Sunday Dinner: Grandma’s Spare Ribs

Grandma's spare ribsWhen I lived in Hawaii, we spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house. In fact, we did a family dinner every Sunday. I loved Sunday dinner because we got to watch Japanese shows while we ate, and I was the center of attention. The main thing I remember about those dinners was that my grandma never sat down.

Oh yeah, and there were also a few standout dishes.

There was the meal where we each got a whole barbecued fish. That was a favorite of my Grandma’s; she liked to eat the eye ball. One of my favorites was spaghetti with mushroom meat sauce, which I found out later in life was made with a Lowry’s seasoning packet to my total disappointment. Another favorite was of mine was Grandma’s sweet and savory spare ribs. We ate these spare ribs spooned over white rice so it would absorb the delicious sauce. It was heavenly.

When we moved to California, my mom would occasionally make the ribs, and when I went off to college, I demanded the recipe. It is a super easy dish for a novice cook, but it’s still impressive because the flavors are so rich.

I made this recipe for my boyfriend when we first started dating, this time with brown rice (because, you know, I’m healthy). He went wild for them! He ate almost the entire batch himself and still requests them often seven years later.

I hope you enjoy this Sunday dinner recipe as much as my family does!

There are very few ingredients: ribs, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, water.File Jul 04, 6 59 30 PM

First, I cut up the ribs, first into larger slabs to brown two sides easily.  Then, I slice them into individual ribs and get the other two sides.  You can do it any way you want, or you can skip browning altogether.

File Jul 04, 7 00 12 PM          File Jul 04, 7 01 10 PM

I add the sugar, followed by the liquid ingredients.  Those little ribs should be just peeking up from the liquid like in the picture on the right.  If they aren’t, I add a bit more water.

Then, I just cover and simmer for about an hour.  I check on them and stir just about every 10 minutes or so.

File Jul 04, 7 03 05 PM             File Jul 09, 9 53 32 AM

Once the ribs are tender, I uncover the pot and boil down the sauce to thicken it. Then, they should look like this deliciousness:

File Jul 05, 8 24 22 AM

Yum! I hope by posting this early, you guys will be able to try this for your next Sunday dinner.  Let me know how it goes!

Grandma’s Spare Ribs
(6-8 servings)Spare ribs


1 rack (3-4lbs.) pork spare ribs (I have also made these with country style pork ribs, but it is much greasier)

1 cup low sodium soy sauce

½ cup white or cider vinegar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 cups filtered water


  1. Cut the rack into slabs that will fit into your pot.
  2. Heat a small amount of oil in the pot and brown both sides of each slab.
  3. Slice individual spareribs and brown the remaining two sides in batches.
  4. Return all the ribs to the pot.
  5. Pour the sugar evenly over the ribs.
  6. Pour the soy sauce, vinegar, and water over the ribs and give it a good stir. The liquid level should be covering almost all of the ribs.
  7. Put the lid on the pot and heat over high to bring to a boil.
  8. Once boiling, dial back the heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour. Every 10 minutes or so, use tongs to grab the ribs from the bottom and rotate them to the top.
  9. After an hour, check the tenderness of the meat. It should be tender and about to fall off the bone when you poke it. If it isn’t, continue to cook the ribs and check them for doneness every 10 minutes or so. 
  10. When the ribs are done, take off the lid and focus on the sauce. It isn’t meant to be like a gravy, but you do want it to have some body to it. It will likely be too thin, so continue to simmer it with the lid off until it the desired consistency, about 20 minutes. If it happens to be too thick, add some water until it is the desired consistency.
  11. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, or even my white bean cauliflower mash. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired.


File Jul 04, 7 00 29 PM

When you are slicing your individual ribs, look at the back side of the rack. You will be able to clearly see the bones.

File Jul 05, 8 23 42 AM

Once the ribs are done, you can take them out while you simmer the sauce down. This will cut down on the time.

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