During the summer, we have a rotation of go-to, easy recipes for the grill, and these 6-ingredient Instant Pot Ribs are our latest discovery!
Apple cider vinegar and your favorite bottled BBQ sauce do the legwork on flavor, the Instant Pot does the cooking (fast!), and a little TLC in the oven or on the grill gets that perfect caramelized char.
How Is Ours Different From Other Instant Pot Rib Recipes?
I’ve found that many recipes call for 20 minutes in the Instant Pot at high pressure to cook baby back ribs. Let me tell you—that is *far* too much time.
When I tried it, my ribs completely fell apart when I attempted to transfer them out of the Instant Pot, and I was heartbroken. Plus, they were actually verging on mushy.
What’s more, there are many recipes that call for elaborate dry rubs, so we tried it with my mom’s signature spice mix for ribs. I gotta say, it’s just not worth the spices. Simple salt, pepper, and brown sugar will do the trick.
Why I <3 BBQ Baby Back Ribs
I have a personal love of BBQ baby back ribs. I rarely make them, as they seem elaborate and complicated, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth with this recipe!
We talk a lot on the blog about the deep love of food in our family, and it started at a young age. My mother always jokes that my dad “taught” us all how to eat. It could be as simple as a little maneuver at the dinner table—spreading garlicky oil left over from a dish onto a crust of bread, pouring steak pan juices over white rice along with a drizzle of soy sauce, being judicious about sandwich composition, or crafting the perfect s’mores architecture over a campfire.
As a result, even as little kids, Sarah and I had pretty high-brow notions of what we wanted to eat. Sarah has a vivid memory of getting a kid’s menu “junior” steak at the tender age of 9, and being entirely disgruntled at how tiny and dry it was, admiring the adults’ much juicier cuts.
My affection for baby back ribs in particular goes way back. Growing up, I was chubby. Straight up. (I’m probably still considered chubby now to be honest, but we’ll leave that aside. I’m convinced that my dad’s Cantonese genes perpetually have it in for any attempts on my part to look “long and lean.” It’s just not a thing my body will ever care to do, despite the morning jogs.) Unsurprisingly, I have distinct memories of skipping over the kid’s menu entirely.
One such occasion was at a restaurant where you sat in fake 1950s cars in front of a projector while car hop waitresses served you classics like burgers and milkshakes—and yes, you guessed it—baby back ribs!
To my child’s mind, I knew even then that ordering a rack of baby back ribs was verging on comical for a young girl, but I really couldn’t imagine anything better while sitting in a plastic, pastel car watching black and white clips of old movies. Expectations be damned! I ordered the ribs. People chuckled, but I was too distracted by delicious ribs to care.
A Perfect Baby Back Ribs Recipe for Summer
There’s just something delightful and decadent about tender ribs slathered in BBQ sauce, particularly when the edges get charred and crispy.
Of course, in the summertime, you want as little heat-creating elements as possible in the kitchen, and this recipe takes care of that with just 10 minutes in the Instant Pot, and the rest out on the grill!
So, let’s make some ribs—all ages (and appetites) welcome!
(Plus, keep reading for a bonus recipe––the cornbread that we featured in these photos!)
Instant Pot Ribs Recipe: Instructions
Season the ribs with a light, even sprinkling of salt and plenty of black pepper. Rub the brown sugar over the entire surface of the ribs. Do not remove the membrane on the back. This helps the ribs stay together in the Instant Pot, and in our family, we kinda like that chewy, sticky part of the ribs.
In your Instant Pot, pour in 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and stand the ribs up in a half circle using the rack that the Instant Pot comes with. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of natural release. Next, carefully release the steam vent. Once the steam has completely released, open the pot and carefully transfer the ribs to a platter.
Brush generously with barbecue sauce and either grill the ribs or bake them at 450 degrees F/230 degrees C for another 15-20 minutes, brushing every 3-5 minutes with additional barbecue sauce until caramelized and delicious.
Serve with extra BBQ sauce, cornbread, coleslaw (or your other favorite sides), and plenty of napkins! A glass of sweet tea doesn’t hurt either!
Scroll down for the full recipe card for Instant Pot Ribs.
Also, wondering how we made the cornbread that we used as a prop in these photos? Here’s a quick bonus recipe!
Bonus Recipe: Prop Cornbread
Sometimes you guys are curious about recipes for things we prepare simply because we want to eat it alongside the main recipe (see: the prop black beans in my recent Chiles Rellenos recipe)!
So I’m two steps ahead of you with this easy bonus recipe that makes a light, fluffy, and simple “prop” cornbread. We made this recently for a big family get-together and it got rave reviews!
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (melted and cooled slightly)
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup honey (or you can also just use an additional 1/4 cup brown sugar)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk (shake before measuring; in a pinch, 1 tablespoon white vinegar + 1 cup whole milk works great)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix together the melted butter and sugar / honey in a bowl. Stir in the eggs and buttermilk. Add in the dry ingredients and stir until there are relatively few clumps (don’t over-mix!). Pour into any greased baking dish that looks like it’ll fit everything—I used a cast-iron skillet. Bake at 375 degrees F/190 degrees C for 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
6-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs
- 1 rack baby back ribs (about 3 pounds)
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup BBQ sauce (your favorite)
- Season the ribs with a light, even sprinkling of salt and plenty of black pepper. Rub the brown sugar over the entire surface of the ribs. Do not remove the membrane on the back.
- In your Instant Pot, pour in 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and stand the ribs up in a half circle using the rack that the Instant Pot comes with. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of natural release. Next, carefully release the steam vent. Once the steam has completely released, open the pot and carefully transfer the ribs to a platter.
- Brush generously with barbecue sauce and either grill the ribs or bake them at 450 degrees F/230 degrees C for another 15-20 minutes, brushing every 3-5 minutes with additional barbecue sauce until caramelized.