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Chinese Spare Ribs Takeaway Style

Chinese spare ribs are based on an all-time takeaway favourite & come with a delicious sticky finger-licking glaze & plenty of sauce dipping!

This recipe cooks in two phases the first can be done on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot, and the second phase is in the oven, air fryer or under the grill. The choice is yours!

Chinese takeaway style spare ribs with a dipping sauce.

Sticky Chinese Pork Ribs

For many years pork spare ribs, Chinese chicken curry, pork yuk sung or Chinese chicken and mushrooms were my go-to choice from our local takeaway.

As I grew older I became more adventurous but they still hold a special place in my nostalgic food memories!

Just like my Slow Cooker Char Siu Ribs, these play homage to those memories.

These sticky pork spare ribs are loaded with the sweetness of hoisin sauce helped along with a little ketchup.

Then there is the addition of a little soy sauce and some Chinkiang vinegar to amp up the salty, sweet and sour vibe.

I always strain the sauce that coats the ribs and serve it as a dipping sauce on the side.

I have tested this recipe endlessly because I’m a good guy like that… and I love these ribs. As a result, I have multiple cooking options for this recipe.

The initial cooking phase can be done in an Instant Pot or on the stovetop and the glazing can be done in an air fryer, oven or under the grill.

Chinese takeaway style spare ribs dipped into sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of pork ribs should I use?

When choosing your ribs for this recipe go for something tightly cut to the bone. You do not want too much meat or fat. This is because you want to optimise the glaze-to-meat ratio and get your ribs proper sticky!

Growing up in the UK the ribs were always on the longer side from the centre of the rib. Now try and buy them from as far up towards the neck as possible.

You give lots of cooking options which way is the best?

Best is a fuzzy concept, but in my kitchen, I usually cook these ribs in the Instant Pot and then glaze them in the air fryer. As far as I am concerned it gives the best results.

But if you have a small air fryer you may be better off glazing them under a grill or in the oven so you are not doing 2-3 or more batches of them.

Why are your ribs not red?

My ribs are not a lurid red colour because they contain no food colouring, much like Tandoori chicken in India, it is common to load some dishes with colouring.

I don’t do that, feel free to do so if you want that full Chinese Takeaway experience.

Overhead Chinese takeaway style spare ribs with a dipping sauce.

Serving Suggestions.

Now I like to go full-on retro takeaway with these Chinese pork spare ribs.

If I am feeling indulgent I serve them with a bowl of special fried rice or egg fried rice if I am feeling less greedy.

Growing up I would always order them from the takeaway with chips.

Our Chinese takeaways in the UK used to cook great chips that were like chip shop chips but without salt and vinegar.

Sometimes I opt to serve these ribs with a salad option and something like this egg noodle salad or my soba noodle salad would be wonderful!

Chinese takeaway style spare ribs with a dipping sauce and sliced spring onions.

Equipment Used

I only recommend specific brands of equipment if I think they make a material difference to a recipe. If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section.

  • Stovetop.
  • Small saucepan (15-18cm 6-7″).
  • Pestle and mortar or spice grinder.
  • Sieve.
  • Chopping board.
  • Sharp kitchen knife.
  • Pressure cooker, I use an Instant Pot or 24cm (10″) saucepan.
  • Oven, grill (broiler) or air fryer, I use a Phillips XXL air fryer.
Chinese takeaway style spare ribs with a dipping sauce and sliced spring onions.
Yield: 2 Servings

Chinese Takeaway Style Pork Spare Ribs

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

This delicious finger-licking Chinese takeaway spare rib recipe comes with a host of cooking options to ensure that you are good to go no matter what kit you have at home!


For the Spare Ribs:

  • 750g (26oz) Pork Ribs
  • 1 Tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • 1 Tsp Szechuan Peppercorns
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • 1 Onion
  • 10 Cloves Garlic
  • Water

For the Glaze:

  • 125ml (½ Cup) Hoisin Sauce
  • 75ml (⅓ Cup) Tomato Ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp Honey
  • 2 Tbsp Chinkiang Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce


  1. If your ribs are not separated begin by removing the membrane on the bottom* and then cut into individual ribs.
  2. Heat a small pan over a medium heat and toast the Szechuan peppercorns and crush them in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder.
  3. Season the ribs with the salt, Szechuan pepper, and the five spice.
  4. Peel and roughly chop the onion.
  5. Peel the garlic.

Instant Pot Cooking Instructions:

  1. Place the chopped onion and garlic into the base of the Instant Pot or pressure cooker and pour over 250ml (1 Cup) of water, add a trivet followed by the ribs and then seal the lid and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes.
  2. Let the pressure release for 10 minutes then open the vent.
  3. Remove the ribs and allow them to steam dry for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
  4. Drain off the cooking liquid and discard leaving behind the onions and garlic.

Stovetop Cooking Instructions:

  1. Place a medium (24cm or 10") pan on the stove top and add the onions and garlic followed by the pork ribs, then pour over enough water to just cover.
  2. Bring to a boil over a medium heat and skim off any "foam" that floats to the surface, then cover with a lid and cook for 40 minutes on low.
  3. Remove the ribs and allow them to steam dry for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
  4. Drain and discard the cooking water and leave behind the garlic and onions.

Make the Sauce:

  1. Mix together all of the ingredients for the sauce along with the retained garlic and onions in a small pan and simmer for 8-10 minutes on a medium-high heat whilst the ribs steam dry.
  2. Transfer to a blender, blitz until smooth then pass through a fine mesh sieve (optional).

Glaze the Ribs (3 Options):

  1. Option 1 The Oven: Heat your oven as hot as it will go on fan mode if you have one (how long this will take will really depend on your oven), then generously brush the ribs with the sauce and place them on a baking tray. Cook for 12-15 minutes or 20 minutes if you do not have a fan oven.
  2. Option 2 The Grill or Broiler: Heat your grill as hot as it will go (how long this will take will really depend on your grill), then generously brush the ribs with the sauce and Cook for 12-15 minutes (turning occasionally) until sticky and charred in places.
  3. Option 3 The Air Fryer: Spray the basket of your air fryer with release spray or oil, then coat the ribs with the sauce and place them in the basket of an air fryer (do not overcrowd, you may need to do this in batches). Then cook at 200°C or 400°F for 8-10 minutes.


*Remove the membrane by picking at a corner with a knife and then pull. If you are lucky it will come off in one piece.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1668Total Fat: 118gSaturated Fat: 35gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 53gCholesterol: 396mgSodium: 3373mgCarbohydrates: 70gFiber: 4gSugar: 47gProtein: 84g

Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

Did you make this recipe?

If you made this recipe, I'd love to see what you did and what I can do better, share a picture with me on Instagram and tag me @krumplibrian and tell me how it went!


Saturday 9th of March 2024

Hi Brian,

Thanks for this amazing recipe. I made the ribs this morning and half of them are quaffed already. That's breakfast done. It's the closest thing I've tasted that is reminiscent of the dark mahogany ribs from my local take away right back in the early 80's.

I remember when the lid was removed from the tinfoil there was about a tablespoon of thin soy looking sauce at the bottom. The ribs were as you say 'glossy' with little sauce on them at all. For me, there is still a flavour missing that I just can't put my finger on. Was it star anise? Rice wine? who knows.

That said, best ribs ever mate! Cheers!

Brian Jones

Sunday 17th of March 2024

Glad you enjoyed these, they are one of my favourites, I would hazard a guess that the missing bit is MSG... I developed this recipe years ago when I lived in Hungary and MSG was not readily available, I'll try and circle back around on this recipe in the coming months and experiment with MSG to get a balance that I think works :)



Friday 3rd of November 2023

Hi, I'm a huge fan of old school new york city takeout chinese spare ribs. They, as you may well remember, were bright "char siu" red, the glaze on them were almost candy apple glasslike, and they had very little actual meat on them, but they were beat the band delicious, and a treat whenever we got them, when I was a child. No longer a NYC or environs denzien, and the entire Americanized Chinese Food ecosystem has changed (don't get me started on Egg Rolls), but every now and again I get a real bad burnin yearning for Spare Ribs, man.

Came across your recipe, and you seemed a decent sort, not sure how NYC takeout Spare Ribs were going to be translated by someone across the pond, but figured I'd take a flyer and what's the worst that could happen.

Put into Amazon for the Black vinegar, and Szechan peppers, had everything else in the pantry and fridge.

Bought a 4 lb rack of Spare Ribs, and tried breaking them down, but make a bit of a mess of it, got 10 ribs out, cut em individually, used the Instant Pot, glazed, then into my Large Toaster Oven style Air Fryer for 10 minutes at 400F.

These were absolutely delicious. Wish I could include a photo in this comment, but even though these aren't the "authentic" Spare Ribs of memory, they were a treat, and now in rotation.

Question, if you ever saved the Rib Tip section, have you ever prepared that with this method, glaze, etc?

Thanks for the recipe

Brian Jones

Monday 13th of November 2023

Hey Down...

So glad you enjoyed this dish and took the time to write to me. These ribs are definitely not trying to be New York ribs, I last visited New York 20ish years ago and didn't indulge in a lot of Chinese food on any of my visits.

This dish is a memory of British Chinese takeaway ribs (which were also a lurid red colour) but food colouring is definitely not my thing. I am always fascinated by how food by a diaspora is influenced by the food, flavours and eating styles in their new home countries, not least because of how my time in central Europe changed how I cooked the dishes of my childhood. Even just perusing online there is a world of difference between American Chinese food and British Chinese food, and I'm more than happy to indulge in both, I'm 100% a pluralist when it comes to what I like to eat!

Rib tips are something that are rarely available here in Europe, when ribs are squared off the tips tend to get thrown in to a mix for mincing (grinding in the US I think). I don't see why it wouldn't work particularly given the IP cooking process.

Again, I'm stoked you like this and I'm honoured to have a place in your rotation.

Also black vinegar for the win, I love the stuff, it is my go to rice vinegar if it is being cooked in a darker sauce :)



Thursday 29th of April 2021

What would need to be changed to put in a slow cooker? Thanks.

Brian Jones

Thursday 29th of April 2021

Hi Linda... I've not cooked them in the slow cooker so this is a bit of a guess... You could take two approaches, the first would be to cook them in the glaze mix, which you have let down with a bit more water than this recipe calls for (enough to cover the ribs), then reduce the glaze after cooking before coating and flashing under the grill. I would maybe look at a 4-6 hour cooking time (on low).

Or you could try "dry" cooking which would essentially be the same as my methodology for this recipe, place them on a trivet and cook above the same liquid. You would need to spread them out further and cook them for maybe 8-12 hours and see where you go. This method is much more experimental but if it works would give better results than submerging them in liquid (I think).


Sunday 5th of July 2020

I live in San Diego, California. I came across your recipe because of a recipe I saw on the Costco "Connection" magazine (Asian Style St. Louis BBQ Ribs) but since I have an Instant Pot, I searched for rib recipes using Instant Pot and yours caught my eyes!

Your ingredients list for the glaze states light soy sauce and dark soy sauce. I only have Kikkoman Tamari soy sauce and regular Chinese Low Sodium soy sauce. Do I really need to purchase light and dark soy sauces? Could I modify/substitute with what I have, somehow? Thank you for your response!

Brian Jones

Sunday 5th of July 2020

Hey Josephine... I think you could make something work, but it will require a little "tweaking" for flavour at your end.

Like tamari, dark soy sauce is less salty and a little bit sweeter than light soy sauce, so you can use that in place of the dark and then use your low sodium soy in place of the light soy. Add the same quantities and gave a taste of the sauce once it has simmered, if you think you need more salt then add either more light soy sauce or some salt.

It will be a slightly different flavour to mine but it will be subtle and should work just fine.



Linda Chorley

Tuesday 21st of April 2020

It's lockdown in UK and I have a new instant pot and a fancy for Chinese ribs. A google search led me to your recipe (amongst others which I read but decided against). I like the way you wrote about the recipe, the ingredients and the method. The photo looked delicious. So I got my home grocery delivery and the ribs looked at me from the fridge for a couple of days. I made them tonight and ate the lot. Thank you for sharing this recipe. As I told my vegetarian daughter - they were so good I would pay for them. With best wishes, Linda

Brian Jones

Thursday 23rd of April 2020

I am so glad that you enjoyed these Linda, they are proper finger-licking delicious and we love them!

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