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Slow Cooked Ribs and Root Beer BBQ sauce

Root Beer BBQ

Ordinarily, I would make ribs in the oven. They would be seasoned, sauced, wrapped tightly in foil and baked long hours at a low temperature until the meat was falling-off-the-bone tender. I am not thrilled with the heat that this generates in my kitchen, butt the only real problem I see with this method is that it renders my oven unavailable to other baked goods. I like to have cornbread with barbeque and it just doesn’t turn out quite right when you try to bake it in a 250F oven.

To free up that valuable oven space, I used my crockpot. I have a 5 quart slow cooker (crockpot), so I used 4 pounds of baby back ribs. If you have a small one, use two. This is important because the sauce will scorch a bit if you are not filling your cooker with enough meat. And who ever complained about a few extra ribs?

I was incredibly pleased with how well these turned out. I needed two spoons to get the ribs out, rather than tongs, because the meat came off the bones as though it had never been attached. And the taste? Teeth were completely unnecessary.

I started with a recipe from Epicurious for barbeque sauce and altered it a bit according to the comments left by other users and my own tastes. The sauce was on the sweet side, but the paprika and dash of red pepper flakes cut it just enough. It was great with the ribs. You could taste many flavors in the sauce, and while you can taste a hint of root beer if you know it is there, no one else is likely to guess the “secret ingredient”. If you don’t have root beer, substitute some brand of cola. I like the sauce to be a little thinner for roasting and crock pot cooking, as opposed to grilling, where I like it thick. If you like it thicker, continue to reduce the sauce down to 1 1/2 cups, which will take an additional 10-15 minutes.

Root Beer BBQ Sauce
(inspired by this recipe)

1 cup root beer

1 cup ketchup

1/4 cup orange juice

3 tbsp worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp molasses

1/2 tsp ginger

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (a bit more if you like it spicy)

Whisk all the sauce ingredients together in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. This will reduce the sauce to about 2 cups. Set aside.
This sauce can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Slow Cooked Ribs

1 recipe for Root Beer BBQ sauce (above)
2-4 pounds baby back ribs (pork ribs)

salt, pepper

Remove fatty membrane from the underside of the ribs. Rub the meat with salt and pepper.
Pour 1/2 of the sauce into the bottom of the slow cooker (aka the crock pot). Add ribs and coat with remaining sauce.
Cook on low setting for 6-7 hours.

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  • Melissa
    September 20, 2005

    You’ve just made a teenage boy (with a beard) very happy! He is a root-beer freak–and will LOVE the sound of this sauce!

  • Alicat
    September 20, 2005

    Oh how lovely! Root beer bbq sauce?? Why haven’t I heard of that yet? It sounds AMAZING. I will have to try this when I can afford to buy a crap ton of ribs! 🙂

  • Nic
    September 20, 2005

    Melissa – I hope so!

    Alicat – Meat+soda is sort of a southern tradition, but you don’t see it a lot anywhere else. All I can say is keep an eye out for ribs on sale!

  • drbiggles
    September 20, 2005

    I have to admit, I’ve done the oven baked ribs a few times. Of course it doesn’t match the outdoor smoker, but obviously renders you some really tasty goods.
    I precut the ribs out (standard ribs, not the smaller ones) and use a dry rub, then lay lemon slices over all. The citrus in the pork is a delight. Then sauce last portion of cooking. I like to pull the ribs before they’re fall off the bone tender. I like it just so it comes free when I tug with my teefs, gives me something to do. That and a Schlitz beer, pure heaven.


  • Joe
    September 20, 2005

    The Root beer BBQ sure sounds fun! Thanks for sharing this one – I don’t believe i’ve tried something like that!

  • cookie jill
    September 20, 2005

    Looks like they were a hit by the indication of the second photo, there.

    The next step would be to make your own Root Beer.


  • Ruth
    September 20, 2005

    Looks great, sounds delicious and finally another use for my oversized crockpot. Since my daughters moved out, it’s usually too big.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Laura
    September 20, 2005

    This looks wonderful…so good I put up a link on my blog :).

    I want to compliment you on your blog, my New Year’s Resolution was to learn to (finally) cook a wider variety of foods this year and your blog has been a great resource. I admire the beautiful food photography as well!

  • Lori
    September 20, 2005

    The pile of bones pretty much says it all. :p Cola really works with ribs.

  • J
    September 21, 2005

    hi nic, what a clever clever idea; never occurred to me to use my slow cooker for ribs before; your description of its incredible melting tenderness has me sold…and root beer bbq sauce sounds swoon-worthy…

  • Nic
    September 21, 2005

    Biggles – I can’t argue with smoking. Who could?

    Joe – Soda and meat, an American classic. =)

    Jill – I’ve been considering it…

    Ruth – I am always looking for new things to do with my crockpot. I’m fairly certain it is my least used appliance, so I love things that prompt me to get it out.

    Laura – Thank you so much!

    J – Thanks! I must admit that I was suprised at how melting this turned out to be, but I would make it again in a heartbeat!

  • Anonymous
    September 21, 2005

    I’ve never heard of using Root Beer.Interesting.

  • augustusgloop
    September 21, 2005

    *drool* I love ribs! And the root beer addition sounds great!

  • rae
    September 21, 2005

    i have an old vintage cooking pamphlet from the fifties called “cookin’ with dr. pepper” and it has pretty much the same recipe on the cover except made with dr. pepper instead of rootbeer. i’ve heard that dr. pepper was supposed to taste like grape soda originally. wonder if that’s an urban legend?

  • Emily
    March 4, 2007

    Has anyone actually tried this root beer bbq recipe? How is it?

  • Stacy
    March 12, 2007

    Thank you Thank you Thank you I am using the sauce recipe for my pulled pork instead my friends daughter made it for me once , well I asked her for the recipe and she said it was a family secret , thanks for letting the cat out of the bag , my family is gonna love this Love Stacy

  • Irene
    September 14, 2007

    This looks absolutely divine!!!!! May I know if there is a substitute for molasses… brown sugar, maybe? And is fresh onion and garlic ok? Or is it necessary to use powdered form? Thank You so so much for yr advice and time.

  • mary
    April 14, 2009

    this is the BEST bbq sauce i have ever had, no lie. i put it on everything now!

  • Christie
    October 12, 2011

    I’ll be honest, I had high hopes. The sauce was yummy when I made it, but after cooking the ribs in the crock pot, it was just a mess.

  • Tony
    January 15, 2012

    This recipe is some what similar to my mother’s spare rib sauce but with the addition of root beer and 1 other ingredient made this sauce very good. O’h I used A&W root beer which has vanilla in it also added 1 cup of apple cider vinegar to the mix it came out really gooooood!!!!

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