Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs with Root Beer BBQ Sauce
Making baby back ribs at home has never been easier! This slow cooker recipe results in the most tender, delicious ribs ever. And the sauce! Amazing.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
- 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced
- ½ cup root beer (see note)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 ½ cups finely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 cup root beer
- 1 ½ cups BBQ sauce (see note)
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Serve ribs with the remaining sauce on the side.
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)
84 Comments on “Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs with Root Beer BBQ Sauce”
I love ribs and this recipe did not disappoint! I accidentally bought (meaning I don’t know enough about types of ribs, only that I like them, ha-ha) spare ribs, rather than baby-back ribs, but the meat was still amazing. The flavor, the fall off the meat tenderness and oh, that BBQ sauce. I made these, with my husband’s help, for Father’s Day and everyone loved them . . . even my picky 11-yr old! I did leave out the chipotle in adobo sauce, due to said picky 11-yr old, but we did not miss the spiciness. I can’t wait to make these again with the remaining “spare” ribs (ha-ha) in the freezer. Thanks Mel for another delicious recipe.
(*whispers I hate root beer*) Would a little Dr. Pepper work similarly for this? One kid LOVES Dr. P, so we keep a few mini cans in the house sometimes. But never root beer (sorry to the RB lovers!)
Yes! Should work just fine!
WOW! These were amazing. The combination of the dry rub an the sauce was incredible! (I would imagine this combo could be use on other cuts of beef with an awesome result, too!) I did go easy on the chipotle for some tender mouths, but it was still so flavorful.
So, I pulled out a couple wrapped packages of beef from our freezer labeled “short ribs”. I’ve never cooked or bought ribs before…can I sub those in this recipe? Do you have a better recommendation?! I’m trying to use up all the cuts of beef that I have been avoiding for the past year or two!
But I did make your stroganoff last night with some top sirloin steaks and it was SO good!
I bet you could, Salem!
The ribs were easy, tender and amazingly delicious. We loved the BBQ sauce, just the perfect balance. It will be a family favorite too! Thanks Mel
I actually have a question. I have had the slow cooker root beer ribs at my daughter-in-law’s & they were yummy. I am in the process of making them for company tonight. My slow cooker is half way through the set time & our company phoned to say they are all sick with the flu!!! Can I take them out of the slow cooker at the set time & then do step 2 (the broiler portion) a couple of days from now when I have our 2nd group of company? I really need help. My husband & I can’t eat ribs for 8 although I’d love to try. Help!
Hi Leslie – sorry for the delay in responding. What did you end up doing? I would have recommended taking them out after cooking in the slow cooker and refrigerating and then doing what you suggested and heating through and broiling for your company.
I know the recipe says 2 racks of ribs, but do you know about how many pounds that would be? I want to make these for Valentine’s Day but have never bought ribs before
Probably 3-4 pounds or so?
If you were doing ribs for 25 to 30 people, how many rib racks can you put in a crockpot? Do you just lay them on top of each other?
They cook more evenly if they are side by side so you’d probably need multiple slow cookers or one of those large electric roasters.
Would it be possible to get an Instant Pot version of this? My boys LOVE this recipe, but were cursed with a mom with poor time management skills.
I haven’t tried ribs in the Instant Pot yet but a lot of recipes “out there” online cook for about 25-35 minutes high pressure so that might be a good starting place!
Thank you! I will definitely give it a try. Would you leave the onions in? And should I up the amount of root beer? (I’m an IP noob, so I’d appreciate the insight!)
I’d still use the onions if it were me – and to be safe, you’d probably want to add 1 cup of root beer.
I am 71 yrs old and have had my share of ribs over the years. Your recipe is one of the best I have ever made. It will be my first go to recipe from now on. Easy to make tender and fabulous flavor. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thanks so much, Gary!
Better ribs than any restaurant I’ve been to, and super easy to make.
This is our favorite recipe for ribs.
Hi Mel! If you had to choose your favorite rib recipe on your site would you choose this one or the oven baked one? Also if I doubled this recipe could I add everything to one crockpot (I have a 6 qt and a 4qt) or should I use two?
I really love both (I know, annoying answer), but if I had to choose one, I’d go with the oven baked ribs. If you doubled, I’d probably try and use two slow cookers.
My partner loved this .& he is a very picky eater . The best ever ribs . He said I need to make it this way from now on !
My husband could not get over how delicious these ribs are. We love them!
The membrane removed easily with your instructions.
So this was our first time making ribs. After trying to take the membrane off for 45mins (with the tutorial you suggested and several others) my husband yelled, “never buy ribs again!” But then we tasted them. Wow. These might have been the best ribs I’ve ever had! So we’ll be buying ribs again. But I think next time I’ll ask the butcher to remove the membrane for me
Mel, you posted this recipe TWO YEARS AGO???!!! How, oh, how did I miss this??? Can’t wait to try them!!! Your recipe-producing brain is something else (like, the best ever!!)! They look divine! Love the combo of spices on the meat and in the sauce- I can tell these are going to be killer!!! Thank you!!
I’m making this for dinner tonight (so excited!). I just finished blending the BBQ sauce and am worried that it’s going to be too spicy for my kiddos. What’s the best way to tone it down? Should I just add more of the BBQ sauce from the jar? Thanks for any ideas:)
Sure, that might work! Hope you like it!
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?
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!
These are the best ribs ever!! Making them for Father’s Day this weekend!! Thanks for the winning recipe!
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.
Okay Mel…we need an Instant Pot conversion on this recipe…It is sooo good! Ribs in a quarter of the time!!!!
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.
Yes, the sauce freezes great!
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.
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.
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!
You could try Coke or Pepsi? Not sure how that would affect flavor but you could experiment.
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!!
I haven’t tried that but it probably stands a good chance of working if you don’t mind experimenting a bit.
This makes one of our top 5 Mel recipes EVER!! Crazy crazy good!
These ribs were absolutely delicious! Thank you for all your great recipes.
I am hoping to make this recipe soon! However, would it be possible to half it? What changes should I make if so?
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).
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!
First time making ribs: delicious success! Thank you 🙂
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:)
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!
Made these tonight for Sunday dinner, and they were amazingly, fabulously delicious. Thanks for another winner, Mel!
I accidentally got chipotle sauce instead of the peppers in adobo sauce, would that work for it? And if it will, how much should I put in?
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!
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!
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!
Hi! Excited to try this! Do you think b it will work the same way with boneless country style ribs?
I haven’t tried that, but it’s definitely worth a try!
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!
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!
Hi Paige – I’m pretty sure the pork loin ribs are the same thing. Thanks for the sweet comment!
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!
Made these for dinner tonight. SOOO delicious. Love a recipe I can put in the crock pot!
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.
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!
Do you think you could use country style ribs too? Thanks!
I haven’t tried it but I think it would work pretty well.
These look so delicious, Mel!
Do you think these would freeze well? If so any tips? Thanks!
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.
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!
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!
Thanks, Teresa – you are always so kind to me!
My Mom has been drooling over those baby back ribs tv commercials. Think I’ll surprise her this weekend — these look finger-licking delish!!! 🙂
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!
Looks delicious!! Should the ribs be fully submerged or partially submerged in the root beer in the slow cooker?
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.
Definitely not going to be able to wait all the way to Father’s Day to try this recipe out!! Looks amazing!!
Good heavens, this looks delicious!
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!
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?
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!!
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.
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!!!