Five-Spice Baby Back Ribs

spice14So say you made some southern collard greens, what should you serve them with? Well, collards are a natural with barbecue, so how about some ribs? But what if it is cold outside (or, like me, you are just feeling lazy) and you don’t want to fire up the smoker? Easy, just make some Asian-inspired ribs in the oven. Takes about the same amount of time, doesn’t make much of a mess (until you eat them), and you get to play around with some interesting flavors.

spicespice1And in this case the “interesting” flavor is Five-Spice, a Chinese spice mixture that usually has star anise, cloves, Sichuan pepper, cinnamon and fennel seeds. It may also contain just about any other Asian spice, but you get the idea. Five-Spice is a lovely mixture of spice, heat, bite and funk that works particularly well with rich ingredients, accenting flavors but cutting through the fat. Not surprisingly Five-Spice is often used with duck or pork. A perfect fit for rich, juicy ribs. Just don’t use too much spice…a little goes a long way.

spice2spice4spice5We developed this recipe on our own but pulled from good sources. The cooking method, braising ribs in a foil pack in the oven and finishing under a broiler, is inspired from an Alton Brown recipe. The rub is ours, but with Five-Spice subbing for more traditional barbecue rub ingredients. The glaze comes from Roy Choi, media darling and king of the LA Food Truck scene. He boils, deep fries and then glazes his ribs. We aren’t doing all that at home (still not in love with deep-frying at home), but the sweet and spicy Asian glaze seemed like a perfect finish, and it was.

spice6spice7spice9The only real issue with this recipe is making the rub and having the ingredients for the glaze- it’s a lot of stuff. But if you make this dish, we suggest you use what you have. The rub is just as good (and the flavor comes out) if you add a few teaspoons of Five-Spice to existing pork rub. As for the glaze, the main thing is to capture some sweet, savory and spice favors. Orange juice, soy sauce and Sriracha will work fine, but if you do have the oyster sauce, hoisin, black bean paste and chili paste it will add depth and a lovely color to the glaze.

spice8spice10As for the ribs, we use baby back ribs because they are readily available and cook quickly. But if you want to use spare ribs or St. Louis cut ribs they will taste even better (more fat), but take a little longer. Adjust cooking times accordingly. Otherwise just look at the ribs, if the bones show about 1/4 to 1/2 inch, the ribs are probably done. Or aim for an internal temperature of at least 185 degrees F.

spice11spice12Finally, one note about using your broiler to finish the ribs- broilers are great tools, but need attention. Perfectly browned ribs can go to completely charred ribs in just seconds. Broiling only takes a few minutes, so we offer the gentle suggestion you stick close to the ribs when you broil them. Or you can have a kitchen filled with smoke…your choice. We will take the tasty ribs….

spice15Five Spice Baby Back Ribs:

(Inspired by Alton Brown and Roy Choi)

Notes Before You Start:

  • You can make your own Five-Spice powder (plenty of recipes out there- here’s one) or use store-bought for this recipe. Homemade is better, but store-bought will work just fine.
  • It is best to put rub on ribs and let them sit for at least 6 hours, or overnight. But with so much flavor, it is optional for this recipe.

What You Get: Very flavorful and tender ribs without a lot of work or mess. A new flavor for your ribs.

What You Need: No special equipment required.

How Long? About 3 hours, but less than 20 minutes of active time. A good weekend dish.


2 racks baby back ribs


  • 8 tablespoons light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons Five-Spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Braising Liquid:

  • 1 cup mirin or sake (or water)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce
  • Pinch of Five-Spice powder


  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup Chinese chile-garlic sauce
  • 1/2 cup oyster sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup Chinese black bean sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha or hot sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • Green onion, parsley and/or sesame seeds, for garnish


  1. Place the ribs on a baking sheet or tray. Combine the rub ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Sprinkle the rub evenly on the meaty side of the ribs. Rub it in a little. (Best to let the ribs sit in the fridge overnight, but otherwise carry on).
  2. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the braising liquid ingredients and mix well. Place each rack of ribs on a large sheet of foil, meat side down. Create a foil packet for the ribs and add half of the braising liquid. Seal the packet and repeat with the other rack of ribs. Place the rib packets on a baking sheet and cook in the oven until done, about 2 and 1/2 hours, or when they reach at least 185 degrees internal temperature.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the ingredients for the glaze and mix well. When the ribs are done, remove from the oven and then remove the ribs from their foil packets (carefully). Place the ribs, meat side up, on a baking sheet and apply a thick coating of the glaze on the meaty side of the ribs.
  4. Place a rack in the top third of the oven and turn on your broiler. When the broiler is hot place the ribs in the oven, glazed side up. Broil for a few minutes until the glaze bubbles and browns. Remove from the oven and let the ribs cool for five minutes.
  5. Slice the ribs and serve. Garnish with chopped green onion, parsley or sesame seeds, if you like.

32 thoughts on “Five-Spice Baby Back Ribs

  1. You are an artist at creating culinary joys. this looks positively mouth-smacking good.

    I have wanted to experiment w/ own spices for meats. that five spice recipe sounds wonderful but i’d have to add garlic and onion powder to it. I know garlic is in the sauce but….

  2. I firmly believe that ribs are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. And this recipe looks waaaay to tasty to pass up. Have bookmarked this page for future culinary reference…

  3. WOW this looks incredibly good. I think I will wait until my smoker/grill thaws our from the snow before I give this a try. I bet it would be incredible with a little smoky flavor added.

  4. I usually make Country-Style ribs in the oven and finish them in the broiler. My husband isn’t much of a griller so he hasn’t been brave enough to attempt ribs and I’m a huge BBQ person. I love serving mine up with potato salad and baked beans.

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