Cut into strips and serve. This chicken is delicious served as-is and is also wonderful served in soft tortillas with taco garnishes.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from All You Magazine, June 17, 2011

24 Responses to Santa Fe Spice Rub {for Grilled Chicken}

  1. Chris N. says:

    Thanks for your Santa Fe Chicken recipe – cooked it tonight for the family with rice and vegetables and an extra bit of fresh Lemon juice here and there … excellent!

  2. Tiffany says:

    This is one of our favorite “go-to” recipes! I have yet to try a recipe from your site that we haven’t loved. Thanks for sharing all of your recipes! 🙂

  3. Kasci says:

    My grill is broke but really wanted to try this. Do you think it will work in the oven or a skillet?

  4. Mindy says:

    Hi Mel, are the measurements for the seasoning correct? 2 Tablespoons of chili powder and 2 of cumin seem like a lot. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t supposed to be teaspoons before I started. Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Mindy – yes, the measurements are correct. It is definitely a very smoky, flavorful rub. You can cut the amounts down if you’d like for a bit less punch.

  5. Menu Plan - Plate4Eight says:

    […] – Santa Fe Spice Rub (for Grilled Chicken), potato salad, rice salad and green salad, garlic […]

  6. Anissa says:

    Super simple and very tasty chicken. Thanks for another great one!

  7. Jessie says:

    I used your spice rub on quartered, small yellow potatoes, then roasted them in the oven – delicious! Thank you!

  8. Yum! I wonder how this would work without the sugar (or a greatly reduced quantity). I try to avoid sugar, but this looks amazing!

  9. Erica Williams says:

    @ Chelsea:
    I don’t know where you live, but I’m in Utah. Harmon’s, our local grocer, has great trimmed and recipe ready chicken. I buy it there all the time because it is so much less gross! I used to buy it regularly from Costco in the bags, but it got to the point where I would trim off so much yucky stuff that I threw more away than we ate. At that point, I decided it was probably worth paying a little more per pound to have chicken that I didn’t need to mess with. Hope that helps!

  10. Our Family's adventures! » Blog Archive » Menu for the week says:

    […] Santa fe Spice rub for grilled chicken, tortillas, sour cream, grilled […]

  11. Chelsea says:

    Hi Mel!
    I am check your site almost daily, its my very favorite recipe spot. On that note, you have so many delicious chicken recipes and I just have to ask you because I have this “thing” with chicken…it grosses me out entirely when I have to prepare it. I don’t mind eating it if someone else gets it ready but something about cutting off all the yuckage makes me completely lose my appetite! Your chicken always looks so lean and perfect. Do you trim the heck out of it too? I also buy the big bag of frozen breasts so its a pain especially a pain when I have to remember the day before I want to ‘marinate’ it in order to let it thaw, trim it to perfection and then let it marinate over night. I used to love chicken tenderloins because they are thinner and less gross somehow, but then I started to get grossed out by that big tendon up at the top! I would love to forget about chicken entirely, but my boys & husband would hate me. I know I’m a crazy person, but chicken is a stress in my life! 😉 I would LOVE and appreciate any tips. Where do you buy it, fresh or frozen, tips on trimming it, etc.

    You are so awesome. Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Chelsea – well, I’m afraid I probably don’t have any magic answers for you. 99% of the time I buy my chicken in the big bags at Sams’ club. So I have to try and be at the top of my game to thaw the chicken the night before if I want to marinate it, etc. The kind I buy does require a bit of trimming because while I don’t have the same aversion as you do, something about biting into a big piece of chicken fat or gristle after the chicken has been cooked will about do me in. So I trim it up nice and lean before I marinate/prepare/grill/cook. I wish I had some better tips for you! Sometimes when my local grocery store has a screaming sale on super plump, trimmed chicken breasts I stock up on those. Good luck!

  12. rachael says:

    What guacamole recipe do you use?

    • Mel says:

      Rachael – that would be the most informal guacamole recipe in the world – I slice up 1-2 avocados, add garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste and if I have them, I throw in some finely chopped cherry tomatoes. I add a large dose of fresh lime juice and that’s pretty much it!

  13. Missy says:

    Can’t wait! I’ve been using your other marinades a lot lately. My parents were in town and I did the lemon garlic chicken and it was a huge hit. I didn’t have any left over to make the pasta. 🙁 The other night we had a BBQ with some friends and she made the chicken. It was so yummy and tasted familiar. A little later I asked her if I had ever told her about my awesome cousins amazing website and it turns out I hadn’t but other neighbors had and the chicken was from you. Kind of funny!

  14. Deb says:

    I can say for a FACT that this was so yummy!! I love that I can make it myself now too. On a side-note Mel, I made the Savory-spiral-stuffed-rolls for dinner tonight. It was a hit. Thanks for the great recipe!!!

  15. Jennifer, Northwest, Indiana says:

    Alas, it is the last beautiful day here as well. . . . spice rubs are wonderful, they can add such depth to food, no matter how you prepare it, roasted, grilled, pan fried. This one sounds great, and will try it soon.

  16. I am a huge fan of spice rubs. I think they flavor the meats better, as marinades have a tendency to “wash off” when grilling. This looks spectacular. Love your blog, btw. I’ve been a huge fan for a long time, but never commented!

  17. StephenC says:

    Alas, summer must come to an end. But we can look forward to setting our clocks back and sleeping a little later.

  18. Kim in MD says:

    This looks and sounds delicious, Mel! I love the idea of a dry rub/paste instead of a liquid marinade, which means you will get a gorgeous crust on the chicken. I am going to try this recipe this week, as I am always on the hunt for new ways to serve chicken. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Alicia says:

    That sounds delicious. I’m definitely trying this one soon! I love the idea of putting it in tortillas with taco toppings. My kids will eat almost anything wrapped up in a tortilla!

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