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Tender Ribs in a Slow Cooker

Tender Ribs in a Slow Cooker

Falling off the bone, these tender ribs can be made with a delicious bourbon sauce even when grilling season is long gone.
By Caroline LaMorte

Tender Ribs in a Slow Cooker

I wanted to make an easier version of ribs that did not need to be babysat all day. This recipe is so easy (and almost as good as the original), that you could save yourself the headache of a smoker and a grill and just use your slow cooker.

I also love that you can make slow cooker ribs during the cold winter months.

My original recipe calls for ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, so I decided to borrow some of the flavors that I use in both my Paleo Ketchup recipe (recipe here) and in my Homemade Paleo Worcestershire Sauce. (recipe here)


You will not need all of the Bourbon BBQ sauce for these ribs. There will be extra sauce for dipping, or you could freeze the excess for a future date (it’s awesome on chicken).

This recipe calls for Hickory Liquid Smoke, I was surprised to learn that liquid smoke is actually safer to eat than smoked meat. “It turns out that most of the carcinogens in smoke are fat soluble, so when we make a water-based solution, like liquid smoke, we capture the smoke flavor compounds without capturing most of the smoke cancer compounds.”– from

See Also

You can adjust the spiciness of these ribs by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper. As written, these have a little kick, but they are not so spicy that my kids won’t eat them.

I suggest using kitchen gloves to apply the rub and to cut the ancho chili pepper.



Tender Ribs in a Slow Cooker

Falling off the bone, these tender ribs can be made with a delicious bourbon sauce even when grilling season is long gone.

  • Author: Caroline LaMorte
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Main



For the Sauce:

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups green onions, chopped (about 2 bunches)
  • 2 cups chopped red onions (about 1 large onion)
  • 8 large garlic cloves, chopped (about 1 head)
  • 2 15 oz cans tomato sauce (about 3 cups)
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • ¾ cup whole grain mustard
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup coconut aminos
  • ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup palm/coconut sugar
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 Tbs fish sauce (I like red boat)
  • 1 large dried ancho chili pepper, stemmed, seeded, cut into small pieces
  • 1 Tbs ground cumin
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • Paleo Option: Use my Cherry BBQ Sauceinstead of the Bourbon BBQ Sauce

For the Spice Rub:

  • 2 Tbs ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 Tbs dry ground mustard
  • 1 Tbs course kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 racks of babyback ribs (about 5 lbs. total)
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 3 Tbs liquid smoke(I like hickory)


For the Bourbon BBQ Sauce:

  1. (Note, I usually start my sauce after I get my ribs in the slow cooker)
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the chopped red onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add green onions, sauté for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes.
  3. Mix in all remaining ingredients, adding in the bourbon last. Simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Cover and refrigerate (or freeze) until you are ready to use.

For the Spice Rub:

  1. Wash and dry your rib racks. Remove the silver skin (white membrane) along the bone side of ribs. If it really gives you trouble coming off, you can take a shortcut and just score the membrane between each rib bone.
  2. Cut each rack in half so that they can fit inside your slow cooker. Brush fronts and backs of the rib racks with 2 Tbs of Liquid Smoke (I like Hickory).
  3. Whisk together the dry spice rub ingredients and rub the mixture evenly over all sides of the rib racks. If you are not ready to cook yet, you can cover and refrigerate the ribs for up to 24 hours in advance. They will only get more flavorful that way.
  4. Making Ahead? You can freeze the trimmed and spice rubbed ribs to make for a future date. Wrap them tightly, first with foil, and then again with plastic wrap. Then place the racks in a zip-close plastic freezer bag with the air squeezed out. You can store the racks in the freezer for up to three months. Defrost in the refrigerator and then follow the directions below.
  5. When you are ready to cook the ribs, add 2 Tbs water and 1 Tbs liquid smoke to the bottom of the slow cooker. Stack the rack halves, bone side down, into the slow cooker, with the thickest racks on the bottom and the thinner racks on the top. Cover and cook and on low for 8 hours.
  6. After the ribs come out of the slow cooker, generously brush the racks all over with the Bourbon BBQ Sauce. Arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet that has been oiled with olive oil.
  7. If you are bringing the ribs to a party, you can cover and refrigerate the ribs at this point and bring them (along with the sauce) to the party in a cooler. If the party is close by, just get in the car and go with them. These make a great appetizer!
  8. Heat remaining sauce (not from the bowl used to brush the meat), on the stovetop while performing the next steps.
  9. You can finish the ribs off in the oven on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil for 3 minutes bone-side-up, and then flip the racks to meat-side-up, brush on more sauce and broil for 3 more minutes. Keep an eye on them; they can go from saucy to burned in a moment.
  10. Alternately, you can finish the ribs off on the grill. Season and preheat a grill to medium. Grill ribs until they are brown and crisp on the edges, brushing with more sauce as needed and turning occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  11. Serve with warmed BBQ sauce for dipping.

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