I am of a certain belief that in any healthy relationship, it’s best not to keep score. Unless you are making Instant Pot Ribs, in which case MEGA PARTNER POINTS.
Fall off the bone tender, mega meaty, and destined to elicit serious finger licking, these savory Instant Pot Ribs will make you a fast favorite with whoever is lucky enough to share them with you.
In my case, the lucky recipient was Ben, who often requests my Crockpot Ribs. I plan to cash in the wife points I earned making this Instant Pot version for his help assembling our new patio table. I can already envision myself serving a batch of Instant Pot Ribs (slathered in homemade barbecue sauce) to friends at a future summer party!
(Remind me to mention the ribs plan to Ben if the table’s assembly “directions” are an Ikea-style sheet of paper with only pictures and no words. Baby backs are my favorite form of bribery.)
How to Make the Best Instant Pot Ribs
Unlike other rib cooking methods, which take hours and require active tending, making ribs in the Instant Pot is hands free and comparably fast. The Instant Pot locks in moisture and makes the ribs tender in a fraction of the time.
In addition to the use of the Instant Pot itself, I have a few key tips to ensure your Instant Pot rib efforts are richly rewarded.
- Use a Dry Rub. To start your ribs on a delicious note, cover them generously with a delicious dry rub.
The rib rub recipe I’ve included here uses basic pantry staples you probably already have, like chili powder, garlic powder, and cayenne, to give the ribs loads of flavor. If you’d like to make the ribs more spicy, feel free to bump up the amount of cayenne.
To balance the spice, I also add brown sugar to my Instant Pot Ribs’ rub. I grew up loving the brown sugar/molasses flavor of Kansas City BBQ, and the brown sugar reminds me of some of my favorite KC BBQ joints.
The amount of brown sugar isn’t overly sweet by any means. You’ll love it here.
- Liquid Smoke. It might sound fancy, but liquid smoke is widely available at most grocery stores (once you look for it, you’ll find it). You can also buy it online.
Please don’t skip the liquid smoke. Because we are cooking the ribs quickly (thank you Instant Pot!), the liquid smoke provides flavor that you’d typically only get via longer cooking methods (like, ahem, actual smoking).
- Choose Your Favorite Ribs. You can make any kind of ribs you like in the Instant Pot, so pick your favorite! The amount of time needed to cook Instant Pot ribs will vary based on the type of ribs you choose, but the way you add the rub and place them in the Instant Pot is the same.
The two more common types of ribs are baby back ribs and spare ribs.
- Baby back ribs are the smallest and most tender. They are my favorite and the ones you’ll see in the photos.
- Spare ribs are larger, meatier, and fattier. Ben adores them.
How Long to Cook Ribs in the Instant Pot
- Baby Back Ribs: 23 minutes on high pressure + 5 minutes natural release.
- Spare Ribs: 35 minutes on high pressure + complete natural release. Do not vent the spare ribs immediately. Because the meat is tougher, it needs the full natural release to become tender.
Broil for Bonus Flavor
- After the ribs are finished cooking, I like to brush them with BBQ sauce and place them under the broiler for a few minutes. Broiling lightly crisps the top, and the sauce becomes extra sweet and thick.
Serving Instant Pot Ribs
- Instant Pot Ribs, 2 Racks: For a crowd, you can cook two racks of Instant Pot ribs at the same time. Simply place two racks on the trivet, overlapping one inside the other if needed. The pressure cook time does not change (though it will take the Instant Pot longer to come to pressure initially).
- Sauce It Up: While you don’t *need* extra barbecue sauce on the side, my personal favorite way to eat ribs is good and slathered. Look for sauce without high fructose corn syrup…though I admit that unless I’m making the barbecue sauce from scratch, ribs with Sweet Baby Ray’s do always seem to be a hit.
- Side Dish Ideas: Instant Pot ribs and potatoes is a classic combo. Try these easy Crock Pot Baked Potatoes, make-ahead Crockpot Breakfast Potatoes (not just for breakfast!) crispy Baked Fries, or keep it simple with potato chips.
More Meat Made Easy
- I also love using my pressure cooker to make Instant Pot Chicken. Like these Instant Pot Ribs, it comes out perfectly moist every time.
- I also have this whole lineup of healthy Instant Pot recipes for you to explore.
For a less-fuss approach to rib cooking and easy entertaining, Instant Pot Ribs are hard to beat. If you decide to try them, I’d love to hear what you think!
Instant Pot Ribs
For the Ribs:
- 1 rack baby back ribs or spare ribs about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds*
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1/4 cup Homemade Barbecue Sauce or swap your favorite store-bought sauce, plus additional for serving
For the Rub:
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Rinse the 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 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.
- In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, paprika, black pepper, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne. Rub it all over the ribs, generously coating all of the sides.
- Place the trivet (or rack) in the bottom of a 6-quart or larger Instant Pot. Pour in the water, apple cider vinegar, and liquid smoke. Place the ribs inside the pot, standing them on the trivet on their side and wrapping the rack around the inside of the pot like a circle.
- Cover and seal the Instant Pot. For baby back ribs: Cook on high (manual) pressure for 23 minutes (if you are making multiple racks and your ribs are super meaty, increase to 25 minutes). Allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes, then vent to release the remaining pressure. For spare ribs: Cook on high for 35 minutes. Allow the pressure to naturally release completely (about 15 minutes). You will know it is released when the pin drops.
- Towards the end of the ribs’ cook time, place a rack in the upper third of your oven and set it to broil. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Transfer the cooked ribs to the foil, then brush liberally with barbecue sauce. Place under the broiler just until the sauce begins to caramelized, about 2 minutes. Do not walk away to make sure the ribs don’t burn.
- *Choose a rack that is less than 2 pounds for the most tender results. One rack will serve about 2 people. If you'd like to cook a larger amount, you can fit 2 to 3 racks into your Instant Pot. Simply stand the ribs all the way around the outside in one big circle first, then place additional rack(s) in a second circle on the inside. You can cut the slabs into smaller pieces if it helps them to fit more easily. Multiply the spice mixture for each additional rack (double for 2 racks, triple for 3, etc.).
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