Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Slow Cooker "Hawaiian" Ribs

This is a recipe I found when I was on a gluten-free experiment last year from the blog crockpot365.blogspot.com.  If you use gluten-free soy sauce—the recipe is gluten-free.  I loved the flavor that this recipe creates (once it is modified a bit.)  The super-great thing about this recipe is that the sauce & cooking method can be used for So Many items.  For this round of the recipe, I used some beef ribs I had picked up on sale.  I usually use pork spareribs for this recipe.  Both style of ribs have their pros/cons.  

Beef ribs:  pro—the ribs stay solid when being slow cooked for so long, con-- I don’t think the meat picks up the flavor of this sauce as well.

Pork spareribs: pro—these get incredibly tender & the meat soaks up the flavor,  con—The cartilage’y bones in spareribs basically disintegrate & turn into soft rubber pieces, making eating these a little trickier, and a little more difficult to consume in front of company.  

You could also use pork babyback ribs. Pork loin or shoulder substituted in this recipe could make some delicious ‘Hawaiian” flavored pulled pork.  Perhaps serve it on the Hawaiian mini sweet rolls with some coleslaw, pickles, or grilled pineapple pieces?  Just a thought…not something I have actually tried yet. 

The night last week that I made this I served it with pineapple fried rice & sautéed green beans. The meat gets a lovely dark caramelized appearance during cooking & is ridiculously tender.

Hawaiian Slow-Cooker Ribs
Prep time: 5 minutes, Cook time: 7-9 hours in a slow cooker. Serves 4-6

Ingredient Lineup.  I used a snack pack of pineapple for this
because it was midnight on a workday when I was assembling this...
and I got lazy.  A can of pineapple is more economical...

  • 1 rack of beef ribs (can substitute 1 rack pork spareribs, 1 rack babyback ribs, 2-3 pounds boneless beef roast, or 2-3 pounds pork loin or pork roast)
  • 2/3 cups soy sauce of choice (gluten-free, low-sodium, etc)
  • 4 T. brown sugar
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 t. Chinese 5-Spice powder* (see note below)
  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice  
  • 1/2 cup pineapple tidbits
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced

1. In a small food processor or blender, pulse the soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, 5-spice, pineapple, juice & garlic until well mixed. (This step can be omitted…I’ve done it both ways, I actually didn't blend it this time preparing the recipe…and the flavor is deeper if you mix it in advance instead of layering it in the slow cooker).

2.  Cut the rack of ribs into 2-4 smaller pieces.  Layer 1 layer of ribs in the bottom of a large slow cooker, with the bones on the bottom.  Spoon 2-3 large spoons of the sauce mixture over the first layer of ribs. Add the 2nd layer of ribs & pour the remaining sauce over the top of the ribs.  
Assembled ribs.  I always get this ready the night before & let
it marinate in the fridge overnight.  Then I just pop it in the slow
cooker before I head into work.
3.  Cook on Low for 6-8 hours, or on High for 4-5 hours. If you are around home while these are cooking- move the top layer to the bottom & the bottom layer to the top about halfway through cooking.
Scene I came home to.  It's not pretty...but it's yummy.
4.  Be prepared for the meat to be SUPER tender & for it to fall off of the bone.  Have a slotted spoon on hand to remove stray chunks of meat from the cooking liquid.  Enjoy!

A brief note about Chinese 5-Spice powder.

What is it?  Chinese 5-Spice is a blend of 5 spices that are frequently used in Chinese-style cooking.  Personally, I buy mine at The Spice House (I love the freshness & quality of their spices).  You can find this in some grocery stores—if you do not find it in the regular spice/spice blend section, check the international food aisle in the Asian section.

If you can’t find it…you can always make your own.  Our friend Google will point you in the direction of a ton of different ratios for making up your own blend…but I will just copy over the one used on this recipe from Crockpot365.

Chinese 5-Spice Powder
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. crushed anise seed
¼ t. ground fennel
¼ t. ground black pepper, fine
1/8 t. ground cloves

Mix ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.


  1. I should not read the recipes at lunch time because they make me hungry! I sent this to my personal chef, I mean husband, for us to try.

  2. I hope you like it! We're big fans of this one. It's also great for busy days, since it is easy & cooks itself. :-)