Sweet and Sour Ribs (Slow Cooker)

These sweet and sour ribs are so tender, the pork falls off the bone! Make this simple crockpot recipe for deliciously tangy sticky ribs!

messy pile of sticky sweet and sour ribs

Many people associate Asian rib recipes with beef short ribs or pork spare ribs (loin ribs). I’m not exactly sure why, but there are very few Asian recipes that call for pork baby back ribs.

Generally, beef ribs tend to be more expensive than pork, so my first choice is usually pork. For example, pork loin ribs are used in my Instant Pot recipe for coconut curry ribs. Because I prefer the flavor of baby backs a bit more than spare ribs, I’m using them in today’s slow cooker recipe.

Sweet and Sour Ribs

Cuisine: Asian / Chinese

Asian cuisine is a fantastic experience for our taste buds! Some Asian chefs try to use as many different tastes as possible in a single dish.

With sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami as options, you can enjoy delicious meals like sweet and sour sticky ribs, Szechuan pork, or spicy sweet kung pao Asian chicken meatballs.

detailed map of china and surrounding countries

Preparation: Slow Cooker

Difficulty: Easy 🥄

Description: Tender pork back ribs with a sticky sweet and sour glaze seasoned with chiles and Chinese five spice.

green silicone basting brush applying sauce to meat on baking sheet

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Pork ribs– I use baby back ribs but any pork ribs may be used.
  • Chinese five spice– I have a Chinese five spice recipe that’s easy to make, or you can buy the spice blend in almost any grocery store.
  • Apricot jam– There are plenty of substitutes for apricot jam. Any sweet fruit jam would be fine, or you could use duck sauce or even orange marmalade.
  • Ketchup– If you want a ketchup substitute, an equal amount of either tomato passata or puree with a pinch of white sugar added will work great.
  • Soy sauce– Feel free to use a low sodium variety or or tamari sauce, which is not only lower in salt, but also a good gluten free substitute for soy sauce.
  • Gochujang sauce– This is the most popular Asian chili sauce. If you can’t find it, you can use any spicy chili sauce or paste of your preference.
  • Rice vinegar– Also known as rice wine vinegar, this ingredient adds the sour flavor to the sauce on the sweet and sour ribs. Good substitutes include white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and champagne vinegar.
sweet and sour baby back ribs

Recipe Notes

  1. Keep the membrane attached. Don’t remove the membrane from the back of the ribs, as it helps prevent the rack from falling completely apart during cooking. The membrane is edible but a little chewy if it’s left on. Otherwise, it’s really easy to remove after the ribs are cooked.
  2. Oven cooking sweet and sour ribs: If you don’t want to make slow cooker ribs, you can use your oven! Wrap the pork in foil and cook in the oven for about 90 minutes at 375°F. Or, use the slow cooker setting on an Instant Pot and follow the instructions as written in the recipe card below.
  3. Broil for crispy pork ribs. If you like those crisp edges on oven cooked ribs, you’ll want to put the slow cooked ribs onto a baking sheet and broil them for a couple of minutes before serving.
  4. Refrigerate leftovers and use within 4-5 days. For longer storage, they freeze well for a few months. (Instructions on freezing below)
cutting apart sweet and sour ribs on white parchment paper

Sweet and Sour Ribs FAQ

Can you freeze cooked ribs?

Yes, cooked baby back ribs keep well in the freezer for 3 or 4 months. Just let them cool to room temperature before you freeze them. To prevent freezer burn, double wrap them in aluminum foil.

What’s the best way to reheat baby back ribs?

No matter how they’re initially cooked, ribs have a tendency to dry out in the refrigerator. The best way to reheat them is at a very low temperature, either on a grill/smoker or in the oven. Set the oven or grill to 225°F and reheat for about 30 minutes.

To help keep them moist, wrap them in foil and add a small amount of water or extra sauce over the cooked ribs before wrapping them. Also, be sure to bring the meat to room temperature before reheating

piles of saucy baby back ribs on parchment paper
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messy pile of sticky sweet and sour ribs

Sweet and Sour Ribs

Sticky sweet and sour ribs are dry-rubbed and basted in spicy, tangy Chinese flavors, then slow-cooked until melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Servings: 4
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 4 hours 10 minutes
Total: 4 hours 15 minutes


  • 3 lbs babyback ribs (See Note 1)

Dry Rub

Basting Sauce

  • 1/2 cup apricot jam
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Gochujang paste
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar (See Note 2)
  • cilantro for garnish chopped


  • In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, ginger, salt, white pepper and Chinese Five Spice powder. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the dry rub for the wet basting sauce.
  • In another bowl whisk together the jam, catsup, soy sauce, Gochujang paste, vinegar and teaspoon of reserved dry rub spices. Set aside.
  • Keep the membrane on the back of the ribs so they hold together while in the slow cooker. Rub the dry rub on both sides of the ribs.
  • Coat the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray and arrange ribs along sides and bottom, meaty side facing down. Cook on High for 4 hours.
  • Carefully remove ribs from slow cooker and with a sharp knife pull off and remove back membrane on ribs. Place meaty side up on a wire rack in a lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Brush with sauce and broil 5 minutes. Baste and continue to broil another 5 minutes. Serve with remaining sauce and chopped cilantro as garnish.


  1. Keep the membrane on the back of the ribs so they hold together while in the slow cooker.
  2. Apple cider, red or white wine vinegar may be substituted for the rice vinegar, but add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar to the sauce mixture as well if substituting.


Calories: 593kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 148mg | Sodium: 1728mg | Potassium: 675mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 186IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 85mg | Iron: 3mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!


I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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  1. Hi there! Is 4 hours enough time for the ribs to be moist and tender? will they be tender to eat off the bone? And if I’m using a traditional slow cooker not an IP would I set it on LOW or HIGH for 4 hours?

    1. That would be 4 hours on High in a slow cooker Kasey. Made them again last night just to be sure I didn’t make an error! Tasty, tasty! 🙂

  2. Hi! I’m making these today, but I’m confused about the “wet-basting.” You don’t provide specific instructions about making the wet-baste, or how to use it.

    Am I wet-basting AFTER the ribs come out of the slow cooker and go into the oven?

    Is the wet-baste separate from the sauce component?

    I’m sorry – I wish I were more experienced at barbeque, and I could figure this out. I’m not, and thus the confusion.


    1. I’ve updated the recipe card for clarity Morgana. Hope this helps! First the ribs get rubbed with the dry rub and cooked in to the IP. Then they get basted with wet sauce when put under the broiler. Does that make sense?

    2. Hi there – I think I didn’t read the recipe to completion, or attentively enough. As I was making the recipe, I realized it was all very clear. I might have been confused because I made the Five-spice rub recipe first, and had the two recipes mushing around in my brain.