Baby Back Ribs With Coffee-Honey Barbecue Sauce

You, yes YOU, can make oven-baked ribs. And even better, you can slather those ribs all over with coffee-honey barbecue sauce. Prepare to be popular. 
Baby Back Ribs With Coffee-Honey Barbecue Sauce

It’s been a bit of a crazy summer here at Nerds Towers. (Note: our house is not actually called “Nerds Towers” – that was a humorous attempt to make our residence sound grander than it really is. We don’t have any towers. We have a shed, but it’s in the process of falling down.) With all the excitement, we clean forgot until the very end of summer to make baby back ribs. We waited until Labor Day, reader. UNTIL LABOR DAY.

We did this last summer too. All season we made burgers and hot dogs and skewers of various things and forgot all about the number one best summer hang-out food of all time. Then, at the very end of the season, we cooked up a big batch of porcine deliciousness and gave ourselves a thorough kicking for all the rib-enjoying opportunities we’d passed up.

Baby Back Ribs With Coffee-Honey Barbecue Sauce
We were tempted to drink this Coffee-Honey Barbecue Sauce. It was that good.

The nice thing about this recipe is that because they are mostly cooked in the oven, you can make them ALL YEAR ROUND. Yes, I said the oven.

Are you okay? Do you need to sit down? You look a little shocked.

Let me explain. The thing with baby back ribs is they need to be cooked low and slow and unless you are a pit master [We are not pit masters. Our grill is feeble and may fall down at any moment. You may be noticing a trend here. – Matt], that is a very tricky thing to do on a grill. It takes an enormous amount of attention to keep the temperature at that sweet spot so why not let the oven do that work for you?

The one thing you will need to do for this recipe is plan ahead. You’ll need to cook them (low and slow) for a couple of hours and then let them marinate in the sauce at least overnight (though 2 days is even better). Then you can cook them on a higher heat (in the oven or on the grill) and glaze them until they are burnished and sticky and perfect.

Note: We love this barbecue sauce so we always make extra and use it on basically everything until it’s gone.

Cooked baby back ribs on a wooden board
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Baby Back Ribs With Coffee-Honey Barbecue Sauce

You, yes YOU, can make oven-baked ribs. And even better, you can slather those ribs all over with coffee-honey barbecue sauce. Prepare to be popular. 
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Total Time3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 6


  • For the barbecue sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grape seed or neutral oil
  • 4 garlic cloves minced or grated
  • 1/2 cup espresso or strong brewed coffee
  • 1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup hoisin
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons sriracha
  • For the ribs
  • 2 racks baby back ribs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • For the barbecue sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the espresso, vinegar, ketchup, honey, soy sauce, hoisin, and sriracha, and a grind or two of black pepper and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. You should wind up with about 2 cups of sauce. NOTE: Sauce can be made up to a week in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
  • For the ribs: Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Remove the thin membrane on the bone side of the ribs. Place the ribs on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and generously season both sides with kosher salt and black pepper. Bake for 2 1/2 half hours then remove from the oven and let cool.
  • When the ribs are cool enough to handle, cut each rack in half and place in a resealable plastic bag. Pour half the barbecue sauce into a measuring cup and thin with a a tablespoon or two of water and then divide it between the two bags, making sure the ribs are coated evenly on all sides. Place the bags in the refrigerator to marinate at least overnight but for up to two days. Turn the bags a few times so they marinate evenly.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and remove ribs from refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Place the ribs on a baking sheet lined in heavy-duty aluminum foil and bake for 30 to 45 minutes brushing them with some of the sauce every 10 minutes, until they are heated through and glazed.
  • (Alternately, you could grill the ribs over a charcoal or gas barbecue until hot, glazing them with sauce on each side).
  • Cut the racks into individual ribs and serve with the reserved sauce.
Tried this recipe?Mention @NerdsWithKnives or tag #nerdswithknives!

5 thoughts on “Baby Back Ribs With Coffee-Honey Barbecue Sauce”

  1. This…sounds…AMAZING! I love all the ingredients in the sauce – bitter flavors of coffee balanced by sweet honey – yum! And who doesn’t love an oven alternative to traditionally grilled foods!?

  2. The sauce sounds like an interesting idea. But your technique for cooking the ribs (excusing the use of the oven) – is something I’ve never heard of or seen before. Is there any other food you would marinate after cooking it to half way done? How did you come up with this and have you tried cooking them regularly (low and slow – 250ish for a few hours (about 4 or 5) and then applying the sauce and cranking up the heat so the sauce sets?

    • I honestly can’t remember where I first learned this method but it does work really well. I’ve tried it both ways (with the sauce on right away vs. cooking them just with salt and pepper and then marinating in sauce overnight). Both worked but I found the overnight (even 2 day) marinade gave the ribs better flavor and I could control how long they cooked to get to the perfect texture without having to worry about the sauce burning or drying out. Really, I think you could do it either way with very good results.

      Also, just to clarify, when the ribs are ready to marinate, they are ‘fully cooked’ at that point. The second cook is to set the glaze.

      • That’s pretty interesting – I will try it out.

        Well, they might techically be safe to eat at 2 hours, but , 2 hours at 275 is about the half way point of cooking ribs on a smoker or grill – I doubt the ribs would pass the bend test. For meat with a lot of connective tissue and fat, such as ribs, Your looking for an internal temp of between 185-200 (depending on how much bite you want vs fall off the bone.)

        I think it would be interesting to layer your sauce on top of traditionally smoked bbq ribs. I’ll try it this weekend and let you know.

        Also, have you tried using a different (sweeter) dry rub? Most bbq rubs have sugar in them to carmelize the outside of the ribs.

        • You are totally right that when I say “fully cooked”, I mean safe to eat temperature, not done in terms of the recipe. They will definitely need more time once they’re sauced to get that perfect texture of low & slow ribs. Depending on how meaty they are and how much connective tissue they have, the time varies a bit.

          I have used a brown sugar-based dry rub before and it was amazing. It was b sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and I think paprika. I haven’t tested it that way enough to include it in the blog but will probably try it again this summer. I don’t have a smoker though, unfortunately. Is there a rub you particularly like?


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