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Margarita-Glazed Baby Back Ribs


Serves 4

Tequila and fresh citrus are a great combo in margaritas and also with pork ribs. The tequila’s bite and the acidic orange and lime juices cut through the rich, fatty meat. In this recipe, the marinade is transformed into both a glaze and a dipping sauce for the ribs.

For the marinade
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice (from 1 medium orange)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 medium limes)
  • 1/4 cup blanco (silver) tequila
  • 3 Tbs. dark agave syrup or honey
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. Cointreau (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh garlic (about 3 large cloves)
  • 1 Tbs. pure New Mexico or ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp. finely grated lime zest
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 racks pork baby back ribs (about 1-1/2 lb. each), membrane removed
For the glaze and sauce
  • 1/2 cup blanco (silver) tequila
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice; more to taste
  • 2 Tbs. dark agave syrup or honey; more to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Marinate the ribs

In a medium bowl, whisk the orange and lime juices, tequila, agave, oil, Cointreau (if using), soy sauce, garlic, chile powder, lime zest, cumin, 1 Tbs. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. Cut each slab of ribs in half and put in a large resealable freezer bag; pour the marinade over the ribs. Seal the bag and shake to coat the pork with the marinade. Lay the bag in a pan in case the bag leaks; refrigerate overnight, turning the bag from time to time to redistribute the marinade.

Grill the ribs

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for indirect cooking over low to medium-low heat (250°F to 300°F).

Remove the ribs from the marinade, shaking off the excess. Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and set aside.

Arrange the ribs bone side down over indirect heat. (You may need to use a rib rack to accommodate all of the ribs.) Cover the grill and maintain a grill temperature between 250°F and 300°F degrees.

The ribs are ready when the meat is tender and begins to pull away from the ends of the bones. This will take 1 to 2 hours.

Make the glaze

While the ribs are grilling, add the tequila, orange juice, lime juice, and agave syrup to the reserved marinade. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Simmer until just beginning to turn syrupy, 15 to 25 minutes.

Finish the ribs

Increase the grill heat to medium high and generously brush the meat side of each slab of ribs with the glaze. Grill glaze side down over direct heat until shiny and beginning to darken, 3 to 5 minutes. Watch for flare-ups. Brush the bone side with some sauce, flip, and grill 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer the ribs to a cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Taste the remaining glaze and add more lime, agave, or salt as needed. Stir in the cilantro. Divide among 4 small bowls. Slice the ribs and serve with the sauce on the side for dipping.

Serving Suggestions

Serve the ribs with Grilled Watermelon Gazpacho with Lime Crema or Spicy Grilled Corn Salad with Black Beans & Queso Fresco. A Fresh Cherry Margarita is the perfect cocktail to pair with this tangy dish.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 620, Fat (kcal): 24, Fat Calories (g): 210, Saturated Fat (g): 6, Protein (g): 41, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 13, Carbohydrates (mg): 35, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 2.5, Sodium (g): 1620, Cholesterol (g): 100, Fiber (g): 1,

Photo: Scott Phillips

This recipe is awesome! I've made it several times so this has become my favorite rib recipe. Quite different than the typical barbeque sauce ribs. Based on another review, I baked the ribs for 2 hours in the oven, then grilled them, probably for another 30-45 minutes or so. The meat practically falls off the bone and the flavor is incredible.

Definitely a great rib recipe! Not difficult at all! I will double the marinade/glaze next time so we have extra dipping sauce. The other idea I had was to slice them into individual ribs prior to glazing and then finishing them on the grill as individual ribs, so the meat between the ribs gets some glaze as well. Otherwise, they were quite perfect!

Excellent flavor. The meat was moist and extremely tender. I cooked mine covered in the oven for 2 hours then finished them on the grill. It worked beautifully.

I made these this weekend and they were amazing. Within minutes the marinade was thrown together (I had everything in my pantry, liquor cabinet and fruit drawer) and the ribs went into the fridge for 24 hours. I took them out about an hour before I put them on the grill. It's really a carefree recipe. Mine were especially meaty so I let them go the full two hours. The glaze was perfect--it doesn't take long for it to caramelize on the hot side of the grill so this is when you need to be attentive. I was in the mood for ribs, but not a gooey, tomato based, sweet and smoky barbecue sauce and these were the perfect solution. We had them with grilled cob corn and sweet potato fries (chips, really). Sitting outside on a Saturday night with these ribs, a nice breeze and (what else?) a margarita made for a memorable meal. Described them to my Mom on the phone yesterday and they're officially on the menu for their visit in August.

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