Instant Pot Chinese-Style Spareribs (Char Siu)

While growing up, it wouldn’t be a complete Chinese take-out meal in the Eisner household if there wasn’t a red, foil-lined bag filled with huge, juicy spare ribs in a sweet, savory and smokey sauce. This Cantonese version of barbecue ribs is known as char siu-style (or Chinese-style spareribs). This completely sensational and simple recipe will have you making my version of this sauce with accessible ingredients but you can save more time and buy it pre-made (see Jeff’s Tips) – which will also make the recipe only 3 ingredients!

Chinese spareribs (Char Siu)
Trivet in Instant Pot
Don’t believe me how easy this is to make? Just watch. Place the trivet in the Instant Pot…
Baby back ribs coiled in instant pot
…coil a rack (or 2-3) of baby back or St. Louis ribs and have it rest sideways on the trivet (no need to remove the membrane from the ribs)…
Apple juice in Instant Pot
…and pour in some apple juice. THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO DO prior to pressure cooking! Secure the lid and cook at high pressure.
Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, honey, sesame oil, Shaoxing wine OR sherry, soy sauce, dark brown sugar and Chinese five spice.
Meanwhile, it’s time to make that Char Siu sauce! Take some hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, honey, sesame oil, Shaoxing wine OR sherry, soy sauce (you can also use tamari or coconut aminos), dark brown sugar and Chinese five spice.
Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, honey, sesame oil, Shaoxing wine OR sherry, soy sauce, dark brown sugar and Chinese five spice in a mixing bowl.
Add them to a mixing bowl…
Whisking ingredients into sauce
…and whisk until combined.
Adding red food dye to sauce
Traditionally, this sauce has a deep red color, so to achieve that simply add a little red food coloring to the mix…
Whisking untol color is dark red
…and PRESTO! Homemade Char Siu sauce! (NOTE: You can skip making this sauce completely by buying a bottled Char Siu sauce from an asian market or online).
Removing finished ribs with tongs
When done, the ribs are going to be very tender! I find it best to take two sets of tongs to transfer them to a carving board or baking sheet (but you can use any utensils that work for you – just be careful!)
Placing ribs on baking sheet with wire rack
I know. The ribs don’t exactly look pretty right now. But that’s all going to change in just a moment as they will look stunning in a matter of minutes. Now you can either transfer the ribs on a cutting board or, what I strongly suggest to give it that unmistakable slightly charred edge finish, turn your oven to broil and place them on a baking sheet (I like resting them on top of a wire rack sitting on the sheet – but you don’t have to do that – you can just play it with parchment paper).
Brushing char siu sauce onto ribs
Whether you chose the board or baking sheet, take the Char Siu sauce and use a brush to slather it on the ribs very generously.
Brushing char siu sauce onto ribs
Bring out your inner Bob Ross and paint those ribs with deliciousness! Now if you’re ready to eat them now and opt out of that suggested broiled finish, you’re ready to slice and eat.
Placing ribs in oven
But if you’re willing to take the extra 5 minutes, pop it in that pre-heated oven (NOTE: Keep a close eye on it as all ovens vary and we want it slightly charred but not burnt to a crisp).
Ribs looking beautiful with roasted edges out of the oven
Once it looks like this, it’s done! Just look at that end result with those beautiful edges – Putting the “char” in Char Siu! It looks just like how you’d get it at your favorite Chinese joint!
Broiled ribs on cutting board
Now place the ribs on a cutting board…
Brushing char siu sauce onto ribs
…generously brush them with additional sauce…
Slicing ribs with a knife
And slice between the bones into individual, meaty ribs!
Brushing char siu sauce onto sliced ribs
Once sliced feel free to brush even more of the sauce onto the sides of the ribs…
Topping ribs with sesame seeds
…and give it an optional dusting of sesame seeds for a grand finish!
Man showing rib
Now comes the best part: feasting! Grab a rib…
Man eating rib
…sink your teeth into the tenderness…
Man looking happy and satisfied
…and I think this photo says it all. Folks, it doesn’t get easier or pleasier than this!
Hankering for traditional BBQ ribs? I’ve got those here!
Yield: 6-8

Instant Pot Chinese-Style Spareribs (Char Siu)

Instant Pot Chinese-Style Spareribs (Char Siu)

While growing up, it wouldn’t be a complete Chinese take-out meal in the Eisner household if there wasn’t a red, foil-lined bag filled with huge, juicy spare ribs in a sweet, savory and smokey sauce. This Cantonese version of barbecue ribs is known as char siu-style (or Chinese-style spareribs). This completely sensational and simple recipe will have you making my version of this sauce with accessible ingredients but you can save more time and buy it pre-made (see Jeff’s Tips) - which will also make the recipe only 3 ingredients!

Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

The Ribs

  • 2-6 pounds (up to 3 full racks) of St. Louis ribs (suggested), spareribs OR baby back ribs (pork loin back ribs), unseasoned
  • 1 (64-ounce) bottle of apple juice (NOTE: You can halve this or even reduce to only 2 cups. If you use more, the ribs will be more infused with sweetness but will take a bit longer to come to pressure)
  • Sesame seeds, for topping (optional)

The Char Siu Sauce (for up to 2 racks of ribs – half or double if needed. See Jeff's Tips):

  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or sherry
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (any kind)
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five spice
  • ¼ teaspoon red food coloring (optional, strictly for color)

Instructions

  1. Bend each rack of ribs you’re using into a coil so they fit in the liner pot, resting against the perimeter of the pot. A 6-quart should be able to handle up to 2 racks of ribs, while the 8-quart can handle 3 full racks. The 3-quart maybe be able to fit 1 rack. If you wish to cut each rack in half before inserting for easier removal when cooked (they’ll be super tender), feel free to do so. Add the apple juice to the pot.
  2. Secure the lid, move the valve to the sealing position, hit Cancel and then hit Manual or Pressure Cook on High Pressure for 30 minutes for 5-6 pounds/1.5-3 racks of ribs OR 25 minutes for 2-4 pounds/1 rack. When done, allow a 5-minute natural release followed by a quick release. (NOTE: If you’re adding the entire bottle of apple juice you add to the pot, it may take up to 20-30 minutes to come to pressure. To that point, if it splatters while releasing because of all the juices, no big deal. Just throw a dish towel over the nozzle to keep the splatter at bay).
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the Char Siu Sauce ingredients until combined. Set aside.
  4. The ribs will be super tender. Use either two sets of tongs, serving forks or one of each to carefully transfer them from the pot to a baking sheet with wire racks on top or lined with parchment paper, bone-side down. (Don’t stress if the rack splits in half - it’s totally fine).
  5. Generously brush the Char Siu sauce all over the tops of the ribs until fully coated. They should be super saucy!
  6. For A (Strongly Suggested) Caramelized Finish: Pop the tray with the ribs in a preheated oven on broil and let roast for 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it as all ovens vary. The sauce will caramelize onto the ribs, giving it a slightly charred edge. When done, remove the ribs from the oven and generously brush more sauce onto them.
  7. Top with the optional sesame seeds. Using a sharp knife, slice the rack of ribs in between each bone (saucing the edges, if desired). Grab lots of napkins and enjoy!

Jeffrey's Tips

While I love my version of Char Siu sauce, if you don't wish to make your own and to save on some time and ingredients, you can simply use a jarred Char Siu sauce instead, found online or many markets.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Rick

    At age 75 with full dentures, I just now tasted the best adult Baby Food in the entire marketplace! These Chinese Spareribs (with just 3 ingredients) are delicious beyond any words Jeffrey, but Thank You is a good start.

  2. Steve C

    I made these for my wife and she loved them. Excellent recipe and I am thankful for Jeffrey’s hard work and sharing this.

  3. Jane

    Perfect main course for entertaining guests. Super easy and super delicious. I did use 64 Oz of apple juice, and brought the instant pot outside when I released the pressure in case I had “old Faithful” spewing from lid. No photo tik toc moment, with only a small amount of spitting easily collected with a towel. This recipe is a keeper.

  4. Jeanne

    These ribs were easy and DELICIOUS! Thanks for sharing the secret to the universe: Instapot Chinese restaurant style ribs.

  5. Margie

    I made this recipe. Ordered char siu sauce online. Came out perfect and so easy. Looked just like yours and tasted delicious. Thank you, Jeffrey, for all your recipes and great cookbooks.

    • Dee Dee

      Always meat side against the pot. They will curl that direction naturally. You’d probably be fighting them if you tried it the other way.

  6. Donna

    Hello Jeff..(In our house known as uncle Jeff here in Australia ),
    Love to have your help.
    I really want to make your Chinese style spareribs (Char siu) but I don’t eat pork. Will the other ingredients still work with beef? 🤞🤞.
    Many T’s Donna.

  7. Jane

    Ooooohhh, I have to get some more ribs to do this! This looks so good. Hubs won’t even ATTEMPT to make ribs another way, lol.
    And if people complain about the way you look, just hold up the hand and tell them to look the other way! I think you look just fine. 🙂

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