Dr Pepper Ribs

recipe image

Ribs usually means jumping on my own variation of Mike Mill’s Apple City Barbecue World Championship Ribs, but I was feeling a little change in the air and took a new and very tasty direction with these racks.

Although not a huge fan of baby backs, I went with them here in place of my normal spare ribs—what baby backs lack in meaty flavor, they make up for in tenderness. The racks were rubbed down, smoked for about 4 hours over some apple wood chunks and finished with the secret transformative ingredient: Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce.

My favorite soft drink served as the base of this sauce, which had a tang and depth that you would probably never be able to put your finger on if you didn’t know what it was. Slathered on the extremely tender ribs, it added just the right sweetness to balance a spicy rub and smoky meat, churning out stellar ribs that were worthy examples of what summer is all about.

For the Sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1 12-ounce can Dr. Pepper (about 1 3/4 cups)

  • 1 cup ketchup

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 2 teaspoons ground ancho or New Mexican chile powder

  • 1 teaspoon white pepper

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 tsp, ground black pepper

For the Ribs:

  • About 1 cup of your favorite dry rub

  • 2 racks baby back ribs

  • 4-5 chunks apple wood

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and cook until flavors are blended and sauce begins to thicken, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Let cool for 10 minutes and then puree with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender. Pour into a glass jar for storage, it will keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

  2. Remove the membrane and trim the ribs. Rub each rack liberally with your favorite dry rub. Wrap ribs in foil or place in a large container and store in the refrigerator over night.

  3. Remove the ribs from the fridge while preparing the smoker. Fire up the smoker to 225°F, adding the apple wood chunks when at temperature. When the wood is producing smoke, place the ribs in the smoker, meat side up, and smoke for 3-5 hours, until the ribs have a slight bend when lifted from one end. Brush on the sauce and continue to cook until sauce has caramelized, about 15-20 minutes longer. Remove from the smoker, slice the ribs, and serve.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
876 Calories
46g Fat
77g Carbs
40g Protein


Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 876
% Daily Value*
46g 59%
Saturated Fat 20g 98%
162mg 54%
1533mg 67%
77g 28%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 50g
Vitamin C 13mg 65%
Calcium 179mg 14%
Iron 5mg 26%
Potassium 1222mg 26%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

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