If you’re craving BBQ ribs but don’t have all day to tend the grill, don’t fret. These Instant Pot Baby Back Ribs are super easy and come out tender and juicy every time. And the best part is that they’re ready in under an hour and can either be finished off under the broiler or on the grill so no matter the weather you can enjoy the flavor of slow-cooked ribs any day of the year.
This post was originally published on July 10th, 2017. Updated on December 1st, 2020.
Cooked-all-day flavor…without all the fuss
Even if you don’t have a grill, you can get the slow-cooked taste of barbeque baby back ribs thanks to the Instant Pot. Using a simple homemade spice rub and your favorite barbecue sauce, you can make ribs that taste like you’ve tended them all day on the grill in under an hour. That’s the magic of Instant Pot Ribs!
We’ve taken an otherwise intimidating recipe and made it super simple. Now anyone can make tender, juicy, fall off the bone barbecue ribs without fuss.
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Ingredients for Instant Pot Baby Back Ribs
- Pork Ribs – Baby back or St. Louis style ribs will both work well in this recipe.
- Broth or Water – Beef broth or chicken broth will infuse the ribs with a little extra flavor but if you don’t have any on hand, water also works great.
- BBQ Sauce – Use your favorite bottled barbecue sauce or make your own with our Homemade BBQ Sauce recipe. For a Whole30-friendly option try Primal Kitchen’s Classic BBQ Sauce.
For the Spice Rub*
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Smoked paprika
- Salt and pepper
* Feel free to use your favorite premade rub, if desired.
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How to Make Baby Back Ribs in the Instant Pot
- Start with the best-quality pork baby back ribs you can find. You’ll need about a 2 – 2 ½ lb. rack to feed 4 people. Anything more than 3 lbs. and you won’t be able to get them into a 6-quart Instant Pot and still close the lid. Our go-to for high-quality, heritage breed pork is ButcherBox. They seriously have the BEST baby back ribs!
- Cut your rack of ribs into 3 equal-ish sections. Sprinkle each section with the spice dry rub, focusing more on the meaty front side of the rack than the backside. Now give each section a good rub. At this point, you can wrap them up and return them to the fridge if you’re just ‘prepping ahead’ then cook them at a later point. This can be done up to 2 days in advance.
- Place the wire rack into the Instant Pot insert then add 1 cup of water or broth (chicken or beef broth both work great) to the pot. Select the ‘Saute’ function. This will essentially pre-heat the Instant Pot and decrease the amount of time it takes to get up to full pressure.
- Now creatively arrange the 3 sections of ribs in a teepee or pyramid formation so that they’re not lying on top of one another. Standing them rather than stacking means they cook faster and more evenly.
- Use the Instant Pot lid to press the ribs down gently if needed then lock the lid in place. Flip the pressure valve to the ‘sealing’ position. Select ‘Manual’ for 30 minutes. While the ribs cook, prepare the BBQ sauce if you’re making it from scratch, or grab a bottle of your favorite pre-made barbecue sauce.
- When the cooking time is up, use the ‘quick release’ method to release the pressure then remove the lid when safe to do so.
- Remove ribs to a rimmed baking sheet and set the oven to broil. Generously mop the ribs with barbecue sauce (on both sides – this isn’t the time to be stingy with the sauce). When the broiler is hot, place the ribs under the broiler with the oven door slightly ajar. Broil ribs for 3-4 minutes or until sauce is hot and bubbly and starting to caramelize.
- Remove the ribs from the oven and serve with your favorite side dishes.
Can I Finish the Ribs on the Grill?
Yes, you can! In fact, finishing them on the grill is a great option when you don’t want to heat up the oven, if the oven is already in use, or if you want to add a smoky flavor to them. We love to finish these Instant Pot pork ribs on our Traeger wood-fired pellet grill because they taste like you’ve been tending the grill all day. And honestly, if you didn’t tell them that you didn’t, no one would ever know.
Can Instant Pot Pork Ribs be made ahead?
Yes. You can make the ribs up to 2 days in advance by cooking them in the Instant Pot then storing them in a covered container in the fridge until you’re ready to finish them off by adding the sauce and broiling or grilling to reheat them.
For the ultimate reheat and eat convenience, prepare the ribs as directed, then cut the ribs into individual ribs before storing the fridge. Baby back ribs can be reheated in the microwave or toaster oven for a quick and easy meal.
My Go-To Method for Making-Ahead + Reheating Ribs
1. Cook and cool the ribs (without saucing them). Refrigerate up to 3 days.
2. Place ribs in roasting pan or large baking dish, overlapping them as needed. Add a little broth to the bottom of the pan and cover with a lid or foil.
3. Place in a preheated 350F oven and bake until heated through (about 45 minutes), adding more liquid as needed to keep the pan from boiling dry.
4. Transfer ribs to a large baking sheet, brush with sauce and either broil or grill them until the sauce starts to caramelize.
Side dishes to Enjoy with Baby Back Ribs
- Creamy Broccoli Slaw
- Sweet Kale Salad
- Warm Chipotle Lime Potato Salad
- Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges
- Cauliflower Sweet Potato Salad with Bacon
- Blue Cheese Potato Salad with Chives
Bonus: if you enjoy the no-fuss nature of this ribs recipe, you might also enjoy this post: How to Make an Instant Pot Whole Chicken. It’s got all the flavor of a chicken thats roasted in the oven for hours, but it takes just 30 minutes in your Instant Pot!
- 2 – 2 ½ lb. baby back ribs, cut into 3 equal sections
- 1 cup water or broth
- BBQ sauce of choice (Try Primal Kitchen Classic BBQ Sauce for a Whole30-friendly option)
For the Spice Rub:
- ½ tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- ¼ tsp. cumin
- ½ tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- Combine the ingredients for the spice rub.
- Cut the rack of ribs into 3 equal sections then rub each section with the spice rub.
- Place the metal rack into the bottom of the Instant Pot. Add the broth or water.
- Place the ribs on the rack and arrange the ribs into a pyramid by standing each section up on its end and leaning them against one another.
- Place the lid on the Instant Pot and lock it into place. Flip the valve to the ‘Sealing’ position.
- Select the high-pressure setting and set the cooking time to 30 minutes.
- As soon as the cooking time is up, quickly release the pressure by flipping the valve to the ‘Venting’ position.
- Remove the ribs from Instant Pot and place them on a rimmed baking sheet (line the baking sheet with foil for easy clean up).
- Preheat the broiler to medium-high heat. Brush the ribs with barbecue sauce on both sides.
- Broil for 3-5 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and slightly caramelized.
- Cut into individual ribs for serving.
To finish the ribs on the grill, preheat the grill to low-medium and place them directly on the rack over indirect heat and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce ‘tightens’ and becomes thick and sticky.
If using a Traeger Grill, preheat the grill to 185℉ using your favorite pellets (we love the hickory, mesquite, or Traeger Signature Blend pellets for ribs). Place the ribs directly on the grill grates and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce tightens.
- Serving Size: 1/4th recipe
- Calories: 514
- Sugar: 2g
- Sodium: 563mg
- Fat: 26g
- Saturated Fat: 17g
- Carbohydrates: 17g
- Protein: 30g
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Photo Credit: The photos in this blog post were taken by Jess of Plays Well with Butter.
About Jessica Beacom
Jessica is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist living in Boulder, CO with her hubby and two daughters. She’s been described as a ‘real food evangelist’ and loves sharing her knowledge with others to help them break free of the diet mentality and find their own food freedom. In her spare time she enjoys CrossFit, telemark skiing, mountain biking, teaching herself how to play the banjo and camping out under the stars.