Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs

If talking about baby back ribs could make one giddy, this is the recipe to bring it out in me. I haven’t been this excited about a recipe since at least Monday. And actually, the next four days or so of posts are going to be killer. Killer. Think of it as the ultimate Father’s Day menu coming your way (with one of the most amazing giveaways to date this Friday). Seriously, I can barely stand it; I wish I could share it all with you right now. The anticipation is making me very hungry.

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs

Father’s Day aside, though, I happen to personally be a huge fan of ribs. Which just goes to show that you don’t have to be a father to love ribs, and furthermore, ribs shouldn’t be shoved into the men-only corner of the food world. Am I right or am I right? It’s easy to be intimidated by the messy, saucy, tender, boney things, but the truth is, ribs are so easy and so flavorful. And if they are prepared the right way, you get crazy delicious thrown in there too.

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs

This old oven-baked ribs recipe has been a favorite in our house for years. But if you are looking for a slow cooker version with an amped up semi-homemade BBQ sauce (root beer forever!), today’s recipe is for you.

The only disclaimer I have to offer for this baby back ribs recipes is that thanks to the magic of the slow cooker, the ribs are unbelievably tender – so tender that it’s almost impossible to pick them up like traditional ribs. We still ate them with our fingers (because why not?) but the meat was literally falling off the bone without any effort on our part. You could most definitely resort to knife and fork here or even cook up the ribs, slide the meat off the bones (honestly, it will take .5 seconds because it’s so, so tender) and serve the flavorful chipotle-root beer sauce slathered over just the meat. No bones. On a huge platter. Set in front of my plate.

Heavens, these ribs are fantastic.

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs

On an unrelated note, I’ve been forgetting to tell you (shame on me!) that I’ve added four new Summer-Lovin’ menu plans to the lineup of free, downloadable weekly menu plans here. So there’s that.

And also, my sweet friend Reyna (who partnered with me on the Let’s Talk: Cooking with Kids post) and I had a very fun Skype chat and she’s sharing all the details of our Q&A on her YouTube channel (and yes, I talk just as much with my hands in real life as I do on the video; I usually warn people to back up a little when conversing with me so as not to come to any harm). So check it out if you want to get up close and personal (no really, I was sitting very close to my computer screen, yikes).

One Year Ago: Greek Pita Salad
Two Years Ago: Maple Pecan Crusted Salmon
Three Years Ago: Black Bottom Pudding Pie

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs with Root Beer BBQ Sauce

Yield: Serves 8 or so

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs with Root Beer BBQ Sauce

Ok, let's talk. Baby back ribs are simple to prepare but you do want to make sure you remove the membrane/silver skin from the underside of the ribs. Here's a simple how-to; the trick is using a paper towel to help grip the membrane as you peel it off.

Also, when it comes to root beer, brand matters. Choose a root beer that tastes good. Sounds silly and simple but it's really important. We're A&W fans around here; as long as you like the taste drinking it straight, you're good.

Finally, slow cookers. I used my 10-year old oval slow cooker that I think is right around 6-7 quarts. The oval shape is ideal for these ribs; however, I still had to cut them in half so if you only have a round slow cooker, try cutting the ribs into smaller pieces and stacking them on top of each other or side-by-side.

Ingredients

    Ribs and Seasonings:
  • 3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 racks pork baby back ribs, trimmed (see note above)
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup root beer (see note above)
  • BBQ Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 cup root beer
  • 1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce (my favorite homemade version here; also a big fan of Sweet Baby Ray's for storebought)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 tablespoon minced chipotle in adobo sauce (leave out the seeds for less heat)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. For the ribs, in a small bowl stir together the salt, oregano, garlic powder, black pepper, chili powder and paprika. Make sure to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs (simple how-to here). Spread the spice mixture over the meaty side of the ribs and rub gently until coated.
  2. Add the sliced onion and 1/2 cup root beer to the slow cooker (see note above for sizes/details) and place the ribs on top, cutting the racks of ribs to fit if needed. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours.
  3. While the ribs cook, make the sauce by heating a saucepan over medium heat with the 1 tablespoon oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook on medium to medium-low, stirring often, until the onions soften and turn translucent, 7-8 minutes. Add the root beer and bring the mixture to a boil. Let it cook for 5-7 minutes until the liquid is reduced by about half.
  4. Stir in the BBQ sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, minced chipotles and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and black pepper - start with 1/4 teaspoon each and add more to taste.
  5. Simmer the sauce for 10-15 minutes. Let it cool slightly and then carefully process in a blender (or use a handheld immersion blender) until smooth. Refrigerate the sauce if making in advance.
  6. When the ribs have finished cooking, preheat the oven broiler and position an oven rack about 4-6 inches from the heating element. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  7. Carefully lift the ribs from the slow cooker using a large, flat spatula and tongs (they will be very, very tender - like, fall-apart tender) and place them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Brush liberally with the prepared BBQ sauce and broil until the sauce bubbles and caramelizes, 2-3 minutes (watch closely so it doesn't burn).
  8. Serve ribs with the remaining sauce on the side.
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/slow-cooker-baby-back-ribs/

Recipe Source: adapted from Cuisine at Home (used chili powder instead of chipotle powder, reduced the amount of chipotles to tone down the heat, broiled instead of grilled)

51 Responses to Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs with Root Beer BBQ Sauce

  1. These ribs look amazing! I love the use of root beer…I’ll bet that adds a perfect flavor to these ribs. I was very surprised to see you using a slow cooker for these. Great idea! I will need to give these a try soon!!!

  2. Sheila says:

    Often, I start my days laughing through your humorous posts! I value the beauty of you in my life. I do not make ribs because my beloved husband loves ribs and prefers to go out and order them even though we have our own beef. 🙁 Enough said! Since this is an endorsed Mel recipe, this is Father’s Day dinner. He is the very most wonderful man in this world (seriously!) and I am so excited to try to fix for him one of his favorite meals that he will enjoy this time at home. 🙂 I had no idea you were suppose to remove membranes. And root beer is his favorite.

    Carrying you in my heart as Saturday rolls around. Honestly, Mel — Oregon, pit stop at home for loads of laundry, rigorous website planning and implementing, and Utah in your sights all in a few days time — I do not know how you have the energy to take on this run! But knowing you, you are going to do great and you ARE going to reach that well planned goal. So excited for you — it is here!!

    • Mel says:

      You are so nice, Sheila! Thank you for the well-wishes on the race. I’m terrified but my determination will carry me through (as long as the laundry doesn’t bury me first). Thank you so much for thinking of me.

  3. Paula says:

    My husband would love these and not just for father’s day either. He is Such a great husband and father that I will have to make these for him. I wonder if I could whip up some for a trial run beforehand without him noticing?

  4. Cammee says:

    Never have I ever removed the membrane from ribs. Who knew? I’m totally making these for Fathers Day. I can’t wait to see what else we are having with them!

  5. Stacey says:

    Good heavens, this looks delicious!

  6. Definitely not going to be able to wait all the way to Father’s Day to try this recipe out!! Looks amazing!!

  7. Stephanie says:

    Looks delicious!! Should the ribs be fully submerged or partially submerged in the root beer in the slow cooker?

    • Mel says:

      The ribs won’t be fully submerged but I didn’t find that to be an issue – the ribs at the very bottom were definitely more fall-apart tender than the ones on top from sitting in the liquid so next time I might try standing them up like books on a bookshelf…but then again, maybe not since as written, they were fantastic.

  8. Teresa R. says:

    We love ribs! I may make these tonight since I can’t wait till Father’s Day. I’m excited to see what you post next!

  9. Gayle says:

    My Mom has been drooling over those baby back ribs tv commercials. Think I’ll surprise her this weekend — these look finger-licking delish!!! 🙂

  10. Teresa says:

    I loved your Q&A, Mel. You are so adorable and fun to watch. I always pick up some tips from you. Those ribs and sauce look amazing!

  11. Katie says:

    Once again your recipes deliver! I am an avid follower and especially appreciate your menu plans and giant cinnamon roll recipe!
    Keep up the good work! Mom❤️Mom!

  12. Lacey says:

    Do you think these would freeze well? If so any tips? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      After cooking, Lacey? If freezing after they’ve slow cooked, I’d probably slide the meat off the bones since it will probably fall off anyway when putting them in a container/bag.

  13. Kim in MD says:

    These look so delicious, Mel!

  14. Lisa says:

    Do you think you could use country style ribs too? Thanks!

  15. Gilliane says:

    I made these last night. They were amazing! The meat was so tender and delicious from the slow cooker, and the BBQ sauce was perfect. We can’t wait for the leftovers tonight! Thanks for another fantastic recipe!

  16. LeeAnne says:

    Delicious! Thank you! I made these today and they were definitely the best ribs ever. The rub rocked! I didn’t have root beer so I just used regular cola. I didn’t make the BBQ sauce (planned to use what we had in the fridge) but we didn’t need any sauce as the rub was flavorable enough. We threw them on the grill for a few minutes and they turned out perfect. Thanks again.

  17. Lisa says:

    Made these for dinner tonight. SOOO delicious. Love a recipe I can put in the crock pot!

  18. Emily H. says:

    I made these yesterday for Sunday dinner and they were so good. I left out the chipotle and I thought they were the perfect amount of spicy–enough to please my husband but not too much for the kids. I also skipped the last step of blending the barbeque sauce. Great recipe!

  19. Paige says:

    This is my first time making ribs so I’m excited to try it out. My store didn’t have baby back ribs so I got pork loin ribs. Is there a big difference? I have no idea.

    Anyhow, I think this is my first time commenting, but I come to your site all the time and I have never once been let down by a meal. Thank you, thank you for sharing your talent and love of cooking with me! It makes my life so much easier and tastier!

  20. Amy Duke says:

    I just have to tell you, Mel, that I decided to treat my husband to these for Father’s Day today. I’ve never made ribs before, but wanted to give these a try. He took one bite and said they were the best ribs he has ever tasted in his life–and he’s a big connoisseur of ribs! Yes, they were a lot of work, but so so worth it to see that look in his eyes. We’ll definitely be making them again. Thanks always for your awesome recipes! I’m a big fan of yours!

  21. Vicky says:

    Made these tonight for Father’s Day dinner. So good! I’m also loving your BBQsauce recipe. I bought my ribs from Costco, and what I thought was 2 racks was actually 3 racks of ribs! So I busted out a second crockpot and we have lots of leftovers! Thanks for a great recipe!

  22. Elizabeth says:

    Made these for Father’s Day! Definitely a winner in our house. I’m not a huge rib fan but this may have changed my ways. I happened to have a bottle of Root Beer Extract…possibly from your Root Beef Float Fudge…so I actually added a little of that to the sauce to up the root beer flavor since that’s a favorite in our house and it was delish. Thanks for the recipe!

  23. Paula says:

    I made these for father’s day and my husband loved them. It was my first attempt with making ribs. I had a bit of sauce leftover but no one is complaining. I’ll just save it for next time. I used IBC root beer and KC Masterpiece reserve BBQ sauce from Costco. Amazing!

  24. Lauren says:

    Made these tonight for Sunday dinner, and they were amazingly, fabulously delicious. Thanks for another winner, Mel!

  25. Tony Villasenor says:

    I was searching for the original Cuisine-at-Home recipe and stumbled on your site; I made your version, and it was absolutely great! I didn’t change anything. Initially I was hesitant about putting all the ribs – I cut 2 racks into 2 bones each piece – into a 7-hour slow cooker with just a little root beer, but the slow heat cooked everything perfectly. Even the broiling at the end was perfect – thanks for the warning about watching so they don’t get burned! Thanks so much for such a Great Recipe!

  26. Ellen says:

    had some friends over for dinner last night, and made these ribs…. only thing would do differently is to make them on a night when, uh, we aren’t having friends over. no friends =more for me!! they were such a hit and they were perfect for a busy day…..

    thanks for another company saving recipe:)

  27. Rachael says:

    First time making ribs: delicious success! Thank you 🙂

  28. Paula says:

    I had never made ribs before and these were so easy and everyone loved them. The BBQ sauce was good. I had a bit leftover and we have been using it on other things too. Thank you!

  29. Shannon says:

    I am hoping to make this recipe soon! However, would it be possible to half it? What changes should I make if so?

    • Mel says:

      Sure, I think you could halve this – I’d just keep an eye on the cooking time, maybe decrease by just a little (and halve all the ingredients, of course).

  30. KeLee Tidey says:

    These ribs were absolutely delicious! Thank you for all your great recipes.

  31. Rachel Russell says:

    This makes one of our top 5 Mel recipes EVER!! Crazy crazy good!

  32. Glindy says:

    I love your oven-baked ribs, and I accidentally planned to cook 2 dishes that require the oven at different temps. Could I follow the oven-baked ribs recipe (including using the bbq sauce in that recipe instead of the root beer) but just use the slow cooker? Thank you!!

  33. DOUGLAS says:

    Discovered your recipe and the ribs do look amazing!

    We are not root beer, does the root beer flavour transfer to the ribs?

    If so, can you recommend another liquid that would do the job?

    Thanks for a great recipe and your advice!

  34. DOUGLAS KINTON says:

    Thanks, comment appreciated!

    My main concern is that the strong flavour of Root Beer would be very strong in the meat.
    What has been your experience??

    I have heard of other recipes for Cola Ribs so I think it might work but Coke so sweet.
    Maybe beer??? I use a couple of bottles when I make my Rattlesnake Chili.

    • Mel says:

      The sauce itself is root beer flavored but I don’t think the meat has a strong root beer flavor. I think beer could work, too – I have a feeling this recipe is very versatile.

  35. Heidi says:

    My family loves this recipe! So much do that we are planning on having it on vacation next week! I’m trying to cut down on my prep for while we are away, so I have my rub made up already, but was wondering if you’ve ever frozen the homemade bbq sauce ahead of time, or what your rights on that would be.

  36. Amber says:

    Okay Mel…we need an Instant Pot conversion on this recipe…It is sooo good! Ribs in a quarter of the time!!!!

  37. Rebekah says:

    These are the best ribs ever!! Making them for Father’s Day this weekend!! Thanks for the winning recipe!

    • Mel's Kitchen Cafe Admin says:

      Hello Rebekah. Mel doesn’t have access to internet right now so I’m helping her out with comments for the next few days. These really are the best ribs ever! You will have some happy men in your life on Sunday. Thanks for the nice comment.

  38. Cicily says:

    I was wondering if these would work in the smoker? I just got one, and am not too familiar with it. What would you adjust, if anything. Any tips or suggestions?

    • Mel says:

      I’m sure they would work! I haven’t made this particular recipe in my smoker yet but have made other ribs. If you google smoked ribs, you’ll get lots of good tips. Good luck if you try it!

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