Meet the most fall-off-the-bone tender, no oven, I-think-I’m-gonna-need-a-bigger-bib Crockpot Ribs. Do yourself and every rib lover in your life a finger-lickin’ favor: put a batch in your slow cooker. Baby backs, spare ribs, country…this recipe works with any of your favorite cuts.
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Why You’ll Love Slow Cooker Ribs
In addition to being one of the best crock pot recipes to come out of my kitchen in a long time, these slow cooker ribs have a full rack of winning qualities.
- Barbecue Paradise. Like my Instant Pot Ribs, these crockpot ribs have the deep, smoky barbecue that you love. When the cooking time has ended, you’ll open your crockpot to find the best slow cooker ribs you’ve ever had.
- The Prep is Quick and Easy. You’ll need less than 10 minutes to get them sauced and in your slow cooker (perhaps only this Shredded Chicken Sandwich recipe is easier). The slow cooker does the rest of the work while you go about your day.
- The BBQ Sauce is Homemade. Seriously once you go with homemade BBQ, there’s no going back (this is my favorite from-scratch Barbecue Sauce recipe).
- Keep the Oven Off. Ribs in the oven at 200 degrees take 3 to 4 hours, which is a looooong time to have my oven running. The slow cooker will keep the house cool and the oven available if you need it for other endeavors (like making a side of this Beer Bread to go with your ribs).
- Less Risk of Overcooking. While I adore the flavor of meat made on the grill (hello, Grilled Chicken Breast), how long to cook ribs on the grill is challenging even for pit masters. Keep it simple and let the slow cooker do the work.
- Falling Off the Bone Tender. You can pull them apart with your fingers!
These tender ribs are ideal for game day parties, easy weeknight dinners, or anytime you’re in the mood for something undeniably delicious.
5 Star Review
“We made these yesterday and they came out perfectly! The meat was so tender and was falling off the bone. It was super easy to prep before heading off to work.”— Lauren —
How to Make Crockpot Ribs
- Pork Ribs. This crockpot ribs recipe will work for any style of pork ribs. We did baby back ribs, but country-style ribs or spare ribs could be used too. I haven’t tried crock pot boneless ribs or beef ribs yet, but I see no reason why those wouldn’t work so feel free to experiment. (Just save the pork shoulder or pork butt for Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.)
- Ketchup. A key ingredient in our BBQ sauce. While I’m not usually a fan (true confession), here it adds thickness and sweetness (so there’s no need for brown sugar).
- Molasses. Another essential element in our sweet, sticky sauce (also key for this crockpot Pulled Chicken Sandwich recipe).
- Apple Cider Vinegar. To add tangy flavor and acidity to balance the sauce.
- Hot Sauce. For a little bit of heat.
- Spices. Spices are the final component that takes our BBQ sauce to the next level. This recipe uses a combination of chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
1. Add the Ribs to a Slow Cooker. It’s OK to stack them if needed.
2. Mix the Sauce Ingredients. You can make it from scratch or swap storebought.
3. Pour Half Over the Ribs. Save the rest for serving.
4. Slow Cook. Cook on low for 8 hours, until tender. Serve immediately with the reserved sauce, and DIG IN!
- To Store. Leftover ribs may be stored, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days in the fridge.
- To Freeze: Cooked crockpot ribs may be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before warming.
- To Reheat. Warm the ribs in a slow cooker on LOW until heated through. You may also warm in a large, covered, saucepan on the stovetop over LOW heat or in the microwave in a covered container until heated through. I suggest adding a bit of water and/or barbecue sauce to the ribs before warming to prevent them from drying out.
What to Serve with Tender Ribs
- Slaws. Try this Healthy Coleslaw for something classic or Brussels Sprouts Slaw for something different.
- Cornbread. Perfect for sopping up extra sauce! Try Mexican Cornbread, Jalapeno Cornbread, or Cornbread Muffins.
- Baked Beans. Boston Baked Beans cook gently in the oven. Easy Baked Beans are fast and easy.
- Corn on the Cobb. Everyone loves Grilled Corn with their ribs!
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Programmable Slow Cooker. This one switches to warm when done so food doesn’t overcook.
- Pastry Brush. Perfect for brushing the ribs with plenty of sticky sauce.
- Mixing Bowl. For stirring together all of that finger-licking good BBQ sauce.
What was once reserved for weekend summer cookouts, now you can enjoy tender ribs any night of the week thanks to this easy slow cooker ribs recipe.
- 3 1/2 to 4 pounds pork ribs cut into individual ribs (spare ribs, baby back, or country-style will all work with this method; I used baby back)
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Spray a 6-quart or larger slow cooker with nonstick spray. Add the ribs in an even layer.
- In a small bowl or large measuring cup, stir together the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, hot sauce, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Pour half of the sauce over the ribs, then cover the sauce bowl and save the rest in the refrigerator.
- Cover the ribs and cook on LOW for 8 hours, until they are cooked and ultra-tender. Serve immediately with the reserved sauce (I like to warm up the extra sauce for serving too).
- STORE-BOUGHT SAUCE: You can also make crockpot ribs with store-bought sauce, like Sweet Baby Rays, if you prefer. Simply swap the homemade bbq sauce ingredients for 1-2 cups of your favorite premade variety and cook as directed in the recipe.
- TO STORE: Leftover ribs may be stored, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
- TO FREEZE: Cooked crockpot ribs may be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before warming.
- TO REHEAT: Warm the ribs in a slow cooker on LOW until heated through. You may also warm in a large, covered, saucepan on the stovetop over LOW heat or in the microwave in a covered container until heated through. I suggest adding a bit of water and/or barbecue sauce to the ribs before warming to prevent them from drying out.
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Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve never made slow cooker ribs without cutting them apart, so I can’t say from experience. That said, several readers have reported leaving the racks partially intact, so seems to be an option. I would keep an eye on them as they cook since they may need a bit longer to cook if not cut into individual ribs.
If (like me) you forget to thaw your meat ahead of time, don’t worry. Crockpot ribs can still be in your (near) future. Here’s how you can thaw ribs quickly and safely.
Keep your ribs in their packaging or in a sealed ziptop bag. Fill a large bowl with cold water, and submerge your ribs in the water, adding something on top of them to keep them from floating to the top.
Leave the ribs for about 30 minutes, then check to see if they are thawed. If they are still frozen, drain the water and refill with fresh cold water.
No, do not place frozen ribs in a crockpot. Frozen meat will begin to thaw in the slow cooker and may spend too long at room temperature, rendering it unsafe to eat.
Yes. While I have not tried the recipe this way, other readers have reported success with a double layer of ribs in a single crockpot.
Yes. Believe it or not, you can overcook ribs in a slow cooker. That’s why I recommend cooking them low and slow and keeping an eye on them towards the end. You’re looking for meat that’s tender and comes off the bone with light pressure.
Rinse the rack of ribs and pat them dry. If your ribs still have the thin, shiny membrane on the back, remove it. (This is easy, don’t worry!) Flip to the back of the ribs over, meat-side down. Wiggle a dull knife (such as a butter knife) between the membrane and the ribs to loosen it. With a paper towel, grip the membrane and pull it away, then discard.
This allows your spice rub or sauces to penetrate the meat and also helps the meat become tender.