Dr Pepper and chipotle are an obvious match for ribs. The deep, plummy caramel of the soda and the smoky spice of the chile just need a hit of acid to become a unique, yet oh-so-familiar, barbecue-style sauce for pork ribs. I’m not the first to slather these Texas-favorite ingredients on a rack—a quick online search will yield dozens of recipes. But those recipes often require hours of braising or slow cooking in the oven before you can even think of hitting the grill.
Enter the Instant Pot. By braising the ribs under pressure, you can cut a process usually requiring several hours down to just ten minutes. I’ll warn you: This recipe takes a bit longer than most Instant Pot recipes. You have to marinate the ribs—ideally overnight, but at least four hours—because they’re cooked vertically. If you just slather the marinade on right before they go in, it will just slide right off. With advance soaking, the marinade can penetrate into the meat.
You’re also going to have to reduce the sauce because you’ll need to use two cans of Dr Pepper, enough to really soak the ribs and provide enough sugar for a syrupy sauce. You can do that in the Instant Pot on the sauté function, but it takes about a half-hour.
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Both of those advance steps can be done up to two days ahead of time, so that you’ve got grill-ready ribs by the time friends and family show up for a cookout. And if it cuts down on oven time in the already-pretty-hot Texas spring, well, that’s a great thing.
Another quick note: I used baby back ribs because they’re not as wide as St. Louis-style, which means they fit better in the Instant Pot when cooked vertically. You can try St. Louis-style if you like.
Dr Pepper Chipotle Ribs
2 racks of baby back ribs, about 2 pounds each
1 3.5-ounce can chipotle in adobo sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 12-ounce cans Dr Pepper
Remove the membrane from the underside of the rack of ribs: Use a sharp paring knife to peel back a corner of it, then you should be able to pull it off. You can also ask a butcher to do this for you at the store.
Combine the entire can of chipotle in adobo, soy sauce, mustard, garlic powder, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper in a blend. Blend until smooth. Pour over the racks of ribs, making sure the meat is coated entirely. Marinate, covered in the refrigerator, for at least four hours or overnight.
Place the ribs and their marinade in the Instant Pot with the bones aligned vertically: one rack lining the edge, and one rack coiled inside it. Add the Dr Pepper. Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes and release the pressure manually.
Remove the ribs to a baking sheet so they can cool flat. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sauce down the sides of the pot. Carefully use a large spoon to skim the fat off the surface of the sauce. Set the Instant Pot to the sauté function to reduce the sauce into a thick syrup, about half an hour. Note: The ribs can be prepared up to this point 2-3 days ahead. Keep covered in the refrigerator, and continue to next step when ready to serve. If the sauce becomes very thick when cooled, heat it slightly in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove to loosen it up.
Prepare a grill to medium heat. Grill the ribs directly over the fire on both sides, brushing with the sauce as you flip them, until heated through and slightly charred, 5-7 minutes. Let cool slightly so you don’t burn your hands when you touch them. Cut into individual ribs and serve with the remaining sauce on the side.