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. TODAY.
The original catalyst for this easy crockpot ribs recipe was Ben’s enthusiasm for all things barbecue.
Combine that ardor with my love for simple, hands-free cooking in the slow cooker, and we’ve got ourselves a match made in heaven.
Like my Instant Pot Ribs, these crockpot ribs have the deep, finger-licking-good flavor that you love, and the work happens in the background while you go about your day.
- After only 10 minutes of prep, you can let the slow cooker do the rest of the work.
- When the cooking time has ended, you’ll open your crockpot to find the best slow cooker ribs you’ve ever had.
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 —
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.
- 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 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. Wondering how long to cook ribs in the oven at 200 degrees? Three to four hours! To me, that 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).
- 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.
- Super smells. By the time the crock pot ribs are done cooking, your entire kitchen will smell like slow-cooked BBQ paradise. (Currently asking myself why there isn’t a BBQ-scented candle…)
How to Make Crockpot Ribs
Get ready because you’re about to make the BEST slow cooker ribs with homemade barbecue sauce.
For tender, juicy crockpot ribs every time, all you need is a rack or two of your favorite pork ribs (my vote will always be for baby back) and a few pantry staples. So easy!
- 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.
- Spray a slow cooker with nonstick spray, and add the ribs. Mix the sauce ingredients (liquids and spices), and pour half of it over the ribs.
- Cook on low for 8 hours, until tender. Serve immediately with the reserved sauce, and DIG IN!
How Do You Know When Ribs are Done in Slow Cooker?
- Thermometer. Ribs are safe to eat at 145 degrees F, but the temperature should be at 190 degrees F or higher to ensure the most tender meat. You can use an instant read thermometer to check the exact temperature.
- Color. When done, the meat in the middle should be white, and there shouldn’t be any pink juices.
- Bones. Check your ribs to see if the meat has drawn back from the bone. When done, the meat will expose some of the bone at the thin end of the ribs.
- Flexibility. Your ribs should be flexible but not falling apart. When you think your ribs are done, grab one end with a pair of tongs and pick them up. The ribs should bend towards the ground without falling apart.
- Tenderness. Gently insert a toothpick between two of the bones. If the toothpick goes in easily, then the ribs are done.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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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