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). Anymore than that, and you’ll have to leave the slow cooker behind for a bigger vessel.

Ingredients for slow cooker Ribs - ribs, barbecue sauce, and spices
This recipe is kind of embarrassingly easy. A simple dry rub on the meat, a drizzle of your favorite barbecue 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. The slow cooker makes ribs a weeknight meal!

Ribs brushed with barbecue sauce on a white background
Choose whatever barbecue sauce makes you and your family happy. We like Famous Dave’s because they catered our wedding. And it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy anytime I think about our fancy picnic reception with food served on trash can lids (seriously). Plus, the sauce is pretty darn good! Enjoy.

Pst: Working with pork chops instead? Try these grilled boneless pork chops!
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.


  • 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)


  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.


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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    1. I didn’t, mostly because I don’t think my ribs had one! It might have been already removed by my butcher.

  1. Are you just kind of propping them up on each other or along the sides of the cooker. Also what does that do for the ribs, is it to keep them out of the liquid so they don’t just end up boiling? I am very excited to try this recipe!

  2. I had a question regarding your rib receipe? Do you not put in liquid in the crockpot?? Or does it make its own liquid?

  3. These look delish I am going to make them on Thursday. But I want to know how you made the recipe into a printable page? I put a recipe up on my blog today and wanted to do this

  4. your blog is gorgeous! i love ribs, and a slow-cooker version?? so now i can eat low-and-slow ribs even when i get home late from a long day at work! this rules. i’ll be making them soon 🙂

  5. Your blog is new to me but I’m already loving it. Found this recipe on Tastespotting and made it yesterday!! Success!! Very easy, super yum and a great option for winter time.

    1. Awesome! So glad you liked it. Definitely a great option for winter. Normally ribs feel like a summer food, but they are so heavy that the work perfectly when the weather cools. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

    1. Hahah! Yes, I am fine. 🙂 Just got a little overwhelmed with to-dos over the past few days. We’re back to normal now. 😀 Thanks for being concerned!