Sticky Spicy Ribs

Could I tempt you with ribs that are simultaneously fiery and sticky sweet, falling tender off the bone, slightly charred, and richly meaty? I have a hunch it would be easy. Like tempting a duck with water.

This is the recipe for the most excellent sticky-faced, dripping-fingers, don’t-wear-a-white-shirt, ribs. They pack enough heat to make you want a limed Corona, but they aren’t so tongue-numbing that you will be left crying “Pleath, pleath! Wada! Would thum-wud pleath path me thum wada!”. (*I think I just qualified myself as a nutter among my fellow coffee shop patrons – it took me several minutes muttering to myself with my tongue out to figure out those phonetics).

I served them last night with a puree of celery root, and a side of mixed greens sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper. You could also do mashed potatoes. But my hands-down favorite way to soak up the sticky sauce is with a big scoop of creamy soft polenta. You might have to put aside your fashion instincts and tuck a makeshift paper-towel bib into your collar. But it will be so worth the sacrifice in pride, to eat these ribs without utensils or inhibitions.

Spicy Sticky ribs on a plate with extra sauce.

Sticky Spicy Ribs

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 25 minutes
Servings 8
Keyword Spicy Ribs, Sticky Ribs


For Ribs

  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons paprika not hot
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chipotle chile powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 2-lb racks baby back ribs

For Sauce

  • 1 ½ cups chopped onion from 1 large
  • 6 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups ketchup
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper


  • Whisk together brown sugar, salt, and spices in a small bowl.
  • Line a 17- by 12- by 1-inch heavy-duty baking pan with a double layer of foil, then oil foil.
  • Pat ribs dry and arrange in baking pan. Rub ribs all over with spice mixture and marinate, meaty sides up, covered and chilled, 2 1/2 hours. *I usually omit this step, and pop ’em straight into the oven once rubbed down with spices.
  • Bring ribs to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Cover pan tightly with foil; bake 1 1/4 hours. Remove foil.

Make sauce while ribs bake:

  • Cook onion, garlic, and ginger in oil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
  • Purée sauce in 2 or 3 batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). *I used a hand immersion blender – works beautifully for these kinds of jobs.
  • Remove top sheet of foil and continue to bake ribs, uncovered, basting generously with sauce and pan juices every 10 minutes and turning ribs after 20 minutes, 40 minutes total. Then turn on broiler and broil ribs, meaty sides up, 4 to 6 inches from heat until browned, about 3 minutes.


Calories: 591kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 27gFat: 41gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 127mgSodium: 2176mgPotassium: 683mgFiber: 2gSugar: 22gVitamin A: 1160IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 66mgIron: 3mg
Keyword Spicy Ribs, Sticky Ribs

Last Updated on October 4, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

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