From Tennessee to Texas: 5 Regionally-Inspired BBQ Rubs for Grilled Fish

The magic of cooking fish, especially mild fish like Tilapia, is that it can absorb all kinds of flavors. That means you can cook fish every day of the week, but have it taste different every time. For a powerful hit of flavor, try making your own BBQ rub for grilling seafood. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pat your fish fillet dry with a paper towel
  2. Generously coat the fish with the rub
  3. Grill it as usual

Each region of the South has their own take on rubs, and different go-to spices and flavors. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Memphis BBQ Rub

Memphis BBQ Rub Grilled Fish

This Memphis-Style BBQ Rub recipe from Patio Daddio BBQ creates an outstanding crust for your grilled fish, and adds a bit of Tennessee flair to your fish fillet.

  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 cup unrefined evaporated cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup golden or light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp granulated onion
  • 2 tbsp dry mustard
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 2 tsp dry thyme
  • 2 tsp dry oregano
  • 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp celery salt
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne (optional)

Kansas City BBQ Rub

Kansas City BBQ Rub Grilled Fish

Kansas City is commonly referred to as the world’s barbecue capital due to their large number of barbecue restaurants, so taste what all the fuss is about by making this Kansas City BBQ Rub recipe from The Spruce. It’s meant to be used for ribs, but it works well for fish, too.

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne

Creole Seafood BBQ Rub

Creole Seafood BBQ Rub Grilled Fish

Cayenne pepper is commonly used in Louisiana BBQ due to its high level of spice, so if you like your fish on the hotter side, this Creole Seafood Seasoning Rub recipe from Epicurious is sure to be a new favorite.

  • 1/3 cup table salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated or powdered garlic
  • 1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/3 cup paprika
  • 3 tbsp granulated or powdered onion

Carolina BBQ Rub

Carolina BBQ Rub Recipe Grilled Fish

If you’re looking for a regional BBQ rub that’s not too sweet or too spicy, you’ll love the way this Carolina BBQ Rub recipe from The Spruce will add balanced flavor to your fish. BBQ rubs from the Carolinas often features cumin, a key ingredient in this recipe.

  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper

Texas BBQ Rub

Texas BBQ Rub Grilled Fish Recipe

Equal amounts of chili powder and brown sugar give this Texas Style Dry Rub recipe from Dad with a Pan its Texas BBQ flavor. If you’ve never grilled fish with a BBQ rub before, this Texas rub’s classic flavor profile is a great place to start.

  • 1/3 cup chili powder
  • 1/3 cup golden brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp ground mustard
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper

These rubs are a great way to enjoy a quick grilled fish dinner while also enjoying your favorite BBQ flavors. Plus, since you’re only adding a few spices to the fish, it makes for a simple, healthy dinner. And if you have some left over after cooking, just store it in a glass jar for up to six months!

For more grilling inspiration, check some of our other favorite grilled fish recipes.

Photo credits: Iryna Tymoshchenko / Shutterstock, Patio Daddio BBQ, Elena Moiseeva / Shutterstock, Michelle Lee Photography / Shutterstock, The Spruce, Dad with a Pan