Happy Memorial Day! For anyone planning ribs for your BBQ today, I’ve got a killer rib rub and sauce recipe for you! I am obsessed with sweet BBQ sauces so I’ve been working to perfect a knock-off of one we get at the store occasionally. It’s not too sweet, just a little tangy, and it has a really deep smoky flavor. Of course, they don’t taste exactly alike but pretty close. And if anything (like usual), you get a better depth of flavor when you go homemade.
We have ribs A LOT.
They are fairly affordable and a really nice change from the regular chicken dinner. I’ve started to gravitate toward spare ribs, rather than baby back. Spare ribs (often labeled st. louis style) are from the belly of the pig, whereas baby back are from the backside. Just like we know of bacon, etc, cuts from the belly are fattier. So this makes spare ribs that much more flavorful and in my experience, the fat helps them cook down a bit quicker. Baby back have less fat but more meat so you usually need a little more time to cook due to the ratio of meat to overall weight of the ribs.
I’ve also found that the pastured spare ribs at our market run almost half the cost of the baby back. And as those of you on a paleo-style diet know, you’ve got to get savings on your protein where you can.
I’ve officially joined the Pro-Rib-Rub Club. (I think that’s a thing.)
When first venturing into ribs, I relied on just salt and pepper. It’s not bad, actually delicious if you don’t have anything to compare to. But when you get a perfectly balanced rub on the ribs and let it marinate a bit (even an hour or two is enough), there’s just no comparison.
Rather than relying on a sauce to flavor your unseasoned meat (when not using a rub), you’ve got flavor throughout the meat. And you need WAY less sauce to dip in. This is a win for me since I should probably not be eating a half gallon of sweet BBQ sauce every time I enjoy ribs.
There are quite a few ingredients in most rub recipes. I tried to keep it simple with the most crucial spices for good flavor. And if anything, this is a challenge from me to you to bulk up your pantry. Having a well-stocked spice cabinet will encourage you to make more things homemade. You’ll also be more satisfied with the results if you can easily build complex flavors with varied spices and herbs that you have on hand.
P.S. These ribs & sauce go great over top of a hearty mash. We had them over top this Celery Root & Turnip Vegetable Mash and it was stellar.
2-in-1 BBQ Rib Rub
Yields: enough rub for 1-1.5 lbs ribs & 2 cups bbq sauce
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. coconut palm sugar (optional but I like the balance it adds)
1 tbsp. sea salt
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. sweet paprika
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1-2 tsp. chipotle powder (leave this out for less spicy)
2 tsp. ground mustard
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 – 1.5 lbs. pork spare ribs (may be labeled as St. Louis Style)
Whisk all the spices together. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the rub for making the sauce later. Use the rest of the rub to heavily coat the ribs on both sides. Press it into the meat well. Wrap the rib rack in tinfoil and seal the edges tightly. I like to do this by placing one piece on the bottom and one piece on the top and then wrapping the edges together in an inward motion (shown above). Place the wrapped ribs on a baking sheet and move them to the refrigerator for 12-24 hours to marinate (this can be as short as 1-2 hours if that’s all the time you have).
Preheat the oven to 250F. Bake the ribs for 2.5-3 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone and shreds easily. They are ready to eat at this point but I highly recommend a final sear on a grill (we use this simple one for home and camping) or on an indoor grill pan (you can also use a regular skillet, it will just be less grill-like in flavor). Searing the outside makes a HUGE difference in flavor and gives you those delicious charred bits that you just won’t get in the oven.
Keep the rib rack in-tact to sear. When searing, whether on a grill or grill pan, simply take the heat to high and cook both sides quickly until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Times will vary depending on your grill. Enjoy immediately with the Rib Rub Sauce.
Rib Rub BBQ Sauce
Yields: 2 cups sauce
1 c. filtered water
6 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. honey (optional for those who like sweet bbq sauces)
2 tbsp. coconut aminos
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. dijon or whole grain mustard
1 tbsp. fresh horseradish (or 1 tsp. powdered)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. reserved Rib Rub Mix (recipe above)
2 tsp. smoked paprika
Optional: 3 tbsp. filtered water plus 1 tbsp. tapioca or arrowroot starch to emulsify the sauce
Combine the 1 cup filtered water, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, molasses, honey, coconut amino, lemon juice, mustard, horseradish, garlic, sea salt, black pepper, reserved Rib Rub, and smoked paprika in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Cover the pot, turn the heat to medium low, and cook for 20 minutes.
Combine the 3 tbsp. filtered water with tapioca starch and stir to dissolve (this step is optional but will give the sauce the familiar smooth, sticky quality of store-bought BBQ sauces). Add the dissolved starch to the sauce and whisk well. Turn the heat to medium high and whisk until the sauce starts to boil, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan immediately from the heat and use an immersion blender or regular blender (use caution when blending hot liquids) to puree the sauce until smooth. Serve with the ribs and store any extras in the fridge for up to a week.