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Smoked Lamb Ribs with Rosemary and Fig Barbecue Sauce

Ben Fink

Servings: 4 to 6

This recipe won Best Lamb Ribs and overall Grand Championship at the Meatopia Bare Bones BBQ Contest at the Eat Real Festival in Oakland, California, in 2012. The seasoning paste and sauce do nothing to mask the great flavor of lamb; they only help to enhance and celebrate this bold meat.

This recipe was excerpted from Fire & Smoke. Read our review.


For the seasoning paste

  • 3/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 3/4 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 3/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 3-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp. ground ginger

For the ribs

  • 3 (2-1/2-lb.) slabs lamb ribs

For the sauce

  • 1-1/2 cups port
  • 3/4 cup black cherry juice
  • 4 Black Mission figs
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. Heinz ketchup
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1-3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1-1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper


  • Build a charcoal fire for indirect cooking by situating the coals on only one side of the grill, leaving the other side empty. Preheat the grill to 250°F.

Make the seasoning paste

  • Lightly chop the thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Put the herbs into a small bowl and add the oil, soy sauce, salt, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, and ginger. Mix well until a paste forms.

Cook the ribs

  • Apply the paste evenly to each lamb slab.
  • Put the lamb ribs over indirect heat, away from the coals, close the grill lid, and cook the ribs until they are dark brown and tender, about 3 hours 30 minutes.

Make the sauce

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the port, black cherry juice, figs, and rosemary. In a separate medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, ketchup, honey, brown sugar, chili powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Bring each pan to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer both mixtures, stirring occasionally, until each is reduced by half, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pans from the heat. Remove the figs and rosemary from the port mixture and discard. Pour the port mixture into the vinegar mixture.

Finish the ribs

  • Remove the ribs from the grill and generously coat them with the barbecue sauce. Return the ribs to indirect heat, close the grill lid, and cook until the sauce caramelizes, about 10 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and let them rest for 5 minutes.
  • Cut the ribs between the bones and serve.

Any extra sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Rate or Review

Reviews (1 review)

  • MagicalDustMan | 03/31/2021

    A recipe so good I created an account just to say so. I never did lamb ribs before, and was a bit nervous. I changed the sauce around a little to use some of my homemade ghost pepper powder for a slight kick. I am going to dial back the salt in everything next time though. Perhaps my rack of ribs was a bit smaller or something, but definitely came out too salty, and I generally like a lot of salt. I can't flaw this awesome recipe because of salt though.

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