When I think of summer BBQ, one of the first things that comes to mind is tender, meaty, fall-off-the-bone ribs with a sweet and sticky sauce. Don’t get me wrong—those types of ribs are great, but there are so many other types of ribs that you can win a crowd over with.
This is my take on BBQ ribs, but with an added Tex-Mex flair. I’m a huge fan of these flavours and they work great on ribs. Chipotle, lime, and cilantro bring tons of unique flavour and just the right amount of heat.
If you aren’t a big fan of spice, you can definitely cut down on the amount of chipotles used, but if you are addicted to spicy food like I am, feel free to add in even more. The acidity of the lime and the sweetness of the brown sugar really round out the sauce and create a balanced flavour that combines the perfect amount of heat with just a little bit of sweet.
I like to smoke my ribs over charcoal, but there is a lot of flexibility in cooking ribs—and just about any grill will do. If using charcoal, make sure you have extra to keep the fire going.
Cooking ribs like this does take a while, but I’m a fan of the texture and flavour you get from the smoke. There are definitely faster methods of cooking ribs that involve wrapping them in foil, and those work well too. But for this recipe, I wanted to achieve that classic BBQ texture. Part of the fun of these longer cooks is getting to be outside all day anyway!
Keep in mind, exact cooking times will vary depending on your grill, the weather, and the actual ribs.
10-15 minutes + marinating tim
Ingredients: For the ribs:
- 2 racks of Ontario pork back ribs
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar in spray bottle
- 2-3 handfuls of smoking chips, soaked in water (optional)
For the sauce:
- 1 Spanish onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 3 chipotles in adobo, chopped, plus
- 1 Tbsp adobo sauce from can
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup Corona, or other Mexican beer
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
For the rub:
- 1/4 cup paprika
- 3 Tbsp kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp ancho chili powder
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp onion powder
- 1/2 Tbsp cayenne pepper
Cooking Instructions: To make the sauce:
- Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and add onions and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often until softened. Add chopped chipotles and garlic; cook for another minute, stirring frequently.
- Add the ketchup, sugar, beer, apple juice, vinegar, lime juice, mustard, and adobo sauce and then stir together. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Allow the sauce to simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Carefully transfer the sauce to a blender and puree until smooth. Be careful of the steam escaping. Alternatively, puree with an immersion blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then transfer the sauce to a container and allow it to cool down. Store in fridge until ready to use.
To prepare the ribs:
- Start by combining all of the rub ingredients in a bowl or jar. Remove the membrane from the bottom of the ribs (you can ask your butcher to do this if you want) and then generously season both sides of the ribs with the rub. Be sure to fully cover the ribs. You can allow your ribs to rest like this in the fridge for a few hours, but this is not a necessary step.
- Prepare your grill or smoker by pre-heating it to 225-250 F and add in a small handful of smoking chips, if using. Place ribs on the grill, meat side down and cook for 2-3 hours until beginning to take a dark bark.
- Spray ribs with the apple juice/vinegar mixture and continue to cook for another 2-3 hours, spraying the ribs every 45 minutes or so.
- In the last 30 minutes of cooking, begin to brush on the BBQ sauce. Brush on 2-3 layers, allowing the sauce to dry between applications. The ribs are done when they feel tender and bend easily.
- Serve the ribs with additional BBQ sauce, lime wedges, and cilantro.