Instant Pot Better-Than-Takeout Chinese BBQ Spareribs

Hand in the cookie jar? Nope….more like hand in the take-out bag. As inadvisable and messy as it sounds, the one take-out item I can never resist sneaking on the drive home is chinese spareribs! These savory, spice-filled morsels of deliciousness are so mouthwateringly good, I just can’t resist. So for the good of my family (who always end up a few ribs short) and the good of my vehicle upholstery, I present to you these Instant Pot (get yours here: Better-Than-Takeout Chinese BBQ Spareribs.

If you’ve lived in any area with a large Asian population, you’ve probably seen shop windows full of brightly colored savory meats. This meat preparation, called “char siu,” is of Cantonese origin. It is traditionally seasoned with honey, five-spice powder, red fermented bean curd, hoisin sauce and red food coloring. These seasonings turn the exterior layer of the meat dark red, similar to the “smoke ring” of American BBQ. However, unlike American BBQ, there is no smoke flavor because the meat traditionally roasted.

In this preparation, the Instant Pot does the heavy lifting of tenderizing and flavoring the meat, with the crispy exterior achieved via a quick trip through the broiler at the end. This recipe make s big batch, which you won’t regret once everyone starts coming back for seconds…and thirds!

Pro Tip: Spareribs are not the same as baby back ribs. Spareribs are more uniform in shape, meatier and more flavorful if cooked properly. Your store may also carry them as “St. Louis Style”.

You won’t regret once everyone starts coming back for seconds…and thirds!


Sauce Mixture:

  • 3 tbsp grated fresh ginger (or ginger paste)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 tsp chinese 5-spice powder
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp red food coloring (optional, but more authentic looking)


  • 2 racks St. Louis-style spareribs (2 ½ – 3 lbs each), cut into individual ribs
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil


  1. Add Sauce Mixture ingredients to the pot and whisk to combine. Add ribs and toss to coat.
  2. Secure the lid, making sure the vent is closed.
  3. Using the display panel select the MANUAL function*. Use the +/- keys and program the Instant Pot for 8 minutes.
  4. When the time is up, let the pressure naturally release for 15 minutes, then quick-release the remaining pressure.
  5. Carefully remove the ribs from the pot to a large bowl and cover loosely with foil, reserving juices.
  6. Strain cooking liquid to remove solids (press solids to extract as much flavor as possible). Discard solids.
  7. Use a fat separator or spoon to skim fat from the liquid mixture. Discard fat.
  8. Return braising liquid to the pot and add sesame oil. Select the SAUTE function and adjust to MORE or HIGH. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a glaze, about 2 1/2 cups (20-25 minutes).
  9. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Set a wire rack over a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Pour 1/2 cup water in baking sheet (helps to prevent smoking).
  10. Coat half the ribs in the glaze and arrange on the rack, bone-side up. Roast 5-7 minutes, then flip and roast an additional 5-7 minutes until well-caramelized. Transfer to serving dish and repeat with remaining ribs.
  11. Serve, passing remaining glaze as a dipping sauce.

*The MANUAL and PRESSURE COOK buttons are interchangeable.