These baby back ribs with cola barbecue sauce may sound terrifically sweet. They’re not. They’re perfectly balanced with spice, smoke, and yeah, a little sweetness. Our latest smoking fixation.–David Leite

Baby Back Ribs FAQs

How do I remove the membrane from ribs?

Remove the membrane from rib racks by using a dull knife and sliding the tip under the membrane that covers the back of each rib rack. Holding a paper towel in your hand, grip the membrane at one end of the rack and tug. It usually pulls right off.

I have a grill, but not a smoker. Can I use my grill like a smoker?

You bet. It’s actually quite simple to turn your grill into a smoker. This article will help you turn a kettle grill into a smoker, and if you’ve got a gas grill, follow the same directions, placing your foil smoke packet over the gas burners.

Can I substitute a different type of soda for the cola?

Some of our testers had great success using Dr. Pepper in place of the Coca-Cola, so if you prefer that flavor, go ahead and swap in Dr. Pepper.

What should I serve with these ribs?

Serve these saucy ribs with any of your favorite grilling and backyard bbq favorites. We love grilled corn on the cob, potato salad, and coleslaw, to name a few.

A white oval platter filled with individual baby back ribs with coca cola bbq sauce.

Baby Back Ribs with Coca-Cola BBQ Sauce

5 / 2 votes
These baby back ribs with cola barbecue sauce are coated with a spice rub, cooked low and slow on your grill or smoker, and then slathered with a homemade cola bbq sauce. Sweet, hot, and smoke.
David Leite
Servings4 to 5 servings
Calories946 kcal
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 45 minutes


For the rub

For the ribs

  • Two (3-pound) racks meaty baby back ribs
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard

For the basting mixture

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

For the grill or smoker

  • 4 or 5 small cherry, hickory, or apple wood chunks or 3 to 4 handfuls wood chips

For the cola barbecue sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup cola
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder


Make the rub

  • In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Set aside 2 teaspoons for the basting mixture.
  • Trim any excess fat from the ribs and remove the membrane.

Prepare the ribs

  • Evenly cover the ribs with a light coating of mustard and season them all over with the rest of the rub. Let stand at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare a grill or smoker for indirect cooking over very low heat (250° to 300°F | 120° to 150°C).

Make the basting mixture

  • In a small saucepan or skillet over low heat, warm the butter and vinegar until the butter melts. Stir in the reserved 2 teaspoons rub. Remove from the heat.

Grill the ribs

  • Brush the grill or smoker cooking grates clean. Add the wood chunks to the coals or the smoker box and close the lid.
  • When smoke appears, grill the ribs, bone side down, over very low indirect heat with the lid closed for 1 1/2 hours. Maintain the temperature between 250° to 300°F (120° to 150°C).

Make the cola barbecue sauce

  • Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine all the sauce ingredients and bring to a gentle boil, stirring often.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, stirring occasionally, 15 to 30 minutes. You should have about 1 1/2 cups sauce.

Finish the ribs

  • When the ribs have cooked for 1 1/2 hours, swap the positions of the racks for even cooking. Lightly baste both sides of the ribs with the butter mixture.
  • Continue cooking the ribs, bone side down, over very low indirect heat, with the lid closed, for 1 1/2 hours more.
  • After 3 hours, quickly brush both sides of the ribs with some of the sauce and immediately close the lid to maintain the temperature. Continue to cook the ribs, bone side down, over indirect very low heat for 15 minutes more.
  • Check for doneness. The meat should have shrunk back from the ends of most of the bones by at least 1/4 inch (6 mm) and the ribs are done if, when you pick up a rack at one end with tongs and bend it, the meat near the middle begins to tear from the bones. If it hasn’t, continue cooking for about 15 minutes more.
  • Lightly brush each rack again on both sides with more sauce.
  • Remove the ribs from the grill, lightly brush with more sauce, and cut between the bones into individual ribs. Serve warm with the remaining sauce on the side.

Adapted From

Weber’s Ultimate Grilling

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 946 kcalCarbohydrates: 35 gProtein: 57 gFat: 65 gSaturated Fat: 27 gMonounsaturated Fat: 25 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 241 mgSodium: 2802 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 27 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2019 Jamie Purviance. Photo © 2023 Ray Kachatorian. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

These baby back ribs were fantastic!!! The rub, the basting sauce, the Coca-Cola BBQ sauce, and the smoking process all were very simple.

The hardest part of this recipe is waiting for the ribs to smoke. The rub was very flavorful and complemented the ribs well. The BBQ sauce was excellent! It wasn’t too sweet or too savory.

I did have to cook the sauce about 15 minutes longer than the recipe indicated in order to thicken it. I used apple wood chunks and the smoke flavor on the ribs was excellent. The ribs were juicy with a firm texture.

This recipe is definitely a keeper.

This may be my favorite baby back ribs recipe to date. There are so many recipes for rubs and sauces and I like to try as many as I can. The rub for this recipe is simple, but that is all that is needed.

The real winner is the sauce. I’m not much of a sauce person, but this one is great. I used Dr. Pepper for the cola and it was a big hit.

I used a smoker because I had several other things to smoke at the same time, but I did finish them on the grill to get a little char. I started the smoke with cherry wood because it imparts such a beautiful mahogany color, then finished with apple wood. I kept the temperature at a pretty steady 225°F.

I also like using a basting liquid since ribs can easily dry out. I normally just use apple juice and vinegar, but adding the butter is a great idea. It added flavor, but did a great job keeping the ribs from drying out.

I am a big fan of removing the membrane from the ribs as well as using yellow mustard to help the seasoning stay put.

This recipe is a keeper!

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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    1. patricia, you can cook baby back ribs in your slow cooker, and it typically takes 6 to 8 hours on low for them to cook. I’d recommend that you follow this slow cooker ribs recipe, using the cola barbecue sauce. Do let us know how they turn out!