Nothing beats an amazing BBQ rub packed onto a prime cut of beef or fish filet, but there are more ways to utilize your rub this summer that stretch beyond those grill grates. After all, a rub is basically a simple blend of seasonings (sweet, salty, and spicy) meant to elevate a piece of meat—the flavor of a rub can range from bright but barely there to boldly smoky and robust. Point being: this pantry staple is far more versatile than it gets credit for.

“Spice rubs are designed to create a crust and ultimately cut through fat of your protein when grilling,” says Executive Chef Doug Adams of Bullard Restaurant in Portland, Oregon. “Because of this, they pack a punch making them excellent for use throughout the kitchen when you’re looking for a quick pop of flavor.”

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

Rubs are similar to tea in this way: their earthy intenseness can be used in endless culinary applications. To test this theory, we tried using Smith Teamaker’s tea-based No 616 Smoke & Spice dry rub in a number of dishes that didn’t involve grill grates. This strong, spicy rub features smoked black tea, Korean chili pepper, cacao nibs and juniper berries—flavors that pair well with everything from cocktails to any meat or fish. Needless to say, we were impressed with the results. But when we tossed it with vegetables before roasting—carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, and tomatoes are all equally delicious options—it totally transformed the results.

Roasted vegetables are perfection without anything more than a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper, yes, but they’re also a blank slate. If you’re in search of a way to give them that extra kick of joie de vivre, a dry rub is an excellent way to infuse new flavor in veggies with very minimal effort.

If you’ve stocked up on rubs this summer and are looking for even more creative ways to put them to work, here are some genius dishes you can try working your rub into (after you’ve polished off that entire sheet pan of rub-roasted potatoes).

  • Add into a Bloody Mary to pack an extra earthy punch
  • Mix in with mayo before spreading onto sandwich bread or using as a dip
  • Replace your rimming salt with dry rub for a savory margarita
  • Add into creamy sides, like beans or potato salad, for instant flavor
  • Add into your mix or brine when pickling vegetables
  • Toss with popcorn
  • Sprinkle over french fries
  • Upgrade your summer crab or shrimp boil—rub will give these dishes a BBQ infused twist
  • Stir into a creamy soup for smoky flavor

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