slow cooked ribs on a cutting board with extra sauce on the side

Crock Pot Baby Back Ribs

By Rachel Tiemeyer
February 8, 2021

This Crock Pot Baby Back Ribs recipe is legit! You don’t need a smoker or to heat up your kitchen with the oven for hours to make amazing ribs. Your slow cooker and a few minutes under the broiler will do all the hard work for you, resulting in fall-off-the-bone, caramelized BBQ ribs.

cooked ribs on a sheet pan lined with foil and uncooked ribs in a slow cooker

Why These Are the Best Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs

I’m gonna skip the humble brag talk and get to the point, friends. I really do think this is the best slow cooker ribs recipe out there and here’s why:

  • We have tested the heck out of this recipe! We know the timing is correct in the crockpot, because we became slow cooker experts while writing and researching our cookbook, From Freezer to Cooker.
  • They are well-loved by our families. I make this recipe about every other month for my family because they request it so much. All ages go for this recipe!
  • Layers of flavor and the perfect texture. With our special rub, homemade BBQ sauce, and clear cooking instructions, we think these are the tastiest slow cooker ribs out there!
  • Simple to make. In minutes you can whip up our simple rub and have your ribs in the slow cooker. Set it and forget it. Then, at the end, you’ll pop them under the broiler to crisp up. Anyone can make delicious ribs this way!
  • Includes freezer meal instructions. When ribs go on sale, stock up and make one batch for dinner and one for the freezer for another night using our expert instructions. Such a great use of your time!

What Ingredients Are in This Recipe?

ingredients for crock pot baby back ribs recipe

This crockpot pork ribs recipe only require a few pantry staple ingredients…

  • Baby back ribs – You can use another kind of pork ribs, but we’ve tested this recipe with baby back ribs several times and found that they result in fall-apart-tender ribs every time. Two racks (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds each) will fit in a 6 quart slow cooker. Look for them to go on sale and stock up! You can freeze them until you’re ready to use.
  • Our special rub – This includes salt (which tenderizes the meat), ground black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, and pure maple syrup. These combine to make a paste that you’ll rub all over the ribs. Bonus: Place the rubbed ribs in the fridge for 24-48 hours before slow cooking to enhance the flavor and tenderness of the meat.
  • BBQ sauce – We recommend using our simple Killer Homemade BBQ Sauce. It’s so easy to make but full of real food ingredients that just taste better than store-bought. But, we will look the other way if you need to take a short-cut from the store. Just be sure to look at the ingredients and try to avoid anything full of high fructose corn syrup and other additives that you don’t recognize. I really like Stubb’s BBQ Sauce because it’s all natural and quite tasty.

How to Make Crock Pot Baby Back Ribs

These slow cooker BBQ ribs aren’t rock science to make. They just require a few simple steps and mostly pantry ingredients. Check out just how EASY they are to make…

Tips for Making Perfect Crockpot BBQ Ribs

Keep just a few key tips in mind when preparing ribs in the crockpot, and you’ll end up with fall-off-the-bone tender ribs with the perfect outside texture.

crock pot baby back ribs that have been broiled on a sheet pan with BBQ sauce
  1. Know your ribs. Baby back ribs or spare ribs? We prefer baby back, personally. That’s because they are a bit leaner, have less bone and fat, and are the most tender. But, spare ribs or St. Louis style ribs (trimmed down spare ribs) would work just fine. It’s really your choice.
  2. Use a dry rub for seasoning. This adds a deeper layer of flavor under the sauce. If you have time, wrap the rubbed ribs tightly in plastic wrap and place in the fridge or 24 hours before slow cooking. Doing this allows the salt and other seasonings to get deep down in the meat, seasoning and tenderizing it even more.
  3. Arrangement them in the crockpot the right way. Place the racks of ribs around the perimeter of the slow cooker, with the meaty side facing out and the wider ends at the bottom.
  4. Make your own sauce. You can use store-bought sauce, but we personally don’t love that most of them are filled with HFCS and other additives. Plus, our Killer Homemade BBQ Sauce takes minutes to make and is tastier and healthier than most store-bought versions!
  5. Broil and brush with sauce before serving. Yes, the crock pot gets your ribs tender, but they will lack the caramelized edges and sticky glaze unless you broil and brush them with sauce at the end. This step only takes minutes and adds the flavor and texture of grilled or oven-cooked ribs. You can use also use the broiler to reheat ribs, if you’ve made them ahead of time.
  6. Let them rest. After broiling, tent with foil and let your ribs rest for about 10 minutes so the juices can redistribute throughout the meat.

How Long Should I Cook Ribs in the Slow Cooker?

They will take 5-7 hours on Low. We do NOT recommend cooking them on the High setting because they won’t have time to get tender and may dry out.

Grab Our Free Slow Cooker Cooking Times Chart

We’ve tested hundreds of slow cooker recipes for our cookbook, From Freezer to Cooker, and learned the optimal cook times for almost every dish. Some of them were surprising to us! We put all of our intensive research and testing knowledge into one nice, neat cooking chart for you! Download it for free here and never over cook or under cook a crockpot meal again…

Can You Freeze Ribs?

Yes! The key to freezing ribs is to make sure they are wrapped tightly with several layers of plastic wrap and foil or freezer paper to keep air from reaching the meat. If wrapped tightly with several layers and placed in a deep freeze in a constant frozen state, frozen ribs can maintain good texture for 9-12 months.

baby back ribs with a rub in a freezer bag

If you want to make this Crock Pot Baby Back Ribs recipe into a simple freezer meal to have on hand for dinner another night, here’s how to do that.

Freeze For Later: Make the rub and cover both sides of the racks of ribs in the paste. Either cut the racks in half and place in a gallon-sized freezer bag OR wrap the full racks in several layers of plastic wrap and foil. Seal tightly and freeze.

Prepare From Frozen: Thaw using one of our safe thawing methods. Cook according to the recipe instructions. (Do NOT cook from frozen in the slow cooker.)

Can I Put Frozen Ribs in the Slow Cooker?

We don’t recommend cooking frozen food in the crock pot. The USDA states on their website, “Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker.” Frozen ingredients in a slow cooker can mean the meal sits at an unsafe temperature for too long and become a breeding ground for bacteria to grow. So, be sure to thaw your frozen ribs or any freezer meal first using one of our safe thawing methods.

How to Serve Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs

crock pot baby back ribs on a cutting board with extra sauce on the side

Cut ribs into individual pieces and serve with extra BBQ sauce on the side. Here are a few of our favorite side dishes that can go with these ribs…

No Boil Corn on the Cob

No fuss and no heating up the kitchen. You can microwave corn on the cob in just 3 minutes flat with this recipe!

Asian Slaw

This light, crunchy slaw is the perfect compliment to hearty, slow cooked ribs.

Ultimate Twice-Baked Potatoes

Make ahead this delectable side dish and then pop them in the oven at the end of the ribs’ cook time. Soooo yummy!

twice-baked potatoes

Bottom Line

If you follow our tips and recipe, you can be assured to whip up some super tender and tasty ribs without all the fuss. Stock up on ribs when they go on sale and freeze until you’re ready to use them. Enjoy!

crock pot baby back ribs on a cutting board with extra sauce on the side
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slow cooked ribs on a cutting board with extra sauce on the side

Crock Pot Baby Back Ribs

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 7 hours
  • Total Time: 7 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings (4-5 ribs per serving) 1x
  • Category: Pork
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: BBQ
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

You don’t need a smoker or to heat up your kitchen with the oven for hours to make amazing ribs. Your slow cooker and a few minutes under the broiler will do all the hard work for you, resulting in fall-off-the-bone, caramelized BBQ ribs.


Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 (2 to 2 1/2 pound) racks pork baby back ribs, trimmed
  • 1 to 2 cups BBQ sauce (either use our Killer Homemade BBQ Sauce or your favorite store-bought version)

Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. In a small bowl, use a small spoon to stir together the salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, and maple syrup to make a paste.
  2. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels and then rub the paste all over both sides of the racks. (Freezing instructions begin here.) Optional: You can wrap the ribs in a few layers of plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 24 hours at this point to enhance the flavor.
  3. Arrange the ribs around the perimeter of a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker, with the meaty side facing outward and the wider end at the bottom. Cover and cook on Low for 5 to 7 hours, until the ribs are tender. (We do not recommend cooking on High.)
  4. Position the top oven rack about 6 inches below the broiler. Preheat the broiler. Cover a sheet pan with foil.
  5. Using tongs, transfer the ribs to the sheet pan with bone side up and meaty side down. Brush BBQ sauce on the top side and broil for 2 to 4 minutes, until they start to brown. Flip and brush the other side with sauce. Broil for 6-10 more minutes, until well browned, brushing with sauce every few minutes.
  6. Tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve with remaining BBQ sauce on the side.

Freeze For Later: Follow Steps 1 and 2. Either cut the racks in half and place in a gallon-sized freezer bag OR wrap the full racks in several layers of plastic wrap and foil. Seal tightly and freeze.

Prepare From Frozen: Thaw. Follow Steps 3 through 6.

Don’t forget to grab your free Slow Cooker Cheat Sheet with the perfect cooking times!

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