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3-Ingredient Coffee Rub for Steak

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Also known as cowboy rub, this coffee rub for steak combines the bold, rich flavor of coffee with a blend of sweet and smoky spices. It’s a simple way to add tons of flavor to any cut of steak, transforming it into a culinary masterpiece.

A blue pottery bowl with homemade coffee and chipotle steak rub.

What you’ll love about this recipe: 


  • Natural meat tenderizer. In addition to adding flavor to your steak, this espresso-based rub acts as a natural meat tenderizer!
  • Affordable. Instead of spending big bucks on gourmet spice blends, make your own from common pantry ingredients.
  • Keeps well. This steak rub can be stored in an airtight container for future use, making it a convenient recipe to have on hand.

Steak Night Just Got Better

It’s not much of a secret that I love drinking coffee, but did you know that you can also cook with it?

I was beyond excited when I stumbled upon the coffee marinated churrasco steak with passionfruit puree when we went to Jose Andres’ Bazaar on a trip to Miami last summer.

The steak was incredibly tender and the coffee rub seasoning gave it a delicious crust that had the perfect balance of earthy, sweet, bitter, and smoky flavors.

I knew I had to recreate it at home.

After experimenting with different blends of spices, I finally landed on a combination that I love, and that’s versatile enough to use on any cut of beef, from New York strip steak or ribeye to a flank steak or even a burger burger. It’s a great way to that your steak game to the next level.

Fire up your grill and let’s get cooking!

A flat lay image of ingredients needed to make espresso rub for steak.

Ingredients you’ll need:

Instant espresso. A lot of coffee rubbed steak recipes use coffee grounds, which taste great but can be a little gritty. Instead, I use instant espresso, which dissolves completely while infusing the steak with it’s rich flavor. You can also use instant coffee granules, but I find espresso to be much more versatile and it’s a useful ingredient to keep on hand. Finely ground coffee beans also work in a pinch.

Chipotle chili pepper. Chipotles are made from smoked jalapeno peppers, so they add a smoky flavor in addition to a mild heat. If you don’t have chipotle chili powder, you can use your favorite chili powder. Add a pinch of smoked paprika if you want a smokier flavor!

Brown sugar. Brown sugar helps balance the spicy peppers and bitter espresso, and it encourages the outside of the steak to form a delicious caramelized crust.

Kosher salt and Black pepper.

Instant espresso for steak rub.
Mixing the ingredients for coffee rub for steak.
Adding brown sugar to espresso to make a rub for steak.
Mixing the cowboy rub.

How to make and use it

  1. Mix the ingredients together in a bowl, bag, or jar.
  2. Spread a thin layer of the dry rub all over your meat.
  3. For the best results, let the espresso rub steaks sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before cooking it. This will give the spice rub a chance to penetrate the meat, tenderizing it and adding flavor, while the salt works to pull out moisture.You can also refrigerate the rubbed steaks for up to 24 hours before cooking. Again, I recommend bringing them to room temp before cooking them for the best results.
  4. Let the steak rest after cooking and before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. As a rule of thumb, I let it rest loosely tented under foil for the same amount of time that it cooked for.
Coffee rub for steak and a boneless ribeye.
Spreading the rub onto steak.

Frequently asked questions

What does coffee spice rub taste like?

It will add a rich earthy taste to your steaks along with subtle sweet and spicy notes. You can taste the coffee, but it isn’t super strong. The meat itself is still the predominant flavor!

How should I store it? 

You can store this coffee rub in an airtight container, like a mason jar or a ziplock bag, at room temperature.

What kind of steak is it good on?

This dry rub has a big, bold flavor so I like to pair it with bold steaks like flank steak, ribeye, or strip steaks. It would also work on a brisket or standing rib roast. Skip this rub if you’re making something more delicate like a filet mignon, since it can be overpowering.

What about other types of meat?

It’s also great on bone-in pork chops!

How does coffee help tenderize steak?

Coffee is acidic, and the acids help break down tough fibers. The longer it sits, the more tender your steak will be, which is why I recommend prepping your steak about 30 minutes before cooking it.

How should I cook the steak?

Coffee rubbed steaks are amazing on the grill, but you can also cook them on the stove or in the oven. Here’s how I make perfectly seared steaks.

Other recipes you might like:

A blue pottery bowl with homemade coffee and chipotle steak rub.
A blue pottery bowl with homemade coffee and chipotle steak rub.

3-Ingredient Coffee Rub for Steak

Transform your steak with this simple cowboy rub recipe. Combining the bold, rich flavor of coffee with a blend of sweet and smoky spices, this coffee rub is sure to elevate any cut of steak to new flavor heights.
5
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Staples
Cuisine American
Servings 10 servings
Calories 20 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 3 Tablespoons instant espresso
  • 2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons pepper
  • 1 Tablespoons ground chipotle chili pepper

Instructions
 

  • Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Nutrition

Serving: 1TablespoonCalories: 20kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 0.4gFat: 0.2gSaturated Fat: 0.04gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.04gSodium: 1410mgPotassium: 88mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 244IUVitamin C: 0.01mgCalcium: 13mgIron: 0.3mg
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By on January 20th, 2023
lauren

Hi, I'm Lauren!

I love to cook -- but even more importantly, I really like to eat! I have a demanding day job that keeps me busy, so time is precious. I'm a culinary school graduate and five-time cookbook author who's all about finding ways to make delicious, restaurant-quality meals at home on a tight schedule. Read more...

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