Succulent barbeque pork spare ribs cooked in a slow-cooker deliver the juiciest and most tender ribs imaginable. The meat is so soft it practically falls off the bone. And the homemade barbeque sauce provides a sweet yet tangy flavour that really gets the taste buds going!
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Barbeque spare ribs
Spare ribs have to be one of the most economical ways of feeding a crowd. Pork is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, and if you cook it in an energy-efficient slow-cooker, then the cost is even less.
What’s more, you get the most succulent and juicy meat that simply falls off the bone.
I never thought of cooking spare ribs in a slow-cooker before. Let’s face it, there’s not much that is nicer than a rack of pork spare ribs cooked over an open fire, or grilled in the oven. If you’d like to try some oven-baked ribs you might like these sticky pork ribs with honey glaze.
But in my quest to convert as many recipes as possible to the slow-cooker, I think I’ve hit the jackpot with this recipe for slow-cooker barbeque pork spare ribs. I may never cook pork ribs in the oven again!
I whipped up a batch of my homemade barbeque sauce and poured it over a rack of pork ribs in the slow-cooker and left it to cook on high for 4 hours.
The result was succulent, tender meat that melted in the mouth, liberally flavoured with the delicious flavour of homemade barbeque sauce. I served the ribs with a dish of boulangere potatoes and a side of steamed green vegetables (beans and broccoli). See the FAQ section below for other serving ideas.
What you will need
Of course, you will need a slow-cooker. This particular model has a timer, which is handy if you want to go out and have the slow-cooker switch itself off once the time is up. My model doesn’t have a timer, so I have to remember to set an alarm to remind me to switch it off.
You will also need a small mixing bowl for mixing the barbeque sauce and a small saucepan for thickening the barbeque sauce before you brush it over the cooked ribs. You can use a small paint brush for brushing on the barbeque sauce, or you can get fancy and use a silicone basting brush.
This recipe will feed 2 people and you may get leftovers, but they are delicious on sandwiches for lunch the next day.
**You can get the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making barbeque pork spare ribs in the slow-cooker on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
- Pork spare ribs – you can buy these in racks from your local butcher or supermarket. One rack will usually have 10 to 12 rib bones and will normally be sufficient for 2 people.
- Passata – this forms the base for the barbeque marinade. Passata is made wholly from skinned and deseeded tomatoes and has a very thick consistency.
- Vinegar – I like to use white spirit vinegar for this recipe, but you can use your vinegar of choice.
- Brown sugar – adds sweetness and cuts through the tartness of the vinegar.
- Chutney – if you use a chunky chutney you may like to blend the marinade before pouring it over the ribs. It’s entirely up to you. For this recipe, I used my homemade green tomato chutney.
- Paprika – adds the characteristic smokey flavour.
- Worcestershire sauce – adds saltiness and umami or a savoury taste.
- Salt – to your own taste
What to do
In a nutshell, all you do is put the ribs in the slow-cooker, mix up the sauce ingredients, pour the sauce over the ribs and leave it all to cook on high for 3 to 4 hours!
Combine all the sauce ingredients and mix well to dissolve the sugar.
Place the ribs into the slow-cooker. You may have to cut the rack in half to get them to fit.
Put the ribs meat side down (bone side up) so that the meat lays in the barbeque sauce and can absorb all the flavour.
Pour the sauce over the ribs.
Note – if your slow cooker is deep enough, you could stand the ribs around the edge, but then the ribs wouldn’t be submerged in the delicious sauce.
Leave the ribs to cook on high for 3 to 4 hours. You could also cook them on low for 5 to 6 hours.
Swap the ribs over halfway through the cooking time so that the top half goes to the bottom. That way you make sure the flavour of the sauce penetrates all the ribs.
Remove the ribs from the slow-cooker and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with aluminium foil (for easier cleaning up).
My ribs were so soft after 4 hours on high, that they were practically falling off the bone. If you prefer your ribs to be firmer, keep your eye on them and take them out a bit earlier when they are done to your liking.
Pour the sauce into a saucepan and thicken with a mixture of cornflour and water, stirring over a low heat, until the sauce thickens and coats the spoon.
You could do this step in the slow-cooker too.
If you want a completely smooth sauce you could blend it with a stick blender.
Brush the thickened sauce over the ribs, slice them into individual pieces, and serve immediately.
Alternatively, if you want to caramelise the sauce slightly, you could pop the ribs under the grill (or broiler) for a few minutes before serving.
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The ribs will be cooked when the meat has pulled back exposing about half an inch of bone. You should also be able to pierce the meat with a toothpick without much resistance.
There are so many ways to serve these spare ribs. Here are a few suggestions:
– a baked potato and a fresh green salad with slices of garlic bread.
– potato salad and curried green beans
– German fried potatoes
– tomato and onion pasta salad
– crusty bread rolls and a slice of crustless tomato quiche
The possibilities are endless.
These ribs also make delicious sandwiches if you remove the bones.
Yes, you can freeze these ribs. Just let them cool to room temperature and wrap them in a layer of tinfoil before sealing them in a freezer bag. You can freeze them for 2 to 3 months. Let them defrost in the refrigerator and then reheat them either in the microwave or in a hot oven.
Leftover barbeque sauce can be frozen separately in a freezer bag for 4 months.
If you store leftovers in a covered container, they will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
Yes, you can bake these ribs (in the barbeque sauce) in the oven. Arrange them in a baking dish large enough to hold the ribs and pour over the sauce. Cover the dish with a lid of tinfoil and bake for about an hour at 200C / 400F. Remove the tinfoil (be careful – there will be a lot of hot steam in the dish) and grill/broil for a few minutes to allow them to brown.
The recipe is easy to scale up.
Simply allow around 350 to 400 grams (or 12 to 14 ounces) of ribs per adult (obviously children will eat less). This will take into account the high bone content of the ribs.
(Note this is an estimate only, and will depend on how ‘meaty’ your ribs are).
For the sauce you can increase the ingredients proportionally, but take care with the sugar and vinegar, you don’t want to make the sauce too sweet or too tangy.
Save for later
If you would like to make these slow-cooker barbeque pork spare ribs yourself, why not save the recipe to one of your Pinterest boards so you can find it easily? Just click on the image below.
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If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also like to try some of my other slow-cooker recipes:
- Beef stroganoff – succulent chunks of beef, slow-cooked with mushrooms and onions in a decadent creamy sauce.
- Coq au Vin – tender, juicy chicken pieces cooked with mushrooms, bacon and shallots in a red wine gravy.
- Mongolian roast beef – instead of a typical stir fry, this recipe calls for an entire beef joint to be slow cooked in a delicious garlic, ginger and soy sauce flavoured gravy.
- Beef trinchado – a South African favourite, made by cooking slices of beef in a peri-peri sauce with tomatoes and onions.
- Pork casserole with honey and mustard – tender chunks of juicy pork shoulder, slow-cooked in a delicious honey and mustard flavoured sauce.
Slow-cooker barbeque pork spare ribs
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- 1½ pounds / 700 grams pork spare ribs
- ¼ cup / 60 ml tomato passata
- 2 tablespoons white spirit vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons chutney
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt or to your own taste
- ¼ cup /60 ml cold water
- 1 – 2 teaspoons cornflour mixed to a paste with water
- Combine all the ingredients (except the pork) in a mixing bowl and mix well until the sugar has dissolved.¼ cup / 60 ml tomato passata, 2 tablespoons white spirit vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 2 tablespoons chutney, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ cup /60 ml cold water
- Place the ribs meat-side down into the slow-cooker. You may have to cut the rack in half to get them to fit.1½ pounds / 700 grams pork spare ribs
- Cook for 3 to 4 hours on high or 5 to 6 hours on low. If you have layered your ribs in the slow-cooker, swap them over halfway through the cooking time, so the top layer goes to the bottom.
- Remove the ribs from the slow-cooker and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with aluminium foil (for easier cleaning up).
- Pour the sauce into a saucepan and thicken with a mixture of cornflour and water, stirring over a low heat, until the sauce thickens and coats the spoon. You could also do this in the slow-cooker on a high setting.1 – 2 teaspoons cornflour
- Brush the thickened sauce over the ribs and place them under a grill/broiler for a few minutes to allow them to brown.
- Cut into individual riblets and serve hot.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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