I’m gonna whisper this one… honestly, I didn’t instantaneously fall in love with the Instant Pot like everyone else seemed to do. I know, I know.
I really bought mine for one sole reason: making the whole experience of cooking up my own homemade broth quicker and less stinkier. So while I routinely used (and use) it for broth making, I wasn’t really blown away by it as a one-stop-shop for cooking all the things. If I’m being completely blunt, I often find recipes that are cooked completely and only in the Instant Pot kind of bland.
I don’t find that it sears well on the saute function for things like browning meat and I usually end up browning in a separate skillet anyway, because the insert is too small to get things done in a single batch, because the temperature regulation is pretty much non-existent and because I think you get a better flavor from a real crusty sear.
So there, I admitted it, I’m an Instant Pot Philistine or something.
But, I’ve finally found the thing that’s converted me: weeknight Instant Pot ribs. Let me explain quickly. Usually I slow cook my ribs in the oven and then finish them up under the broiler. They turn out pretty darn well that way, but the long, low & slow cooking time relegates ribs solely to weekends.
But, since approximately 96.74% of what makes ribs taste amazing and addictive is whatever sauce or glaze you slather on them and because you don’t want or need to brown or sear ribs before you cook ’em, the Instant Pot makes short work of replacing that long cook time. You can have easy Instant Pot ribs done in under an hour — less than a third of the time!
When it comes to ribs, you can cut them into multi-boned portions if you want before stacking them in the Instant Pot, but I like to cut mine into single-bone portions. That way, they’re perfect as appetizers, as a party or pot luck shared dish, or just easier to portion out come dinner time, especially if you’re feeding a family of different ages and appetites.
The other advantage to this approach — that seals the deal for me! – is that this way, you can toss the ribs in your sauce or glaze so that they get completely covered. Every single side and square inch of porky goodness gets slathered in the flavor making glaze and this yields incredibly delicious, messy, sticky ribs, just as they should be!
You’ll want to whip up the glaze for these Sticky Honey Garlic Instant Pot Ribs while they’re hanging out resting in the natural release phase. It’s really simple, but you’ll have to hang out and stir the mixture while it’s on the stove top reducing and thickening.
Make sure to pick a saucepan with high sides, because the glaze will expand, bubble and foam as it’s cooking. It’s ready to go when it’s caramelized in color and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Because the glaze has a honey base, it will thicken and become less pliable as it cools. So my trick for dealing with that if it happens in between broiling & basting rounds is to add a splash or two of the reserved cooking liquid left behind in the Instant Pot when the ribs are done. That will loosen up the glaze up enough again to brush it on the ribs as a finishing touch.
You can use whichever cut of bone in back (not country style) ribs you like for this recipe. A large rack of untrimmed, back or spare ribs will make up the whole 3 lbs / 1.3 kg of ribs specified in the recipe, or you can use 2 – 3 racks of trimmed baby backs.
If you want make a double batch of these Instant Pot Ribs, I’ve found that a 6 qt Instant Pot will fit about 5 – 6 lbs / 2.25 – 2.72 kg of ribs in total. You will have to pack them tightly and have some of the ribs touching the sides of the insert to fit them all in. You’ll also have to make sure that your ribs don’t come too close to the “max fill” line. For a double batch, use the same amount of water or broth, increase the cooking time to 45 minutes, increase the resting time to 20 minutes and double the glaze.
This recipe was included in the Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable.
- 3 lbs / 1.3 kg bone-in pork back ribs (see notes)
- ½ cup / 120 ml broth or water
- optional: fine sea salt & garlic powder, to taste
- PREP: Flip the ribs over so that they're back / bone side up. Check to see if the silvery membrane has been left on the ribs. If so, you'll want to remove it before cooking to keep the ribs from curling up or being a little tough once they're cooked. Slip the tip of a sharp knife below the membrane above one of the bones. Work your finger tips into the hole you've made until you can feel the membrane starting to pull away from the bone. Use a paper towel to get a good grip and pull the membrane away, then discard it.
- STACK: Slice the ribs into single bone portions. Put the removable rack into the bottom of the Instant Pot insert. Pour in the broth or water. Start to stack the cut rib portions inside the Instant Pot, laying the bones perpendicular to the direction of the wire rack so that they don't fall between the slats into the liquid below. Once the wire rack is covered, begin another layer on top of the ribs, again perpendicular to the direction of the ribs below to create a nice stable stack. Repeat your layering until all your ribs are used up. If you like, sprinkle each layer with a little salt and garlic powder as you go.
- PRESSURE COOK: Close the Instant Pot lid and set the vent to the sealing position. Set the Instant Pot to Manual on High Pressure for 35 minutes (for ribs with a bit more bite that come straight off the bone) or 40 minutes (for ribs that are a little softer). When the timer goes off, turn off the Instant Pot and allow the ribs to rest inside the sealed Instant Pot for 15 minutes, then quick release. Reserve the cooking liquid.
- REDUCE: While the ribs are resting, preheat the broiler on high, setting the rack about 6 inches from the element, and make the glaze. Measure the honey into a small saucepan. Add the coconut aminos, lime juice, fish sauce, garlic and ginger to a mini food processor and blitz until the garlic is finely chopped and the marinade is combined. (You can also finely mince the garlic and mix everything together in the saucepan if you wish). Pour the marinade ingredients into the saucepan with the honey and bring the marinade to a simmer over medium high heat. Cook, stirring often, until the marinade has thickened, deepened in color and reduced enough to coat the back of a spoon. The mixture will foam and bubble a lot, so make sure to pick a high sided saucepan to prevent overflowing or splattering! Remove the glaze from the heat.
- GLAZE: Line a baking sheet with foil. Add the cooked ribs to a large mixing bowl and pour over the reduced marinade. Use a serving spoon to stir the ribs through the marinade until they're evenly coated on all sides. Use tongs to transfer the ribs - gently shaking off any excess marinade - to the baking sheet, meat side up and evenly spaced. Broil until the glaze is bubbling and caramelized, about 4 - 7 minutes, depending on your broiler. Brush the ribs with the remaining marinade left behind in the bowl. If it's cooled down enough to thicken more, add a few splashes of the reserved cooking liquid from the Instant Pot and stir to loosen again. Broil again for a minute or two, then serve immediately.
If you want to double the recipe, you can fit about 5 - 6 lbs / 2.25 - 2.72 kg of ribs into the insert of a 6 qt Instant Pot model. You will, however, have to pack them tightly, including down the sides of the insert rather than having them all on the rack, making sure not to get too close to the Max Fill line. Use the same amount of broth or water, double the glaze recipe and increase the cook time to 50 minutes total at high pressure, letting the ribs rest for 20 minutes in the turned off Instant Pot before quick releasing and glazing.
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