It’s hard to beat these smoky, sweet, Cherry Cola Spare Ribs on a hot summer day. These spicy bites of pork hit the spot with a bold red, finger-licking barbecue sauce. Grab a roll of paper towels and invite your friends because it’s time to dig in!
Sweet Heat Cherry Cola Spare Ribs
Cooking with cola is a fun way to add sweet and spice to anything on the grill. Cherry cola has a tangy, tart profile. It really pops with a thick sauce and makes it a fun base for this recipe.
The sweet heat profile tastes particular delicious with natural flavors of smoked pork.
Today we’re keeping the rub simple with salt and pepper to let the pork shine through that tasty red glaze of cherry cola sauce.
Looking to amp up the flavor and color even more? Try using cherry wood chunks or chips to add a sharp color and boost of wood-fired flavor.
Trust us, it pairs perfectly with that sweet cherry cola bbq sauce.
Prepping the Ribs
Let’s talk about smoking these spare ribs. The cherry cola bbq sauce has a bold, spicy and tart flavor which should compliment the juicy pork.
Today we’re keeping it classic with a combination of good ol’ salt & pepper for the rub. An even coating on both sides will be enough, just make sure you can still see the pork through the spices. If you’re able to, season the pork the night before and allow them to dry-brine in the fridge on a wire rack with a baking sheet.
Now, do you remove the membrane?
This is a controversial debate, which most people tend to lean towards removing it. Do what you prefer, however for this recipe I left the membrane.
I left it on because of the type of wood-fired smoker I am using. Leaving it on will help the ribs stay a little more firm, so if you prefer the fall-off-the-bone texture they should be removed.
Simply pry the silverskin off the bones with a butter knife, paper towel, or your kung fu grip.
Sweet and Spicy Cherry Cola Sauce
Cherry cola is packed with sweet, tangy flavors and spices from the cola base. This barbecue sauce also fortifies the cherry flavor with cherry preserves, honey, soy sauce (for that salty umami), apple cider vinegar, and ketchup to thicken it.
Reduce the cherry cola in a saucepan over medium-high heat first. This concentrates the flavor and thickens the liquid, so it’s a very important step to build the barbecue sauce.
Once it has reduced by half its volume, add in the rest of the ingredients and lower the heat if possible to a simmer. Be careful, the sauce will thicken quickly so make sure to keep whisking.
Smoking and Glazing Cherry Cola Spare Ribs
It also means we don’t have to braise them until they are falling off the bone. The smoker stays at 250°F the whole time, building a nice layer of smoke in the beginning and setting the glaze at the end.
Glazing is the best part, that’s when the ribs really come alive.
After the spare ribs have been wrapped in butcher paper inside the smoker for about 45 minutes, unwrap them, and set them back inside the smoker.
Make sure the cherry cola bbq sauce isn’t too thick – add some apple cider vinegar if it is – and glaze the top of the ribs.
The last step is really optional, but adds a fun twist to the traditional ribs. That is topping them with crushed peanuts and some lime zest. Adding the texture with citrus creates a fun crunch with a bright finish.
Or, be the purist and just crush the saucy ribs as is. Dare you to try!
Cherry Cola Spare Ribs
- 3 racks of pork spare ribs
- ¼ cup Kosher salt
- ¼ cup Fine mesh black pepper
- Apple cider vinegar for spraying
- ½ cup crushed salted peanuts
- Zest of 1 lime
Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce
- 1 cup of cherry cola
- ⅓ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons of cherry preserves
- 1 ½ tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
- Prepare the spare ribs. Pat them dry with a paper towel. You may remove the thin membrane across the bones, this is personal preference. Mix the salt and pepper together, sprinkling each side of the ribs generously.
- Prepare the smoker for indirect cooking at 250°F. Once the smoke is running clean, add the spare ribs to the smoker and allow them to cook for an hour undisturbed.
- Spritz the ribs after the first hour. Continue to spritz every 45 minutes until the ribs are about 165°F temperature, around the 3 hour mark.
- Remove the ribs from the smoker. Roll out pink butcher paper and place a rack down on the paper. Give it one last good sprtiz, and wrap it tight. Do this for each of the racks, and place them back in the smoker for about 45 minutes, meat-side facing down.
- Prepare the BBQ sauce. Pour the cola into a small saucepan and heat it over medium-high heat. Bring it to a low boil and reduce by half. Add in the rest of the ingredients and reduce the heat to medium low, cooking for a few minutes until it thickens.
- Glaze the ribs. After 45 minutes of wrapping, remove the ribs from the paper and place them back into the smoker, bone-side down. Glaze the ribs with the cherry cola BBQ sauce, and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the sauce has set.
- Remove the ribs and allow them to rest for a few minutes before slicing. Top with crush peanuts and lime zest as optional garnish.
Brad Prose is a professional recipe developer, food writer, and culinary photographer – the force behind Chiles and Smoke. His kitchen spotlights unusual and incredible flavors through a blend of fine dining and BBQ. Brad strives to inspire home cooks to use higher-end techniques and new ideas, applying them to the everyday food we know and love.