Instant Pot Chinese Spare Ribs with Five Spice Recipe
If fast, easy, and delicious aren’t enough reasons to make Chinese Spare Ribs, I have 5 reasons why this amazing recipe should be your new favorite.
Disclosure: I am sharing my Instant Pot love, but my love is completely unrequited by the manufacturer who isn’t aware of this post. This post does contain affiliate links, and if you use them to make a purchase, the links do not affect your purchase price but helps me to earn a small commission. Thank you for your support!
One of my friends made some delicious Chinese spare ribs for dinner many years ago and she shared a copy of her handwritten recipe with me. Eventually I misplaced the recipe, forgot who gave it to me, and had to recreate it from memory. This week I made Chinese spare ribs an Instant Pot and absolutely loved it. The ribs were flavorful, fall off the bone tender but still juicy.
5 Reasons Why Instant Pot Chinese Spare Ribs Are So Amazing
I have a 6 quart sized 7 in 1 Instant Pot (affiliate link) that I love to use when my afternoons are busy and I have to be in multiple places at the same time, including making dinner. I use my Instant Pot to make chicken teriyaki thighs, hard boiled eggs for breakfast and snack, or a veggie side like carrot soup. But this recipe for Chinese Spare Ribs is my favorite recipe to date for the following reasons:
- This Chinese spare ribs recipe is a great prep ahead type of recipe. It took me 10 minutes on Sunday to prep the ribs and 10 minutes on Monday to prep rice and asparagus for dinner.
- It is so much more economical and practical to make your own Chinese Spare Ribs with Soy Sauce and 5 Spice at home than to eat any kind of ribs at a restaurant. One package with 2 racks of pork spare ribs from Costco cost about $25.
- This recipe makes a lot of food for 4-6 people. But if you were to serve the ribs with other hearty sides or other main dishes, you have enough ribs for 8 people. If you have a small family, you could easily halve the recipe or you could cook one rack and freeze the other rack.
- Using the Instant Pot saves a lot time. It can take up to 1.5 hours to bake in the oven with a lot of supervision (cover with foil, uncover with foil, baste, flip it over, baste, etc.). Instead all we have to do is set it up in the Instant Pot, set the time for 25 minutes, wait 10 minutes after the IP beeps, and then baste and broil in the oven to brown the meat for a few minutes.
- It’s worth repeating that the Chinese spare ribs prepared in an Instant Pot are fall off the bone tender, juicy, and taste amazing.
How to Make Chinese Spare Ribs…
The first thing I do after I take the ribs out of the package is to cut them in half so they’re easier to handle and then rinse them under cool running water. Be sure to give the cut areas of the rib bones a rub to get rid of all the bone fragments and blood. Allow the ribs to drain in a colander while you prepare the marinade.
I usually marinade the ribs in a gallon sized plastic bag. I find that I can get maximum flavor out of using just a small amount of marinade ingredients compared to marinating the ribs loose in a bowl. Using a plastic bag is so convenient because I don’t have to wash a bowl or container after I’m done.
Place the large plastic bag inside of a large bowl and fold down the sides so that bag is stable and upright in the bowl. Add the marinade ingredients and mix with a spoon or fork.
Add all four half racks of spareribs into the marinade bag, seal it up and double bag it just in case there’s a leak. Marinate for as long as you can, but the ribs will taste better if marinated overnight or up to 24 hours. You could marinate it for up to 72 hours but I don’t recommend it.
…In An Instant Pot
I find it helpful to place the rack that comes with your Instant Pot with 1 cup of water first. You want the rack in there so that the ribs aren’t sitting in liquid and add the water first so that it doesn’t “rinse” off the spices and marinade. Arrange the ribs so that the bones are vertical, don’t stack them on top of each other. Pour the extra marinade into a small saucepan and cook it on medium-low heat until it’s bubbly and slightly thickened, set aside until ready to use.
Set the timer for 25 minutes, select meat, and when the timer beeps, allow 10-15 minutes for the Instant Pot to release pressure naturally and get ready to brown the ribs in the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, turn on your oven’s broiler and let it preheat for a few minutes.
When the pin drops (or you can quick release after 15 minutes), use large tongs and carefully remove the ribs from the Instant Pot and place them on your prepared baking sheet. Baste the ribs with the cooked sauce (do not use uncooked raw marinade for food safety reasons) and place on an upper rack in the oven for 3-5 minutes until ready. I like to pull it out when I hear a little bit of sizzling and see just a tiny bit of charred edges.
Take them out of the oven and you could eat them right away, but the meat will fall off the bones and you won’t have beautiful clean slices. Allow the ribs to rest and cool down for 10 minutes and then you can cut them into 1-2 rib serving pieces.
…Or In An Oven
Since my friend’s recipe was originally made in an oven, I’ve also included her original recipe and instructions on how to bake the marinaded ribs in an oven. You could use my marinade recipe and bake it the same way.
Make a marinade combining the following in a resealable 1 gallon sized plastic bag: 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sherry or rice wine, 5 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon honey or sugar, 1/2 teaspoon 5 spice powder. Cut two racks of spare ribs in half, rinse with cold water, drain, and add to the marinade, refrigerate overnight up to 24 hours.
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees and bake on a foil lined pan for 45 minutes, flip and bake for 15 more minutes. Transfer any leftover marinade from the bag into a small saucepan and simmer on low heat until the sauce is bubbly and thickened, you can use it to baste the ribs.
Allergy Aware Chinese Spare Ribs
This Chinese spare ribs recipe is free of nuts as an intentional ingredient so you just need to find ingredients that are allergy safe for you. You can check to see what ingredients and brands are in my cupboard for reference.
I used Koon Chun’s hoisin sauce for this recipe, other nut free brands of hoisin sauce (affiliate) include Wok Mei or Lee Kum Kee, but I’m fairly certain that Dynasty has potential cross contact with nuts and other allergens. If there is any doubt or allergies to any of the ingredients in hoisin sauce, it is okay to substitute hoisin sauce with ketchup.
If you are tempted to use prepared Chinese BBQ sauce in a bottle (or a can) beware that some brands contain peanuts as an ingredient. I was shocked when I learned made that realization and wrote about my surprise to find peanuts in Chinese BBQ sauce.
- If allergic to soy, eliminate the soy sauce and hoisin sauce. Instead you could substitute with a combination of soy-free soy sauce for soy sauce and ketchup for hoisin sauce. It will lose a bit of the Asian taste, but still passable.
- If allergic to seafood, check to whether your hoisin sauce has any seafood or potential cross contact because the word “hoisin” means seafood in Chinese. I use Koon Chun brand which does not contain any seafood but is made in the same facility as oyster sauce.
- If you are allergic to sesame, hoisin sauce often contains sesame, I would use ketchup instead.
- If you are allergic to wheat or gluten, use gluten free tamari sauce because soy sauce will contain wheat and gluten. Wok Mei’s hoisin sauce is gluten free. Unless you can be certain rice wine is gluten free, use sherry that you know is gluten free.
This recipe as written is free of peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, seafood.
Instant Pot Chinese Spare Ribs with Five Spice Recipe
I was inspired by my friend's family recipe for Chinese Spare Ribs and converted it into an Instant Pot recipe, which is quick and easy to make. The cooking instructions for making it in the oven are in the notes below and with additional details on the blog. Each serving is about 1/4 of a rack.
- 2 racks of pork spareribs St. Louis style or baby back ribs
- 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons rice wine or sherry
- 1 teaspoon five spice powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- Cut the spare ribs in half and rinse them under cool running water, rub the cut bone areas to dislodge any bone fragments and to loosen any blood clots, drain in a colander in the sink.
- Place a gallon size resealable plastic bag in a large bowl and fold down the sides, add the rest of the ingredients and mix.
- Add the spareribs into the marinade bag, seal it up (double bag, optional) and turn it over to thoroughly coat the ribs with marinade.
- Refrigerate overnight (minimum), 24 hours is ideal, 72 hours maximum.
- ABOUT 1 HOUR BEFORE DESIRED MEALTIME
- Set up Instant Pot, place the rack that comes with your Instant Pot with 1 cup of water in the liner, arrange the ribs so that the bones are vertical, don't stack them on top of each other, set the timer for 25 minutes, select meat, and turn the knob on top to seal.
- Transfer the extra marinade into a small saucepan and simmer on medium-low heat until the sauce is bubbly and slightly thickened, set aside until ready to use.
- When the Instant Pot timer goes off natural release 10-15 minutes and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, turn on the oven broiler.
- When the Instant Pot is ready, use large tongs and carefully remove the ribs from the Instant Pot and place them on your prepared baking sheet, brush the ribs with the cooked sauce and place on an upper rack in the oven for 3-5 minutes until desired browning.
- Take the ribs out of the oven and allow them to rest for 5-10 minutes and then slice into 1-2 rib serving pieces.
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