These slow cooker pork ribs are fall-off-the-bone delicious! The slow cooker makes them incredibly tender and moist, and the honey balsamic glaze just doesn’t need an explanation. Does it?? They are SO easy to make! Originally published June 5, 2018.

a rack of pork topped with honey balsamic glaze

Today is the primary election in California and I realized that I accidentally threw away my mail-in ballot. In an effort to keep my house clutter free, I’ve become ruthless in the past few years when it comes to throwing stuff away. I don’t know who I think I am throwing away my voting ballot, but I’ll blame it on the pre-vacation cleaning frenzy.

You know, the crazy eyes cleaning where everything has to be spotless before you leave? (Click that link, you will die laughing)

I have a friend who told me that her mom would clean for HOURS before they left for a vacation. She has a memory of everyone (all 6 kids) being in the car while her mom was in the house doing some last minute tidying, except she wasn’t just rinsing the breakfast dishes or something, she was on her hands and knees cleaning the grout in the entryway tile.

I’m sure Eric held up the voting ballots the day we left for our trip and said, “hey we should vote” and I went something like, “WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT NONSENSE, THROW IT AWAY AND START SCRUBBING THE GROUT!!”

overhead of a chunk of pork rib on a plate with coleslaw

Also I totally feel like Meg Ryan on You’ve Got Mail. Remember when she admits to her boyfriend that on election day, she went to get a manicure and forgot to vote? He’s like, “I forgive you.” and Meg’s like, “You FORGIVE ME??”

Don’t worry, I can’t actually NOT vote. I don’t have enough Meg Ryan in me. I’ll have to make it over to a voting center somewhere today, which will be loads of fun I’m sure. Wish me luck!

At least I’ll have these ribs to come home to! These AMAZING slow cooker pork ribs are from my friend Natalie’s new cookbook, The Big Book of Paleo Slow Cooking. Natalie’s blog is called Perry’s Plate, and I’ve been following her since forever! She’s so talented.

I don’t eat Paleo, but I do love cooking with fresh ingredients. I’ve gone through a few of my grandma’s old slow cooker books and almost all of them have some kind of cream-of-soup in them. I’m not a huge stickler about it (let’s be honest, cream of chicken soup is kind of amazing) but I don’t want to eat it every time I use my slow cooker!

​​Natalie has lots of options for healthy slow cooker meals that are KILLER. I tried a sweet potato curry that was also delicious, and I’m trying the Strawberry Balsamic Chicken next!! This book would actually be a really nice Father’s Day gift, if you have a guy who likes to cook. There are a lot of manly meat recipes.

Enter these Honey Balsamic Pork Ribs. Not a can of soup in sight. This is a great recipe for when you want a killer, guest-worthy meal for almost zero effort.

The Secret to these Tender Pork Ribs in Crock Pot

Well, it won’t be a secret anymore after you try this recipe, but that’s okay. Because this recipe is too good to keep to myself.

First, we brine the ribs so they can absorb all that flavor, then we cook them on low in the crockpot for ultra tender meat. We’ll finish the ribs by broiling them with a super flavorful glaze in the oven for that crispy, caramelized finish.

Ingredients for Ribs in Crock Pot

The full recipe is at the bottom of the post! Here are the basics though:

  • Full rack of pork ribs
  • Lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Dijon mustard
  • Garlic
  • Onion powder
  • Dried thyme
  • Black pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar and honey (for the glaze!)

What kind of ribs should I use for slow cooker ribs?

I’ve had the best results in the slow cooker with a full rack of spare or back ribs, but other kinds will work as well. At your grocery store or butcher, spare ribs might be called side ribs, St. Louis ribs, or Kansas City ribs, but they’re all the same thing. Back ribs are sometimes labeled as baby back ribs, loin ribs, or Canadian back ribs–again, just different names for the same cut of pork. 

Whatever you use, make sure it’s a full rack so it cooks at the proper rate. We want fall-apart tender, not over-cooked or under-cooked!

How to cook ribs in a Crock Pot

I was super excited to try these slow cooker pork ribs, and they did not disappoint. Honey balsamic is just such a fabulous flavor combination! The ribs get SO TENDER in the slow cooker. I had never actually made pork ribs in the slow cooker before this recipe (I know, who am I?? I usually do oven, then grill, like for Nana’s Famous Ribs), but I’m a huge fan. Such a good way to get some summer-lovin food without even venturing outside to the grill, where there is no air conditioning.

slow cooker ribs being brushed with glaze

The best part about the recipe is that after they have slow cooked all day, you brush them with glaze and crisp the edges in the broiler. It gives them that perfect sticky outer edge. Then you douse them with more glaze at the table. Give me all the glaze!

Can you cook ribs in a slow cooker without liquid?

The liquid is here to do an important job: make sure the slow cooker ribs stay nice and moist! No liquid and a long, slow cook time will just dry meat out or even burn it. You don’t want too much liquid though, then your ribs are boiling instead of braising. Just a little bit of liquid is perfect.

How long do ribs take to cook in a crock pot?

These pork ribs hang out in the crock pot on low for anywhere from 5-6 hours. I don’t recommend cooking on high for a shorter period of time, because you won’t get that same fall-apart tender texture. These ribs are worth planning ahead for!

How long is too long to slow cook ribs?

Although it is difficult to over-cook ribs in the slow cooker, it is definitely possible. To check if your ribs are ready, lift a section with a pair of tongs. If the meat starts to crack on the surface when you lift it and feels close to breaking, your work is done here. You can also check the internal temperature of the ribs with a meat thermometer to see if they’ve reached about 190-200 degrees F. Hotter than that and they’ll start to get tough.

closeup of slow cooker spare ribs garnished with fresh herbs

What to Serve with Crockpot Pork Ribs

I served this with My Favorite Coleslaw and Literally the Best Mac and Cheese. Summer just has the BEST side dishes, right??

But let’s not limit ourselves here. You can also serve these ribs with Cheesy Mashed Potatoes, Bacon Baked Beans, Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes, or basically any side dishes our little heart desires!

Storing & Reheating Slow Cooker Ribs

Leftover ribs (IF they didn’t all get devoured!) will last covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 2-3 months. 

To reheat, thaw the ribs in the fridge if frozen, then place into a pan and cover it tightly with foil. Warm the ribs at 250ºF in the oven until heated through. Keep the temperature low to keep the meat nice and tender. If you have leftover glaze, use that (or make more!) to add some extra moisture and flavor to the ribs.

slow cooker pork ribs being brushed with honey balsamic glaze

Slow Cooker Ribs Recipe FAQ

Can you cook frozen ribs in a crock pot?

Seems like a time saver, but don’t give in to temptation! If you cook ribs from frozen in a crockpot, they will go from frozen to thawed to cooked WAY too fast. They will turn out rubbery and just no. We want to cook these ribs low and slow, so that they are juicy and tender.  Make sure to  thaw frozen ribs  overnight in the fridge before cooking!

Can you overcook ribs in the crock pot?

YES! Don’t leave them in there all day. Once the temperature of the meat reaches about 190-200 degrees, put a fork in em, they are done. If you cook them longer than this, your meat will get dried out and tough. 

Why are my slow cooker ribs tough?

If your crockpot ribs come out tough, they could be over-cooked OR they could be under-cooked.

So how do you know which one it is? If the meat hasn’t had long enough to cook, it will be rubbery and hard to chew. If the meat cooks too long, it can dry out and become tough or burned, even though it might be falling off the bone. 

To ensure your hard work pays off in the form of tender, perfectly cooked ribs, check the ribs after 5 hours of cooking on low to see if the internal temperature has reached 190-200ºF. If they’re not there yet, leave in for another hour at a time until the ribs are done.

How do you keep ribs moist in a slow cooker?

We’re doing a couple of things to make sure this slow cooker ribs recipe yields the most tender and moist ribs.

First, use water! Before you cook, pour ¼ cup of water into the bottom of the slow cooker. This will create a humid environment, keeping the meat moist and preventing the bottom from burning.

Second, cook the ribs on low heat. High heat has the potential of over-cooking the outside of the ribs before the inside is cooked all the way through, leading to a nightmare combination of ribs that are raw and charred at the same time. Thank u, next.

Should you sear ribs before slow cooking?

You can, but with this recipe there’s no need! Instead of searing the ribs beforehand, we’re broiling them in the oven topped with the glaze for a couple of minutes after they cook in the crockpot. This gives them that perfect crisped, caramelized exterior–no searing necessary!

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Crockpot Pork Ribs with Honey Balsamic Glaze

4.72 from 7 votes
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 6 hrs
Total: 6 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 4
These slow cooker Honey Balsamic Ribs are fall-off-the-bone delicious! The slow cooker makes them incredibly tender and moist, and the honey balsamic glaze just doesn’t need an explanation. Does it?? They are SO easy to make!

Ingredients

For the ribs

  • 1 rack spare ribs, full rack of spare or back ribs, about 2 to 3 lbs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 large lemon
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water

For the glaze

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey

Instructions

  • In a 6-quart or larger slow cooker that has not been turned on, add the ribs. Cut and layer as necessary to get them to fit.
  • In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoons dijon mustard, 6 cloves minced garlic, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 teaspoon thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
  • Use your hands to rub the mixture into the ribs, top and bottom and all over.
  • Place the lid on the turned off crockpot and let the ribs sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  •  After 30 minutes, add 1/4 cup water to the bottom of the slow cooker. Try not to wash the rub off of the ribs, add the water near the edge.
  • Turn the crock pot on and turn the heat to low. Cook for 5-6 hours. The meat should be tender and shred easily with a fork. The internal temperature should have reached 190-200 degrees F.
  • Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Transfer the ribs to the baking sheet.
  • Make the glaze: Pour 1 and 1/4 cups of the cooking juices from the crock pot into a small saucepan and set over medium high heat. Add 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup honey. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer and bubble actively for 6-8 minutes, until the glaze has thickened and looks syrupy. It should coat the back of a spoon.
  • Preheat your broiler to high heat and move the oven rack to the top, so that it’s just a few inches away from the heat source.
  • Brush some of the glaze over the ribs. Broil in the oven for 2-3 minutes. Brush the ribs again with the glaze, rotate the pan, and return to the broiler. Broil for another 2-3 minutes. Don’t walk away! Set a timer! Can you imagine burning your ribs at this point after waiting this long??? All the tears.
  • Serve ribs hot with the extra glaze!

Notes

Make sure to use fresh lemon juice, not the bottled stuff! Makes a big difference!
This recipe is from my friend Natalie’s new cookbook, The Big Book of Paleo Slow Cooking. Natalie’s blog is called Perry’s Plate, and it’s awesome!

Nutrition

Calories: 735kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 53g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 19g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 182mg | Sodium: 1955mg | Potassium: 631mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 12IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Calories: 735
Keyword: Balsamic, Honey, Ribs, slow cooker
Did you make this? I’d love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

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Comments

  1. This was a perfect recipe to add my files, Iove making balsamic vinegar glazes.
    With the ribs, I put some onions and jalapenos in the crock and added a tad of chili powder.
    I made three times the glaze cause I wanted extra with some hot sauce, plus its good to have in the fridge. I cooked it for about 25 minutes came out nice and thick. I did the roasted peppers and some slaw this was excellent and awesome, The only issue, every time I open an email from a food blog, ( you are in a five-way tie for the best # 1 ) I keep forgetting the diet my Dr. put me on.

    Thank you…..

  2. Can’t wait to make these ribs.  They look delish.  Also love your zucchini recipes today.

  3. I’ve made these for years. Instead of water, I use red wine, and it is a lot better. Make sure you season the liquid too. Then layer onions and garlic slices on top of the ribs, and put a few in the wine. Cook on low for 8 hours, then broil with whatever glaze or sauce you want. Amazing!

  4. I am almost done making the glaze. It takes way more time to become syrupy and needs to be on full boil to get there. Hopefully the recipe will work otherwise.  I am frustrated right now.

    1. Hey Alice! The recipe does indeed call for a full boil, and should be bubbling for a good 6-8 minutes. I’m sorry you’re frustrated!

  5. I made it and it was quite good. Used fresh thyme (because I had some) and chicken broth (because I had some) and they were great! Cook them for the whole 6 hours for maximum tender. The glaze was good but I never get ANY of them to thicken like the recipe says. Would make this again.

    1. Hey Paul! Fresh thyme sounds amazing, great idea. The glaze on this recipe doesn’t thicken up a ton, just a little bit. You are always welcome to add more cornstarch and cold water to make it thicker. Thanks for the review!

  6. Made these a few days ago for the first time! They were so good, my hubby couldn’t get enough of them! I’ll be making these for company next, I’m sure they’ll love, love them! 
    Thank you for sharing your recipe….

    1. Hey Val, I’m so glad the recipe was a hit! Hard to go wrong with fall off the bone ribs :) Thanks so much for commenting, it’s great to hear from you!

    1. Woohoo! We always make ribs on the 4th too! Hope you had a great holiday! Thanks for the review :)

  7. One more thought . . . . I actually use my crock pot on my DECK in the summer. On one of the lovely wrought iron chairs, next to an outlet. This way the house doesn’t get heated up even a little bit! Father’s Day our high was only 76 degrees, so I kept it inside, but in July, these babies will be simmerin’ on the deck! If you have large animals, you might need to thread broomsticks through the crock pot handles, then the chair handles, to hold it in place . . .

  8. Okay, this is probably one of the TOP FOUR DISHES I have EVER made for my family!!! They loved it!!! They actually nearly finished off 3 $15 packages of baby backs!!! 8 people!!! These were just incredible!!!!!!!!! You’re right, cutting the ribs in half & stacking them in my large oval crock pot was much cooler than heating the oven all day. I’ve never used mustard in a rub before, but it was TO DIE FOR! I actually used my favorite Garlic Mustard. Heaven! This will get made over, and over, and over again! It’s our new favorite food. I love you for making me look so good. You’re a hero!

  9. I just got my mail-in ballot today! I’ll throw it away so I can be just like you!!

    Holy peppers in the background. Those look as good as the main dish. Yummmmm

    1. Bahaha yes please do and then you will have to go find an in person voting center because I know you can’t not vote either :) And yes, the peppers that I grilled alongside the Balsamic Grilled Chicken that I linked to are so delish!

  10. My husband’s bday is next week. Between that and Father’s Day, these ribs will definitely be happening. A couple of those pics made me want to pick the rib up and get allll that meat right off the bone. YUM!!!

    1. Yes that is a double whammy of manly occasions that need some ribs to happen with it ;) Ribs are meant to be eaten with your hands, get out your bib and dig in!!! Hope you love them!!

  11. I clicked the link for the crazy-eye lady – what the heck?!! Hilarious!
    I’m going to try these ribs, which I have rarely done, as I’m not so good at the bbq. You got me with your throw-away line, “…get some summer-lovin food without even venturing outside to the grill, where there is no air conditioning.” That is my criteria for food in the summer – INSIDE, where the AC is!

    1. Isn’t that video hilarious?? It’s so weird but I die laughing every time. And yes, you will love these ribs because there is no grilling required! Just turn on the slow cooker and put your feet up :) And blast the AC while you’re at it.

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