Chipotle-Glazed Baby Back Ribs

Chipotle-Glazed Baby Back Ribs
This image courtesy of Professor Paul Elledge

This is a rather unconventional approach to rib cooking: First, baby back ribs—not the larger spareribs—are showered with a dry rub that’s not too far from the one I learned in my parents’ barbecue restaurant in Oklahoma City; overnight the rub cures the flesh lightly, ensuring a juicy outcome. Then they’re slowly baked until they’re juicy—done. And, when all the hungry have assembled, the ribs are grill-singed and slathered with a sticky chipotle chile glaze-smoky, sweet, porky and anything but fainthearted. Richard James, our long-time chef de cuisine at Frontera Grill, developed this take on ribs—reliable, manageable, crowd pleasing—for the Saturday nights when ribs are the special and we serve 400 guests. Which pretty much describes a typical Frontera Saturday night.

 The ribs are best when baked the same day you eat them and grilled within a few minutes of serving. They will hold well in a very low oven for a half hour or so before serving.


Cooking MethodGrilling


Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together, Game Day

Recipe CourseMain Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Gluten-free, Lactose-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free



  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup ground ancho chile
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large slabs (about 6½ pounds) baby back ribs
  • 1 7.5-ounce can chipotles en adobo
  • ¾ cup honey


  1. Season the ribs. Combine all the dry rub ingredients in a food processor and run until thoroughly blended. Sprinkle the mixture on both sides of each slab of ribs, rub it in to ensure even coverage, then cover and refrigerate overnight. You’ll probably have a little dry rub left; in a tightly closed jar in the refrigerator it will last several months.

  2. First rib cooking. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Lay the ribs in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets and bake for about 1¼ hours, until the meat is tender when tested with a fork. (This cooking may be done early in the day you’re serving. Cover and refrigerate the cooked ribs until an hour before serving.)

  3. Second rib cooking. Turn on a gas grill to medium or light a charcoal grill and let the coals burn until medium-hot and covered with white ash.

  4. In a food processor, blend the can of chipotles with the honey. Scrape into a small bowl and carry to the grill, along with a basting brush.

  5. Lay the ribs on the grill, convex-side down. When hot and well browned, about 3 minutes, flip them over and brush liberally with the chipotle glaze. Cover the grill and cook about 7 minutes for the glaze to set and begin to brown a little. There will likely be leftover glaze, which can be covered and refrigerated for a week or two.

  6. Cut the ribs apart (that’s my preference) and serve right away.


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