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6 Healthy Spice Rubs to Level-Up Your Grilling Game This Summer—No Sugar Necessary

Emily Laurence

Emily LaurenceJuly 2, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images / Thomas Barwick

It’s officially too-hot-to-cook season. Even looking at the oven makes me want to nudge my air-conditioner up a few more degrees. Thankfully it’s grilling season, which is my favorite summer cooking loophole. Yes, you have to literally fire up your grill, but doing so doesn’t heat up your entire kitchen in the process. And grilling goes perfectly with an ice-cold hard seltzer or mocktail in one hand, don’t you agree?

Of course you don’t have to be a grill master (just a lover of food) to know that the secret to delicious grilled meat, tofu, and even veggies is the seasoning. While we might associate barbecue with high-sugar sauces and spice rubs, you 100 percent don’t need it to make a perfectly balanced, finger lickin’, rub. Don’t believe me? Rounded up here are six healthy spice rubs, including the foods they pair the best with.

Healthy spice rubs to level-up your grilling game

italian spice rub
Photo: The Bettered Blonde

1. Get the recipe: Italian chicken spice rub

If you’re creating an Italian-inspired meal, this spice rub is the way to go and works particularly well with grilled chicken. Garlic, onion powder, and Italian seasoning are paired with paprika, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and red pepper flakes that bring a respectable amount of heat to every bite. Don’t be afraid to go heavy on the garlic: it’s linked to fighting bacterial and viral infections as well as regulating blood sugar, lowering blood pressure, and lowering cholesterol.

Watch the video below to learn more about the benefits of garlic:

fish spice rub
Photo: Show Me The Yummy

2. Get the recipe: Celery seed tilapia spice rub

Grilling fish? This healthy spice rub recipe is similar to the Italian blend, but it has one important, new stand-out ingredient: celery seed, which brightens up the entire dish.

grilled tofu spice rub
Photo: Jamie Geller

3. Get the recipe: Grilled tofu spice rub

Tofu may be more delicate than meat, but it can still handle a strong spice blend, and will soak up every flavor note as it gets grilled to perfection. The rub for this blend uses inflammation-reducing spices like turmeric, cumin, and paprika. Oregano, tamarind powder, parsley, and red pepper flakes are all included, too. (So stop complaining that tofu is “bland” already!)

Watch the video below to see why turmeric is so good for you:

salmon healthy spice rub
Photo: Caribbean Green Living

4. Get the recipe: Anti-inflammatory spice-rubbed salmon

There’s more you can do with salmon to make it tasty than just slathering it in a garlic butter sauce. This spice rub brings some unexpected heat to the fish by incorporating cumin, garlic, coriander, and hot sauce into the blend. Fennel is added too, which helps bring balance.

healthy spice rubs for chicken
Photo: Jehan Can Cook

5. Get the recipe: No-sugar barbecue chicken rub

Jehan Powell, the creator behind Jehan Can Cook, lives in Atlanta—so you know she takes her barbecue seriously. Even though barbecue rubs and sauces are notoriously high in sugar, her spice rub is completely sugar-free (and still delicious). Instead, she goes full-out savory with garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, cayenne, paprika, and salt.

healthy spice rubs for veggies
Photo: Hey Grill Hey

6. Get the recipe: Homemake veggie shake spice rub

Spice rubs aren’t just for meat, fish, and tofu: they can really transform grilled veggies, too. This one is versatile enough to work with any vegetable you throw on the grill.

Share your favorite healthy spice rubs in Well+Good’s Cook With Us Facebook group.

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