These tender ribs are marinated in the traditional cocktail of Brazil, the caipirinha. Lime, sugar, and cachaça, similar to rum, make for a delicious meat flavoring.
By Denise Browning
Are you a rib lover? So am I! I always welcome the sight of them with a smile… and these succulent Caipirinha Baby Back Ribs (Costelinha de Porco na Caipirinha) are no exception! For those who may not know, caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail made from lime, sugar, and cachaça (a distilled beverage similar to white rum).
The preparation of our caipirinha baby back ribs is quite simple. Blend cachaça (or white rum if desired), lime juice, brown sugar, garlic cloves, a few seasonings, and fresh parsley in a kitchen blender and pour over the ribs. Marinate, and then cook on the stove top (first pan-searing to brown, and then simmering until tender and liquid evaporates). The result: One of the tenderest and tastiest ribs that you will ever experience.
This recipe took its inspiration from Costelinha de Porco à Mineira (“Fried” Baby Back Ribs) — a traditional dish from Minas Gerais in Southeastern Brazil. The difference here is the caipirinha ingredients! Cachaça, the main ingredient of caipirinha, has many more uses than than just as a base for the caipirinha drink in Brazil– it is also great for marinating meats, and for making pie crust and empanada dough flakier. It is available at large liquor stores in the U.S., but in a pinch white rum is a suitable substitute.
- 1 stack (3.3 pounds or 1.5 kg) baby back ribs (buy a stack with 10-14 ribs)
- ¾ cup cachaça or white rum
- 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1½ Tablespoons anatto powder (used most for coloring foods and available at local supermarkets)
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- ½ cup vegetable oil ( or a bit more if necessary)
- 1 cup water
- OPTIONAL: Before marinating the caipirinha baby back ribs, place the full stack of ribs on a cutting board, turn the ribs over, and stick a butter knife right under that white membrane.
- Wedge the butter knife in between membrane and meat/bone. Pull membrane off. This will make ribs even more tender but is optional since our ribs are not supposed to fall off the bones.
- MAKE AHEAD (MARINADE): Cut the ribs individually (right over the meat in between each bone) and place them in a large bowl or rectangular pyrex dish, and set aside. In a blender, blend well the cachaça or white rum, lime juice, sugar, garlic, salt, pepper, annatto powder, and parsley until obtaining a smooth mixture. Pour this mixture over the ribs. Using your hands, mix ribs with the marinade to coat both sides of each rib. Cover bowl or pyrex with plastic or foil, and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours (Inactive Time).
- Drain the marinade from the ribs by simply shaking a bit and seting aside the marinade.
- In a large (wide) pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat and brown the ribs evenly (do not overcrowd the pan). Transfer ribs to a plate and discard leftover oil. Then, add and mix water to the reserved marinade, place ribs back into the pan, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, reduce heat to medium-low, and let cook for 20 minutes or until the ribs are tender and liquid has evaporated completely.
- These caipirinha baby back ribs can be served hot (brushed with honey if desired) with any side of your choice , or with collard greens a la Mineira, yuca fries, and farofa.
Denise Browning is a native Brazilian foodie, trained Chef, cooking instructor, restaurant menu/recipe developer, and former lawyer. She is also the author of From Brazil To You - a blog that features Brazilian, fusion, and international dish recipes, stories, and photography of Brazil. Her writing has appeared in Cia Brasil Magazine, while her photography is frequently featured on Foodgawker, TasteSpotting, and Foodepix. She lives in Texas with her American husband and two children.