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Cherry Coke Ribs

Cherry Coke Ribs are a wonderful variation on my Traeger Smoked Ribs recipe. In this version, you take some of your favorite barbecue sauce base, add cherry coke and some Brown Sugar Bourbon (or regular bourbon if you can’t find the BSB) to create one of the best barbecue sauces known to mankind.

Cherry Coke Ribs with text over the photo

Smoked Cherry Coke Ribs

Cherry cola and bourbon together sound like a southern-fried cocktail that would rival a mint julep or a sazerac. They work together perfectly to turn a plain barbecue sauce into something else entirely.

By adding the Bourbon and cherry cola to any barbecue sauce you have handy, it makes it an easy one to turn out too. 

As far as the barbecue sauce is concerned, try my homemade barbecue sauce recipe if you really want to go completely homemade.

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Ribs in a cast iron pan with sauce

Why make smoked ribs?

In the Traeger groups on Facebook that I frequent, people sometimes seem to shy away from ribs because they’ve had a few less-than-ideal outcomes. I think the key here is knowing what you are after, as far as the end result is concerned. 

Smoked ribs are amazing and you should make them because when they are done properly they are one of the best pieces of BBQ you can eat. SO flavorful, and you can’t help but get down and dirty with a plate of ribs in front of you. Bring.on.the.napkins, and don’t wear white. 

I like my ribs TENDER. Like, so tender, you almost just need to grab a fork and grab forkfuls and you definitely don’t need a knife to slice through these ribs. 

Other people (aka, Jeremiah + a couple of the kids in this house) prefer them to have some bite. Not too much, as they like them to come off the bone clean, but enough bite so they are able to be picked up while on the bone. 

We tried the VERY popular 3-2-1 method a few times when we first got our Traeger, and while I know they are the PERFECT rib for some people, they just weren’t for me. 

I started experimenting with times and landed on the 5-4-1 to be MY sweet spot, as far as getting the expected and ideal end result to make the perfect plate of ribs, for ME. 

Obviously, your mileage may vary, so this was the long way to say that there are as many rib methods out there as there are pitmasters and Facebook groups, so as with all of my recipes please use your senses and go with your gut and cook YOUR way, too. 

Cherry Coke Smoked Ribs

I’m no stranger to ribs

Since ribs are one of my favorite foods, especially when they are properly smoked. When we got our first pellet grill (a Traeger) that was one of the things on my list I really wanted to master and be able to throw down. 

Through the years, Jeremiah and I have both taken stabs and come out with some pretty unique and delicious variations. 

Our original Traeger Smoked Pork Ribs recipe is the pioneer of the 5-4-1 method. This is the base for almost all of my ribs recipes. 

I even figured out how to speed up the process with my Faster Smoked Ribs by using an Instant Pot for part of the cook. 

We smoked beef ribs, and beef short rib lollipops

Then there are Jeremiah’s Asian Sticky Smoked Ribs that have been blowing people’s minds in the Facebook groups. Togarashi sales going through the roof, this week, I’m sure. 

Don’t even get me started on the short ribs. Those are a special kind of special and kind of deserve their own category. If you want to venture down that road though, I recommend the Braised Beef Short Ribs with mashed potatoes and the Korean Kalbi Beef Short Ribs with steamed rice. 

All that to say if you make some of my ribs you are probably going to love them. 

See all of my Ribs Recipes here!

Spicy Asian Pork Ribs on a wooden cutting board

Cherry Coke Ribs Shopping List

  • Baby back ribs
  • barbecue sauce
  • your favorite rib rub
  • Brown Sugar Bourbon (or regular bourbon, if you must)

Buy Brown Sugar Bourbon here!

Smoked Cherry Coke Ribs half rack on a plate

What are the best ribs to use?

Ok, just to be clear, you could slather this sauce on a deflated football and it would still be tasty. I think cherry cola must’ve first been invented to use in barbecue sauce. Whatever the secret recipe is for Coca Cola also contains the secret to making amazing ribs.

I like to use baby back ribs for this recipe. It is my “go-to” when it comes to pork ribs.

More Easy Traeger Recipes here!

Smoked Cherry Coke Ribs

What are the different types of pork ribs?

Even though I prefer baby backs, any style of ribs will do. Knowing the difference helps to make the final choice.

In essence, there are three main types of ribs. You can usually find each at any supermarket, and if you have any questions just ask the butcher at the meat counter to make sure you get what you are looking for.

Smoked Cherry Coke Ribs

Baby Back Ribs

These ribs do NOT come from baby pigs. I know they seem small and you are inclined to think they come from small or sweet little piglets, but that is not the case. The baby back ribs are short slightly curled ribs that come from the back towards the loin.

Baby back ribs are big on flavor, have a good amount of lean meat but enough fat to be tasty too. They cook fairly quickly and taste great. These are the ribs typically used for things like Chinese style spare ribs.

Smoked Cherry Coke Ribs

Spare Ribs

The spare ribs come from the rib cage around the belly of the pig. These ribs are bigger and a lot juicier. They have more fat to meat, but they work great for low and slow cooking because they won’t dry out.

one bone of ribs being held up to see the smoke ring around the outside

St. Louis Ribs

The St Louis ribs are spare ribs that have been trimmed up a bit. After the trim, which removes fat and a bit of cartilage, these ribs resemble baby backs but are much larger.

Use St Louis ribs when you want a much bigger and heartier rib. Sure, they take a little longer to cook but they are every bit as good as baby backs.

Two eaten bones of Smoked Cherry Coke Ribs on a blue plate

When’s the right time to slather on the BBQ sauce?

For these ribs, your barbecue sauce is combined with the soda and bourbon and then they are cooked IN the sauce for the last several hours of cook time. You can finish them on the grill to glaze them up with a final basting of the sauce if you’d like, but most of the time I don’t even find that necessary.

Pile of bbq ribs

Why slow-cook ribs in the sauce?

Yes, talk about infusing the ribs with flavor! The space between the flavor of the smoked rib and the taste of the sauce becomes non-existent. Instead of being a smoked rib that has barbecue sauce on it, it becomes a barbecue rib. It’s as if it actually came from a special kind of pig breed fed on barbecue sauce its entire life.

Smoked Cherry Coke Ribs

What should you serve with ribs?

When it comes to bbq ribs, the sides are important.

First, they need the seasonings to make the ribs come alive. So, any style of potatoes from french fries to smoked baked potatoes should prop up the tangy-sweet ribs.

If you do slaw, then a bright vinegar coleslaw is the perfect thing to serve next to rich, sauce-covered ribs.

Here are a few more things to try if you are looking for some ideas:

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Cherry Coke Ribs graphic with text and two photos
Smoked Cherry Coke Ribs in an enameled cast iron rectangle-shaped pan

5-4-1 Smoked Cherry Coke Ribs

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 7 hours
Total Time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Smoked Cherry Coke Ribs are cooked on your pellet grill over low heat for 4-5 hours, and then they get put into a pan, slathered with a barbecue sauce + Bourbon & Cherry Coke mixture, and cooked for another 2-3 hours over medium heat. What you are left with is fall-off-the-bone tender ribs with a sauce that you'll all be fighting over.

Ingredients

  • 2 racks baby back ribs
  • 1/2 cup barbecue rub *homemade or your favorite variety is fine. I have some suggestions below!

Sauce

  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup cherry cola
  • 3 ounces Brown Sugar Bourbon (or regular Bourbon if you can't get BSB)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your pellet grill to 180°-200° according to factory instructions.
  2. Remove the membrane from the ribs, if applicable, and then coat liberally with the barbecue rub.
  3. Place on the grill, and smoke for 4-5 hours.
  4. Turn the grill up to 275-300°, and place the ribs into a large tin pan or an enameled cast iron pan.
  5. Combine the sauce ingredients, and pour over the top of the ribs.
  6. Cover tightly, and cook the ribs for 3-4 hours, uncovering and basting with the sauce once per hour before recovering, or until the ribs are as tender as you like them. You can cook these in the oven at this point if you are trying to save pellets.
  7. If desired, you can throw the ribs back on the grill for up to an hour on 250-275°, to caramelize the sauce and continue cooking the meat, but we don't usually get to that stage and just scarf them after the covered portion of the cook.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 805Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 143mgSodium: 1339mgCarbohydrates: 72gFiber: 1gSugar: 64gProtein: 41g

Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate.

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