Five-Spice Pork Ribs with Spicy Cranberry BBQ Sauce

[created by Tom Berry, modified by Julia W.]


  • 2 quarts water 
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese 5-spice powder (from )
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 2 tablespoon kosher salt 
  • 2 1/2 pounds baby back pork ribs (a bout 2 whole racks) 
  • 2 medium onions, cut in half and then sliced 1/4-inch-thick 
  • 1 tablespoon butter (cut into small chunks)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, for cooking 
  • 1 medium onion, diced 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (and then some)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar 
  • 1 cup sweetened dried cranberries 
  • 2 cups cranberry juice 
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chipotle chili pepper (canned peppers in adobe sauce works best) 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

  1. To make the rib brine: Whisk together the water, five-spice, sugar and salt until dissolved. Cut the racks of ribs in half and submerge fully in the brining liquid. Refrigerate overnight. 
  2. The NEXT day...Preheat an oven to 300 degrees F. 
  3. Line a sheet tray with enough foil to completely cover and seal the pork ribs (you are making a foil pouch, it may take 2 sheets crimped together to form the bottom layer). Evenly spread the sliced onions on the foil and place the butter on top. Remove the ribs from the liquid and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the ribs in one layer on top of the onions, and fold the foil over making sure to tightly seal the package. Roast undisturbed for 2 hours. 
  4. While the ribs are cooking, make the sauce: Coat a small saucepan with the canola oil. Over medium heat, sweat the onions and garlic until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the sugar, cranberries, cranberry juice, vinegar and chipotle peppers. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Puree the sauce in a blender until very smooth, season with salt and pepper. HELPFUL SAFETY HINT: NEVER PUREE HOT STUFF, it tends to not stay in the blender (It took me hours to clean BBQ sauce off the ceiling). Note: The sauce can be prepared in advance and stored for up to a week in the refridgerator, or frozen long term for future use. 
  5. Remove the ribs from the oven, unwrap and baste the ribs with the sauce. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake the ribs uncovered for 10 minutes until the sauce is lightly browned. Depending on how the bakes sauce looks you may want to baste a second time and bake another 10 minutes. 
  6. Divide the smothered onions onto 4 plates and serve with half a rack per person, or serve family style on a platter.
  7. Sprinkle ribs with dried canberries for an added visual zing!
© Eat, Drink, and Carry a GPS 2013