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Sweet Chili Root Beer Baby Back Ribs

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These Sweet Chili Root Beer Baby Back Ribs have only four ingredients in the sauce and the combination of sweet and hot creates an amazingly delicious summer barbecue dinner.

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Each of the four ingredients are winners, and you might already have the first three in your pantry. The ever popular Sriracha chile sauce and Thai sweet chile sauce are pretty familiar these days and often on the table is many Asian restaurants. You can never assume anything is gluten free simply because it makes sense, but root beer seems to be gluten free from every source I checked. I don’t drink root beer so I simply purchase a single can when I want to make this recipe. The fourth ingredient, kecap manis, is more difficult.

Homemade Kecap Manis and a Substitute

Kecap manis is a sweet Indonesian soy sauce that has a unique taste. I encourage you to make this recipe for homemade kecap manis. and then try the other two recipes I’ve listed below. It has a unique taste and makes the most authentic chicken satay I have ever had. You can purchase kecap manis in Asian markets but every brand I have seen contains gluten. I have heard there is a kecap manis made from sorghum so if you are a sleuth you can go out there and find it.

If you substitute regular gluten free soy sauce you will not have the unique taste of kecap manis but it might be close enough for you. I’ve never tried this substitution but here it is. The suggestion is to replace the full amount of kecap manis with gluten free soy sauce then and a bit of brown sugar.

Gluten Free Kecap Manis
Gluten Free Kecap Manis -photo credit Jim Little


Organize for Success – Sweet Chili Root Beer Baby Back Ribs

Ribs can be cooked ahead of time, a day or two before serving them if you are organized. This advance preparation makes it possible for you to spend more time with family and friends outdoors and less time making dinner. But alas I did not follow my own advice on the day we cooked these ribs. However, we did get the ribs in the oven then went for a paddle around the lake in our kayaks. After we took them out there was still time to enjoy the rest of the afternoon before firing up the barbecue and do the final cooking for dinner.

Thanks to Fine Cooking magazine for the recipe inspiration. Making these Sweet Chili Root Beer Baby Back Ribs gluten free wasn’t difficult at all. I’d love to hear in the comments below if you liked this.

More Recipes Using Kecap Manis

Indonesian Chicken Satay

Skewers of Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce -photo credit Jim Little

Indonesian’s premiere salad, Gado Gado

Gado Gado, the premiere Indonesian salad with peanut sauce.
Indonesian Gado Gado Salad -photo credit Jim Little


2 racks baby back pork ribs
2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp kecap manis
¼ cup root beer
¼ cup sweet chili sauce (also called Thai chili sauce)
2 Tbsp Sriracha chili sauce


In a large glass measuring cup combine kecap manis, root beer and both chili sauces. Set aside ½ cup of sauce for serving. Use the remaining sauce to brush the ribs when on the grill.
Let ribs sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Sprinkle the meat side of the ribs with salt. Place on a lightly oiled baking pan and cover with foil. Bake in oven for 2 hours. The meat should be tender but not falling off the bone. Ribs can be prepared to this point a day in advance. Return to room temperature before finishing on the grill.
Brush ribs on both sides with sauce. Finish ribs on the grill, turning once, until nicely lacquered, about 15 minutes total. Remove from the grill.
Using a sharp knife cut into individual ribs sections and serve. Serve with the reserved sauce drizzled over the ribs.


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