3 years ago

Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Spare Ribs

Twin Cities food blogger greens & chocolate proves you don’t need a fancy smoker to make amazing BBQ spare ribs!

While I do 98% of the cooking in our house, my husband has three specialties: smoked pulled pork, smoked brisket and smoked ribs. As you can tell, he likes to smoke meats. Ever since he received an electric smoker for his birthday a couple of years ago, he’s been obsessed with perfecting his recipes.

Since he’s the main man when it comes to ribs, I’ve only cooked them myself a handful of times. The problem with always relying on my husband to smoke ribs is that it’s kind of a hands-on process, as the smoker is not a “set it and forget it” deal like a slow cooker. You have to be around to make sure the temperature remains steady, add more smoke chips (if you have an electric smoker), wrap it in foil after a certain amount of hours, and a few other things that my husband does and I don’t pay attention to. It’s a process.

Even though I knew my husband’s ribs were going to be difficult to beat, I wanted to take my shot at it and make them in the slow cooker. Could I make ribs that were just as good without all the hassle of the smoker? I was determined to find out.

I’m happy to report, this recipe for Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Spare Ribs turned out SO good, it’s very possible that I’m going to be in charge of the ribs from now on. We were both blown away at how good they were! They were incredibly tender – the meat fell right off the bone! – and they were full of great flavor.

For this recipe, I used spare ribs instead of baby back ribs, because they are a little meatier and wider than baby back ribs. Either would work, though. While we usually smoke baby back ribs, I was actually really impressed by the spare ribs! They had a ton of meat and were incredibly tender.

For the rib prep, I simply used my favorite store-bought rib rub, which I applied the night before to let the flavors really get into the meat. I was okay using a store-bought rub because the real show-stopper of these ribs is the homemade honey bourbon BBQ sauce. It seriously makes these ribs unforgettable! The homemade sauce really is quite simple, too. You could even make it ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator to make prep for these ribs even easier.

I slathered the ribs in about half of the BBQ sauce before cooking them, and then also afterwards. The one complaint that I’ve heard people make of slow cooker ribs is that they don’t get crispy like they would in a smoker. To get a little bit of crispiness in these ribs, I put them in the oven at 400 F for 10-15 minutes. Problem solved!

I think this recipe would be awesome for when you’re hosting a party, a weeknight dinner or a special occasion for any rib lover in your life. It won’t disappoint!

Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Spare Ribs

4-6 servings
Preparation time: 45 minutes + overnight rib rub, then 4-9 hours in the slow cooker, depending on your slow cooker setting.

4 pounds spare ribs
¼ cup of your favorite store-bought rib rub

For the honey bourbon BBQ sauce:
½ white onion, sliced into strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup ketchup
½ cup bourbon
½ cup honey
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup Worcestershire
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt


To prep the ribs:

  1. Spread rub all over ribs and massage in with your hands.
  2. Wrap in foil or plastic wrap on a baking sheet and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

To make the honey bourbon BBQ sauce:

  1. Place all sauce ingredients into a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce has reduced by about one quarter. This will take about 30 minutes.
  3. Let cool.
  4. Place sauce in a high-powered blender and blend until well combined and smooth.

To cook the spare ribs:

  1. Place spare ribs in slow cooker.
  2. Slather with about half of the BBQ sauce.
  3. Cook on low for 8-9 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours.
  4. Once cooked, carefully remove the ribs from slow cooker and place on foil-lined (for easier clean up) baking sheet.
  5. Heat oven to 400 F.
  6. Slather ribs with more of the BBQ sauce and cook for 10-15 minutes in oven until slightly crispy on the edges.
  7. Serve immediately with remaining BBQ sauce.