Beyond BBQ Sauce: 18 Healthy Ways To Season Your Chicken

While the following list doesn't completely avoid sugar, you do have the freedom to add as much or as little of it as you'd like if you attempt to create any of our seasoning suggestions. Click ahead to see the spice, rub, marinade, and sauce ideas we think you should try the next time you make chicken.


Agave doesn't need to stay in your drinks as a sweetener (or, you know, tequila). Marinate chicken in rice vinegar, scallions, chiles, and agave. It's worth trying.

For more on agave recipes, click here.


You've probably used allspice in a cider recipe before, but have you ever considered using it on chicken? Combined with cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, onion and garlic powder, cumin, coriander, and ginger, not only will you have used most of your spice rack, but you'll also have an incredible-tasting piece of meat.

For more on allspice recipes, click here.

Bacon Grease

You can add bacon to anything. When mixed with maple sugar and red wine vinegar, bacon grease can be the base of an amazing sauce for chicken. At the end of the day, bacon can be healthy in moderate quantities.

For more on bacon recipes, click here.


Berbere mix is an Ethiopian spice arrangement. Including pure chile powder, sweet paprika, salt, coriander, ginger, cardamom, fenugreek, nutmeg, allspice, and ground cloves, its flavor profile is unmatched, making it the perfect seasoning for chicken.

For more on berbere spice mix recipes, click here.

Black Peppercorns

Sometimes, it's as simple as black peppercorns. Mixed with spices like oregano, salt, and garlic, black peppercorns' punch makes it great for chicken rubs.

For more on peppercorn recipes, click here.

Brown Sugar

You may not jump to brown sugar as a way to season chicken, but brown sugar, onions, garlic, and white wine vinegar is something we highly suggest trying.

For more on brown sugar recipes, click here.


Chicken doesn't need to be spicy or salty. Instead, try cooking your chicken with buttermilk, dill, and lemon zest for a slightly heavier, sweeter flavor. You're going to want to avoid this if you lead a dairy-free lifestyle, but moderate doses of full-fat dairy can be healthier than added sugars found in many barbecue sauces.


For more on buttermilk recipes, click here.


Bring on the spice. You can use your imagination when it comes to pairing cayenne and other spices to season chicken. We suggest pairing it with finely ground coffee to make a distinctly flavored rub.

For more on cayenne recipes, click here.

Chipotle Chiles in Adobo

Adobo, a cooking practice with origins in Iberia, involves the immersion of meat (in this case, chicken) in a stock composed with a variety of spices and other add-ins (paprika, oregano, vinegar). This process enhances all flavors, and the chipotle chiles will help provide a smoky spice.

For more on adobo chicken, click here.

Cocoa, Curry, and Cumin

Chocolate doesn't need to be saved for desert. Cocoa amplifies the flavor of curry and cumin, providing a chocolaty rub that may change your idea of what cocoa is meant for.

For more on cocoa recipes, click here.

Fish Sauce, Sambal Oelek, and Sriracha

Fish sauce (something like anchovies, salt, and water), sambal oelek (an Indonesian chile pepper condiment that may include things like fish sauce and shrimp paste), and, everyone's favorite add-on, Sriracha. Not convinced? Try it out — we're certain it will make your chicken taste unlike any recipe you've tried before.

For more on fish sauce recipes, click here.

Garlic, Oregano, and Rosemary

It doesn't get more classic than this. Garlic, oregano, and rosemary won't pile up calories and can make your grilled, baked, or pan-cooked chicken taste delectable.

Harissa and Yogurt

"Indispensable in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, and Morocco, harissa is a paste made with hot chile peppers, garlic, olive oil, salt, and a range of other spices," says Dan Myers of The Daily Meal. When mixed with yogurt, harissa's spices are calmed to make a great, healthier chicken sauce.

For more on harissa recipes, click here.


Hawaiian chicken recipes usually include ingredients like soy sauce, brown sugar, green onions, onion, garlic, sesame oil, and coconut milk, and we have a bunch of them. Play around with quantities in order to include the ingredients you're comfortable incorporating into your healthy lifestyle.

Honey and Mustard

Honey and Mustard
You like honey. You've used mustard. Mixing them together to make your own honey-mustard sauce will give you the freedom to pick and choose the quality of ingredients you're topping your chicken with.

For more on honey mustard recipes, click here.

Juniper Rub

Juniper doesn't need to stay in gin recipes. Try grinding up some juniper berries, black peppercorns, salt, red pepper, and a bay leaf before mixing with olive oil, minced sage leaves, and garlic for an aromatic chicken rub.

For more on juniper recipes, click here.

Roasted Garlic and Sea Salt

Garlic and salt — does it sound too simple? If you choose a quality sea salt and roast your own garlic cloves, it may amaze you how tasty this simple seasoning combo can be.

For more on roasted garlic recipes, click here.


Za'atar, the generic name given to an aromatic Middle Eastern spice blend, often involves ingredients like dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, and dried sumac. Put this (and maybe a little lemon zest) on your chicken for a unique approach to seasoning.

For more on za'atar, click here.