These finger-licking-good St. Louis-style Instant Pot Spare Ribs are easy to make – no grill or smoker needed! Seasoned with a smoky dry rub and sugar-free barbecue sauce, they’re a flavorful, Whole30, and meaty appetizer or dinner that everyone will love.

Looking for more sticky and saucy rib recipes? Check out my Balsamic Braised Short Ribs and Instant Pot Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta while you’re here.

close up on bbq spare ribs sitting next to each other.

There’s nothing like a crisp and juicy rack of ribs slathered in BBQ sauce; the messier, the better! The only downfall? Making them can involve hours of babysitting. That is unless you have an Instant Pot! 

In this Instant Pot Spare Ribs recipe, I’ll show you that the Instant Pot has what it takes to make a downright delicious rack of ribs. It’s much quicker than an oven, grill, or smoker, too.

These pressure cooker spare ribs call for a simple dry rub made with basic pantry stables, 35 minutes of Instant Pot magic, and just 3 minutes under the broiler to caramelize the outside. The result is a batch of smoky St. Louis-style ribs you’ll want to make again and again!

What are spare ribs?

Spare ribs are the ends cut from baby back ribs. While baby back ribs come from the muscle that runs along either side of the pig’s spine, spare ribs are closer to the breast bone. Spare ribs are budget-friendly compared to baby back’s, yet have more meat and marbled fat in between each bone.

In this recipe, we’re using St. Louis-cut ribs. They’re similar to classic spare ribs but have had the breast bone tips and extra cartilage removed. This gives the ribs a flatter, more uniform shape and plenty of fat and flavor.

rack of spare ribs with dry rub seasoning on top on aluminum foil and a layer of parchment.

Ingredients and substitutions

  • St. Louis-style pork spare ribs – These are the best cut of ribs for this recipe. They start as spare ribs but are trimmed to remove the cartilage and gristle.
  • Barbecue sauce – I used Primal Kitchen Organic Barbecue Sauce because it’s Whole30-friendly. You’re welcome to use any kind of barbecue sauce you already love instead.
  • Kosher salt
  • Smoked paprika – This is the base of the smoky dry rub for the ribs. It soaks into the meat, creating a nice wood-fired smoky and savory flavor. Go ahead and use regular paprika if that’s what you already have at home.
  • Onion powder
  • Black pepper
  • Chili powder – For a touch of heat and extra spice. You can use less or more, depending on the level of heat you like.
  • Ground coriander – For warmth.

How to cook spare ribs in the Instant Pot

I like to make St. Louis ribs in the pressure cooker AND under the broiler. This way, the flavors are sealed into the meat while the outside becomes beautifully caramelized and slightly crispy. Yum!

Here’s how it’s done:

Step 1: Place the rack of ribs on top of a double layer of paper towels and remove the white membrane (AKA the peritoneum). 

Step 2: Make the dry rub by mixing the spices in a bowl. Sprinkle the seasonings over both sides of the ribs, pressing it into the meat with your fingers. 

Tip: For the best flavor, let the ribs sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes so they can soak up the seasonings.

a rack of dry rubbed ribs in an Instant Pot.

Step 3: Add the water to the Instant Pot and position the trivet on the bottom. Add the ribs, standing them up on their side so that the meaty side faces the edge of the pot.

Step 4: Lock the lid, seal the pressure valve, and pressure cook on high. When the timer stops, allow the steam to release naturally.

Step 5: Once the pressure is released, carefully remove the lid, lift the trivet out of the pot, and transfer the ribs to a sheet pan. Brush both sides with BBQ sauce. Place the BBQ spare ribs under the preheated broiler until the sauce caramelizes and crisps around the edges.

Step 6: Take the ribs out of the oven and garnish them with sliced scallions. Serve with extra barbecue sauce on the side and enjoy!

a hand brushing bbq sauce onto a rack of cooked ribs.

Tips and tricks

  • Always remove the tough, white membrane – To do so, poke a butter knife underneath to loosen it up, then pinch the membrane between your fingers, and pull it off. Check out this video by Cooking with Ry for more guidance.
  • Use the trivet insertIt will elevate the ribs above the water, helping them steam rather than soak (which can leave you with a soggy mess). 
  • Broil the ribs on a cookie sheet with no edge – After broiling, the meat will be very delicate. An edgeless baking sheet makes it much easier to slide the rack right onto your serving board. 

Flavor variations 

You aren’t limited to dressing the ribs in barbecue sauce. Instead, feel free to dress them in another thick, sticky, and flavorful sauce, like:

  • Sweet and sour sauce
  • Hawaiian BBQ sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Korean BBQ sauce
a rack of cooked bbq ribs on a parchment-lined cutting board.

Serving suggestions

These delicious spare ribs are great for game nights with friends, weeknight dinners, and special weekend meals. When it comes to pairing them with sides and snacks, the sky’s the limit! Use these ideas for inspiration:

a rack of cooked bbq ribs on a parchment-lined cutting board next to a silicone brush and small bowl of bbq sauce.

Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to cook spare ribs in the Instant Pot?

One rack of spare ribs (about 3 pounds) will take 35 minutes to cook on high pressure in the Instant Pot.

What is the serving size for spare ribs?

Generally, for a meal-size portion, one rack of ribs is enough to feed two people (half a rack each). Plan on serving 3 to 4 ribs per person if you’re putting them out as an appetizer.

Can you overcook ribs in the Instant Pot?

It’s possible, yes. To avoid overcooking the ribs, make sure you’re using about 3 pounds of St. Louis spare ribs and pressure cooking them on high for 35 minutes.

Storing and reheating

To store: Wrap any leftover ribs in plastic or foil, then transfer them to an airtight container. They should last for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. 

To reheat: Wrap the ribs loosely in foil and heat in a 250˚F oven until the internal temperature reaches 130ºF – 140ºF.

a rack of cooked bbq ribs on a parchment-lined cutting board next to a silicone brush and small bowl of bbq sauce.

Hungry for more finger-licking good recipes?

instant pot spare ribs
5 from 3 votes

Instant Pot Spare Ribs

by Silvia Ribas
These finger-licking-good St. Louis-style Instant Pot Spare Ribs are easy to make – no grill or smoker needed! Seasoned with a smoky dry rub and sugar-free barbecue sauce, they’re a flavorful, Whole30, and meaty appetizer or dinner that everyone will love.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Broil: 3 minutes
Total: 48 minutes
Servings: 6 people

Equipment

  • Instant pot
  • Sheet Pan

Ingredients 

  • 1 3.2lb St. Louis-Style pork spareribs
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce*

Rub

  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander

Instructions 

  • Place spareribs meat side down on a double-layer of paper towel. Remove membrane from back of spareribs by pulling it off with a paper towel. Start by poking the membrane end loose with a butter fork until you have a good grip of it, then pull it off with a paper towl.
  • In a small glass bowl mix the seasoning. Rub onto both sides of the spareribs pressing down with your fingers. Let it stand for at least 30 minutes for better flavor.
  • Add 1 cup of water to the instant pot and place trivet on the bottom. Place rack of ribs standing on it's side, meaty part on the outter side. Cover and cook on high pressure for 35 minutes. When done allow for NPR (natural pressure release).
  • Meanwhile turn oven on broil.
  • Remove spare ribs from instant pot but pulling out the trivet. Place spareribs on a sheet pan and brush with BBQ sauce on both sides. Broil for 2-3 minutes. (This step is optional but it gives the spareribs a nice finish)
  • Remove from ovena and serve with a side of barbecue sauce. Top with fresh scallions (optional)

Notes

*make sure the BBQ sauce is whole30 approved

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Keyword: Instant Pot, Pork Ribs, Spare Ribs
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Like this? Leave a comment below!

Hi! I’m Silvia.

My goal is to make cooking simple and enjoyable.

Garden in the Kitchen is full of easy and balanced recipes for busy families. Classics get a healthier twist with additions of veggies or alternative ingredients.

I hope my recipes will inspire you to cook more home meals and above all have fun in the kitchen!

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7 Comments

  1. I want to try this with Baby back Ribs. How would I adjust the cook time since there isnt as much meat ad on Spare Ribs?

  2. I tried this recipe last night. Let me just say…there are no left overs! I never made ribs before. These were really easy and very tasty. Thank you for sharing!