Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs on a white background

I used to be completely and utterly intimidated by cooking ribs. There are a lot of great rib recipes in my family. There was even a “rib-off” last summer between my sister and my dad. Ribs are a bit of an art form ’round these parts. Could I possibly live up to that? Turns out, I totally can, thanks to my beloved slow cooker.

Most of the ribs in this family are done in a smoker, but I went a different route and went slow cooker finished off in the broiler. This worked perfectly for a small amount of ribs to serve four people (we had the leftovers the next day). Any more than that, and you’ll have to leave the slow cooker behind for a bigger vessel.

What do I need to make this slow cooker ribs recipe?

We’ve made both baby back ribs and St. Louis-style ribs in the crockpot, and both of them worked extremely well. If the ribs are a tight fit in your slow cooker, cut them into a few pieces before adding them to the crockpot.

The dry rub for these slow cooker ribs is made of paprika, brown sugar, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. But if you already have a dry rub you like (like this barbecue spice rub), you can try that too!

Choose whatever barbecue sauce makes you and your family happy. We like Famous Dave’s because they catered our wedding. Plus, the sauce is pretty darn good! Whatever you choose, make sure it is a sauce that you like the flavor of—it will greatly affect the flavor of these crock pot ribs!

Overhead shot of Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs on a white background

How do I make slow cooker ribs?

This recipe is kind of embarrassingly easy. A simple dry rub on the meat, a drizzle of your favorite BBQ sauce, and then a few hours in the slow cooker. I finished them off in the broiler to get a caramelized, crispy exterior, but that would be totally optional (but highly recommended).

The slow cooker makes for perfectly tender and juicy, fall-off-the-bone ribs that no one needs to know took almost no effort at all. They’ll be cooked through after four hours on the high setting, and fall-off-the-bone tender after six.

Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs on a white background

Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours

No smoker or grill? No problem! These Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs make for delicious sticky ribs, every time.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 pounds pork ribs, cut into 4 pieces if desired
  • 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce (see note if gluten-free)

Instructions

  1. Mix the paprika, brown sugar, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Rub the spice blend onto the ribs, thoroughly coating all sides.

  2. Arrange the ribs standing up in a slow cooker and pour the barbecue sauce on top. Cook on high for 4-6 hours, until the ribs are tender and done to your liking. Transfer the ribs to a broiler-safe pan.

  3. Strain the sauce and juices left in the slow cooker through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium saucepan. If there is a lot of fat on top, use a spoon to scoop most of it off. Bring the sauce to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat so the sauce simmers. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until significantly reduced.

  4. Brush the ribs with sauce and broil for about 10 minutes, pulling them out 2-3 times during that time to brush on more sauce, until the ribs are darkened and sticky but not burned. Serve hot, with additional sauce on the side.

Notes

You can use baby back or St. Louis style ribs for this recipe.

Cutting the ribs into a few segments before cooking makes it easier to fit them into a small slow cooker and easier to get out once they’re done.

At four hours, the ribs should be cooked through but should still hold together in pieces for serving. At six hours, they’ll be totally falling apart and even more tender, so adjust the cooking time according to your preferences.

The flavor of the finished ribs depends a lot on the barbecue sauce you use, so be sure to choose one that you love.

Not all commercial barbecue sauces are gluten-free so be sure to check, if needed, or use your favorite homemade barbecue sauce to keep the recipe gluten-free.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1384Total Fat: 106gSaturated Fat: 32gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 47gCholesterol: 357mgSodium: 1172mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 2gSugar: 29gProtein: 72g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

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27 Comments

  1. It’s really a very simple recipe and it’s very necessary to try right away. Thank you for sharing that unique and delicious recipe.

  2. Sounds like a tasty and easy dinner, I would like to try them without BBQing. Thanks for your recipe, I enjoy it.

  3. My father in law did this like 2 years ago and I was blown away at how good they were in the slow cooker. Your’s look incredible!!!

  4. Made these twice so far and they are very delicious.
    I cook occasionally to give my wife a break and she loves these also.

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. I just started a batch in the slow cooker minutes ago and looking forward to dinner.

  5. I made these a few weeks ago with baby back ribs. They were SOOOOOOOOOOO delicious and your recipe is so straightforward and easy to follow! First time I have ever made AWESOME, tender, fall of the bone ribs! I may be crazy but attempting to make them this weekend for a backyard pinic party at my house for about 30 adults! What what!? THANK YOU!

  6. What type of ribs did you use? I love good ribs but have been too intimidated to make them….I think I can do your recipe though!