Slow Cooker Ribs

Super tender and easy to make, these Slow Cooker Ribs will have you reaching for seconds. Let the slow cooker do all the hard work for you and and by dinner time, you’ll have fall-off-the-bone flavourful ribs ready. 

Thanks to the slow cooker, these ribs are so tender. While it might be fun for some to spend all day smoking or grilling ribs, using the slow cooker to make your ribs is a super easier and hands off method. I recently shared how to make delicious ribs in the Instant Pot  and How to Make Oven Baked Ribs but since not everyone has one, I thought I’d share how to make ribs in a slow cooker.

Slow cooker ribs on a sheet pan.

With game day coming up, I’ll bet you’ll love to enjoy these ribs for dinner. Since there’s usually a bunch of things to prepare beforehand (hello snacks!) and I’d much rather be watching the TV than running around in the kitchen, the slow cooker is the perfect kitchen tool. Everything goes in either 7-8 hours or 4-5 hours and once it’s time to eat, I don’t have to miss any of the game! They’re the best stress-free game day meal.

Want more delicious slow cooker recipes? Try my Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe, Easy Whole30 Pumpkin Chili Recipe, Healthy Slow Cooker Beef Stew, or my Slow Cooker Italian Sausage and Peppers.

How Long to Cook Ribs in a Slow Cooker

Here is the cooking time to cook baby back ribs.

  • Slow cooker ribs on low: It’ll cook for about 7-9 hours – Ribs are tender and fall apart in your hands.
  • Slow cooker ribs on high: It’ll need to cook for about 4-5 hours – Ribs are soft and they’ll melt in your mouth.

What Ribs Do I Buy for Slow Cooker Ribs?

My two favorite types of ribs are:

  • Spare ribs: These ribs have more fat than the baby back ribs but they’re bigger/longer, so they probably feed more people. 
  • Baby back ribs: These ribs have more meat, they’re very tender and are less fatty compared to spare ribs which come from the pork’s belly instead of the loins.

If you can’t find baby back ribs, you can use the other types as the cooking method is the same and this recipe will turn out amazing with either type of pork ribs.

What is Liquid Smoke and Why Do I Need It?

Liquid smoke is a natural product made from condensing the smoke from burning wood into a bottle. It is available for purchase at any grocery store, if you can’t find it, it’s also available online. Liquid smoke gives your ribs that smoky flavour to it without having to smoke it all day in a smoker.

How to Remove Membrane from Ribs Before Cooking

To prepare the ribs to be cooked, we always remove the membrane. You’ll see in the photo below that the membrane very thin and located on the back of the ribs. It’s important to remove it to make your ribs easier to eat, much more flavourful and give the ribs a tough texture.

  1. Slide a butter knife under the membrane and over a bone.
  2. Then, just lift and loosen the membrane until it tears.
  3. Grip the membrane and pull it off.

Membrane of the ribs being removed.

How to Make Ribs in the Slow Cooker

Ingredients

  • Baby back pork ribs
  • Beef broth
  • Liquid smoke 
  • Onion
  • Sugar-free Barbecue Sauce — or your favourite store-bought sauce.
  • For the rub: garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, cracked black pepper, cumin, and chili.

Instructions

Set of two photos, one showing the spices needed to make the slow cooker ribs dry rub and the spices being mixed together.

Prepare the Ribs for the Slow Cooker

  • Peel off tough membrane on the back of the ribs.
  • In a small bowl, mix together garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, black pepper, cumin and chili powder.
  • Sprinkle seasoning and rub it all over the ribs (on all the sides). You want to really get in there and make sure the ribs are covered all over.
  • In a large measuring cup, pour beef broth and liquid smoke and stir well to combine. Pour the liquid inside of the slow cooker.

A set of two photos, one showing liquid smoke and a measuring cup of beef broth. The second photo showing the two mixed together.

Add the Ribs to the Slow Cooker

  • Place the ribs in the slow cooker and top with sliced onions.
  • Cover with lid and cook on low setting for 7-8 hours or high setting for 4-5 hours.

Set of two photos: raw ribs being covered in dry rub and then placed in a slow cooker with sliced onions.

Broil the Ribs

  • When ribs are tender and falling apart, transfer onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.
  • Set the oven to broil (grill). Transfer the cooked ribs onto the prepared baking sheet, then brush with barbecue sauce.
  • Place in the oven for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

Close up of a rack of cooked slow cooker ribs.

Slow Cooker Ribs Recipe Tips

  • With the slow cooker, we give a range so you decide just how tender you want your ribs to be! If you want the ribs meat to be tender but stay on the bone, cook it for 7 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH. If you want the meat to be literally falling off the bones and melt in your mouth, cook it for 8 hours on LOW or 5 hours on HIGH.
  • Do not open the lid while the slow cooker is cooking your ribs. Since it takes a long time for the slow cooker to build up heat, when you open the lid to peak inside, the heat escapes and your slow cooker will have to rebuild the heat. This means your ribs might not be as tender by the end of your cook time.
  • Feel free to use a slow cooker liner to make clean up easier.
  • Leftover ribs can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Leftover ribs can also be frozen. Allow the ribs to cool to room temperature before transferring them into an airtight bag or container. Freeze the cooked ribs for up to three months and when ready to enjoy, thaw the frozen cooked ribs overnight in the fridge before reheating.

What Can I Serve with These Slow Cooker Ribs?

Some of my favourite side dishes to serve with my Slow Cooker ribs are:

A close up of ribs on a wooden cutting board

Slow Cooker Ribs

Super tender and easy to make, these Slow Cooker Ribs will have you reaching for seconds. Let the slow cooker do all the hard work for you and and by dinner time, you'll have fall-off-the-bone flavourful ribs ready. 
5 from 2 votes

Ingredients

For the ribs

For the Rub

Instructions

  • First, peel off the membrane on the back of the ribs by sliding a dull knife under the membrane and over a bone. Then, just lift and loosen the membrane until it tears. Grip the membrane and pull it off.
  • In a small glass bowl, mix together garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, black pepper, cumin and chili powder. Sprinkle seasoning and rub it front and back of the ribs.
  • In a large measuring cup, pour beef broth and liquid smoke and stir well to combine. Pour the liquid inside of the slow cooker.
  • Place the ribs in the slow cooker and top with sliced onions.
  • Cover with lid and cook on low setting for 7-8 hours or high setting for 4-5 hours.
  • When ribs are tender and falling apart, transfer onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.
  • Set the oven to broil (grill). Transfer the cooked ribs onto the prepared baking sheet, then brush with barbecue sauce.
  • Place in the oven for about 2-3 minutes. Enjoy!
Serving: 1/2, Calories: 762kcal, Carbohydrates: 10g, Protein: 42g, Fat: 59g, Saturated Fat: 18g, Sodium: 1562mg, Potassium: 280mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 4g

If you make this recipe, follow @primaverakitchen on Instagram, snap a photo and hashtag it #primaverakitchen. I'd love to see what you're making!

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collage of ribs photos with a text that says \"slow cooker ribs\"