This super easy recipe for BBQ Instant Pot Ribs produces the most tender fall-off-the-bone texture in a lot less time than the slow cooker would. Included is a delicious dry rub for ribs recipe. It can be made with any cut of pork ribs you prefer or have on hand thanks to cooking time instructions for baby back ribs, St. Louis style ribs, and spare ribs.
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Ribs and me have a long and complicated history. Growing up I couldn't stand any meat that was attached to bones or still had skin on.
So my mom just never served any of those meals to me. Then I was staying over at my cousin's house and everyone was excited for the BBQ baby back ribs for lunch.
Although they smelled amazing, I just loaded up on sides. My aunt asked why I wasn't having any ribs and offered me some.
Being too polite to decline I put a small piece on my plate. Oh my, it was like the heavens opened, angels must have been singing and a whole new world opened up for me.
This was the most tender, flavorful meat I ever tasted. Something I had never experienced from boneless, skinless cuts. Of course not!
Still, we never really had ribs at home so my next memorable rib experience was when my husband and I got a slow cooker for our wedding. It came with a recipe booklet that included slow cooker BBQ ribs.
When we tried it I was instantly taken back to my first rib tasting. Only, now I had the key to recreating that experience any time I wanted to.
Ribs that have slow cooked for 8 hours in BBQ sauce became one of our favorite special dinner to cook as a couple. And then I got an Instant Pot!!
I just had to try if I could get the same fall-off-the-bone tenderness in electric pressure cooker ribs. Not much of a surprise here. Of course it worked!
But these super tender ribs in the Instant Pot take only about 1.5-2 hours from start to the very finish. Perfect for someone like me who has a hard time putting on dinner at 9 in the morning!
Tips for Making this Instant Pot Ribs Recipe:
- To remove the membrane from the back of the ribs, use a butter knife to loosen it from the bones first. Then grab a hold of it with paper towel and pull the membrane all the way off
- Pat dry the rack of ribs with paper towel before applying the dry rub. 'Whatever sticks' is a good rule of thumb for the amount of rib seasoning to use.
- If you have the time, I highly recommend letting the ribs marinate in the dry rub for at least ½ hour. Overnight is even better if you have the foresight
- Use 1 or 2 racks at once. I am afraid that if you use more, it might change the cooking time or the Instant Pot barbecue ribs would be overcrowded and won't cook through properly
- Use a trivet in the Instant Pot to elevate the ribs from the water in the bottom. Otherwise you end up with partially boiled ribs at the bottom
- Let the pressure release naturally (NPR) all the way.
- Only then paint on the BBQ sauce and bake the pressure cooker pork ribs or place them on the grill. This will caramelize the sauce, give the ribs some charred crispy edges and really take them to the next level!
How to finish Instant Pot Ribs in an Air Fryer
If you have an air fryer lid for your pressure cooker, you can also use that to crisp up and caramelize the BBQ sauce.
After pressure cooking, remove the ribs and pour out the cooking liquid from the inner liner. Then place the higher trivet (that comes with the air fryer lid) inside.
Brush the ribs with BBQ sauce and place half a rack at a time on the basket on the trivet. Place the Crisplid on top and set to 400°F for 5 minutes. Repeat the process with remaining half racks.
Instant Pot Ribs with BBQ Sauce or with Dry Rub?
Why do you have to choose either one or the other? I say BOTH! You'll get the best of both worlds that way.
I am including my favorite seasonings and ratio for a dry rub in the recipe box below, but you can also use any kind that you already have on hand. Liberally apply this rib rub on both sides and all over the rack of ribs.
This pressure cooker ribs recipe gets even better if you can let the rub marinate into the meat anywhere from ½ hour to overnight. But this is not a necessary step.
I recommend applying the BBQ sauce only after pressure cooking. Otherwise, it just gets very watery and diluted and just runs off the ribs into the bottom of the Instant Pot.
Leave it for later and you get the full smokey, sweet and tangy flavor of the BBQ sauce.
What is the Best Type of Ribs to use for Instant Pot Ribs?
I am familiar with 3 types of ribs and I say all of them are good to make in the Instant Pot. Baby back ribs are super tender and soft. With pressure cooker spare ribs you get all of the meaty goodness and St. Louis Style ribs fall right in between there.
(I used St. Louis style in the photos and video).
Only recently I learned there are also country style ribs, but I have never eaten or cooked those yet.
For the 3 types above you can use my instructions from the recipe box. It's only the cooking times that differ a little as follows:
Pressure cooking times for different types of ribs
- Pressure Cooker Baby Back Ribs: 25-30 Minutes
- Pressure Cooker St. Louis Ribs: 30-35 Minutes
- Pressure Cooker Spare Ribs: 35-40 Minutes
I am recommending a time range because pressure cooking times vary with altitude (among other things). Use the first number if you are close to sea level and the second number for high altitude.
All of these times are for super tender fall-off-the-bones ribs. If you prefer a little more chew reduce the times by about 5 minutes. Or by 8-10 minutes for quite a bit of chew.
How to Make BBQ Ribs Paleo?
You can totally make these Instant Pot ribs paleo with the choice of your BBQ sauce. You can give this honey-sweetened version a try.
Another option would be to make you own paleo homemade BBQ sauce. Olena from iFoodreal has a great healthy BBQ sauce recipe.
What goes with BBQ Ribs?
We are huge rice lovers in this house, so brown rice is usually what I make as a side. Often I will even make a very simple gravy from the flavorful liquid that the water and seasoned rib drippings created.
To make the gravy I remove most of the fat from the drippings (a gravy separator comes in handy for that). Then I make a simple flour (2 tbsp) and fat (2 tablespoon from drippings) roux. Once it's browned I whisk in 1 cup of the liquid.
That gravy would also be amazing with mashed potatoes.
Otherwise I try to balance the meal out with vegetables and greens. Like a simple green salad or this cabbage slaw as a healthier coleslaw alternative.
Items I Used to make these Instant Pot BBQ Ribs:
Pressure cooker: Instant Pot DUO 7-in-1
A wire rack, also called trivet, is key to keep one half of the ribs from being submerged in water.
A good pair of big metal tongs makes moving the rack of ribs really easy.
And finally a good BBQ sauce. I highly recommend looking for brands that don't use high fructose corn syrup in the ingredients. There is even Paleo BBQ sauce that doesn't include any refined sugar.
Still Hungry? You might also enjoy these Meaty Recipes:
- Thai Pork Meatballs
- Instant Pot Shredded Chicken
- Slow Cooker Pot Roast
- Cauliflower Ground Beef Curry
- Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili
- Instant Pot Pot Roast and Potatoes
VIDEO: How to Make Instant Pot Ribs
Instant Pot BBQ Ribs Recipe
- 1-2 racks of ribs baby back, St. Louis, or Spare Ribs
- ~ ¼ cup BBQ sauce per rack
Rib Dry Rub
- 3 tablespoon coconut sugar or muscovado sugar
- 2 tablespoon paprika powder
- ½ tablespoon sea salt
- ½ tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
- In a small bowl whisk together all ingredients of the rib dry rub.
- Start to prepare the ribs by removing the membrane from the bones in the back. Depending on the type of ribs, you may need to use a butter knife to loosen the membrane a little at first. Use paper towels to grip the membrane and pull it off completely.
- With paper towel pat dry the rack of ribs from both sides and liberally apply the dry rub seasoning and spread it out with your hands. If you have the time, let the ribs marinate in the dry rub anywhere from ½ hour to overnight.
- When you are ready to pressure cook the ribs, place 1 cup of water to the bottom of the Instant Pot. Insert a trivet and arrange the 1-2 racks of ribs on top of it.
- Close the lid and turn the pressure valve to sealing. Select the manual cooking function the following times for fall-off-the-bone tender ribs:Baby Back Ribs: 25 Minutes
St. Louis Style Ribs: 30-35 Minutes (the latter for high altitude)
Spare Ribs: 35-40 Minutes
- The Instant Pot will take some time to come to pressure (depends on how many racks you are cooking at once). It took 13 minutes for 1 rack for me.
- Then it will start counting down the timer. Once the time is up, let the pressure release naturally (~25 minutes for me).
- To give the Instant Pot Ribs their final touch, brush the rack(s) with BBQ sauce and bake them for 10-15 minutes in a 450°F oven. Alternatively you could also place the ribs on a BBQ for caramelizing the BBQ sauce and giving it some cripier edges.
- Or use an air fryer lid for your pressure cooker like the Mealthy Crisplid. Remove the cooking liquid from the inner liner. Add the high trivet and basket into the pressure cooker. Air fry 1 half rack of BBQ sauce brushed ribs at a time for about 5 minutes at 400°F.
Pin Instant Pot BBQ Ribs Recipe for later?
Thanks to Amy+Jacky and their Rib Timing Experiment I had a starting point for my own recipe testing.
Ribs can turn tough if not cooked for the right amount of time. Ensure you follow the recommended cooking times based on the type of ribs you're using. Also, make sure to let the pressure release naturally to retain tenderness.
For tender and flavorful ribs, add about 1 cup of liquid to the Instant Pot. This can be water, broth, or apple juice. The liquid helps create steam, which is crucial for the pressure cooking process.
While slow cookers produce flavorful and tender ribs, pressure cookers like the Instant Pot yield similarly delicious results in a fraction of the time. Both methods can be successful, depending on your time constraints and cooking preferences.
You can typically fit 1 to 2 racks of ribs in an average-sized Instant Pot. Attempting to cook more at once may result in uneven cooking and less tender ribs. If cooking multiple racks, ensure they're not overcrowded and that each rack is properly seasoned.