Toasted Spice Rub

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I originally created a version of this spice mix for a chicken dish, but I also like to use it on lamb, shrimp, and fish. It’s delicious stirred into rice, and it transforms a pot of beans. I add a pinch to soups that need a lift and to scrambled eggs and omelets. Don’t let the amount of chili powder put you off. California chili powder is almost sweet, not hot. It is not a blend of chilies and other seasonings, like the kind you would use in Texas-style chili. Instead, it is pure ground chilies. Taste your chili powder, and if it’s hot, use less than the recipe indicates.

NotesToasting releases the aromatic oils in spices, resulting in a more complex flavor.



Total Timeunder 15 minutes

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Type of Dishdry rub


  • ¼ cup fennel seed
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup pure California chili powder 
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon


  1. Put the fennel seed, coriander seed, and peppercorns in a small, heavy skillet over moderate heat. Watching carefully, toss the seeds frequently so they toast evenly. When the fennel seed turns light brown, work quickly. Turn on the exhaust fan, add the red pepper flakes, and toss, toss, toss, always under the fan. Immediately turn the spice mixture out onto a plate to cool.

  2. Pour the cooled spices into a blender and add the chili powder, salt, and cinnamon. Blend until the spices are finely and evenly ground. If you have a small spice mill or a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices, grind only the fennel, coriander, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes. Pour into a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Keep the spice mix in an airtight container away from light and heat for up to 4 months, or freeze for up to 1 year.


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I saw Michael do this recipe on one of his TV shows. I have served it ten or fifteen times--usually to large groups requiring two or three roasts--and have gotten nothing but VERY positive comments. Several people have said it was the best thing they have ever eaten. Probably accurate! Love it! Michael is the BEST.


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