Beef Short Ribs with Chile Rub

These beef short ribs with chile rub are slowly braised until tender. In other words, they’re utterly irresistible.

A white enamel pot with pieces of beef short ribs with chile rub and a wooden spoon.

I discovered on a recent trip to the Southwest that they don’t just drink coffee or use it for the occasional tiramisu—they brine, marinade, rub, and barbecue with it. Whether a strong espresso or a mild cup of joe, it’s used to give an earthy layer to big bold meats, especially pork and beef. You can use coffee granules, instant coffee, or a cup of coffee to enhance flavor. Prepare to be surprised, as coffee gives a whole other flavor and depth to the rub mixture in this recipe.–Valerie Aikman-Smith

*What’s a short rib?

We swoon to beef short ribs. Prepared any way. Period. Tender and possessing a beefy taste, they aren’t actually cut from the rib section of the cow, as you’d assume from their name. They’re actually cut from the chuck, or shoulder, of the cow and consist of the ends of the ribs near the breastbone. For that reason, chuck roast is the best substitute when boneless short ribs are unavailable, though it does fall short of the flavor and succulence we’ve come to expect from fatty (in a good way) short ribs.

Beef Short Ribs with Chile Rub

A white enamel pot with pieces of beef short ribs with chile rub and a wooden spoon.
These beef short ribs with chile rub are slowly braised until tender. In other words, they’re utterly irresistible.

Prep 45 mins
Cook 3 hrs
Total 10 hrs 25 mins
4 to 6 servings
741 kcal
5 / 3 votes
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For the coffee and chile rub

  • 2 tablespoons finely ground espresso or coffee beans
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the beef short ribs

  • 4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs cut into squares between the bones (about 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches [6-by 6-cm])
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion roughly chopped
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños seeded if desired and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup freshly brewed espresso or very strongly brewed coffee
  • 1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Torn basil leaves (optional) for garnish


Make the coffee and chile rub

  • In a bowl, combine all the rub ingredients. You should have a scant 1/4 cup. (You can store the rub in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to 1 month.)

Make the beef short ribs

  • Place the ribs in a large bowl and sprinkle with the coffee and chile rub. (Go ahead and use all the rub.) Massage the ribs with the rub, using your hands to ensure the ribs are completely coated. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
  • Remove the ribs from the fridge. In a Dutch oven or casserole dish large enough to fit all the ribs, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the ribs on all sides, which ought to take 6 to 10 minutes.  Remove the ribs from the pot as they are done and place them on a plate.
  • Add the garlic, onion, and jalapeños to the drippings in the pot and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes, turning down the heat to medium-low if necessary. Carefully pour in the espresso or coffee, tomatoes, and vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Return the ribs to the pot, put the lid on, and slide it into the oven. Let the ribs braise until tender, 2 to 3 hours. (Begin checking the ribs at 2 hours and then check every 20 minutes or so after that.)
  • Remove the pot from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes. If desired, skim any fat from the surface of the sauce. Serve the ribs in bowls with lots of sauce and sprinkle with torn basil leaves, if desired.
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How to use this chile rub on pork

Place any cut of pork—butt, shoulder, loin, tenderloin, or chops—in a glass dish, sprinkle with the rub, and massage it into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours. Let the meat come to room temperature before cooking the cut of pork as you normally would.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 741kcal (37%)Carbohydrates: 17g (6%)Protein: 66g (132%)Fat: 45g (69%)Saturated Fat: 16g (100%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 195mg (65%)Sodium: 829mg (36%)Potassium: 1777mg (51%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 8g (9%)Vitamin A: 1113IU (22%)Vitamin C: 27mg (33%)Calcium: 119mg (12%)Iron: 10mg (56%)

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I love braised dishes, and have cooked short ribs many times and many ways. This one, though, with the coffee and chile rub, was new for me. I’ve done pork with a similar rub before, and liked it. Still, I was surprised—positively—with how good these ribs turned out. Strong, not too spicy flavor, gorgeous color, and tender meat. A definite keeper.

You have to be careful not to have the heat too high when browning the meat, as the coffee rub burns easily. I pulled the meat after 5 minutes. Then I braised the meat for 2 hours, at which point it was definitely done.

Then I took it out of the sauce, kept it warm, and reduced the sauce a little bit. I added a little more vinegar (I’ve an espresso balsamico at home, which worked beautifully) and a sprinkle of sugar to the sauce. I served the meat with plenty of sauce and as sides I did soft polenta and steamed broccoli, which accompanied the ribs perfectly and looked nice on the plate, too. Perfect.

Wow, wow, wow! Fall off the bone, rich, delicious beef short ribs with a little kick. My guests went wild over this dish. The rub is easy to pull together and was the exact amount needed to cover the 4 pounds ribs. I marinated the ribs overnight, which imparted a nice flavor throughout the meat.

Be sure to brown the meat on all sides, which does take about 8 to 10 minutes, as the recipe states. One caveat—take a tiny taste of your jalapeños. Some can be very hot, and some not hot at all. Mine were habanero hot, so I only used about 3/4 of a jalapeño as opposed to 2 whole jalapeños and that was plenty. The meat had just the right amount of heat.

Another thing I might add is a little more diced tomato with its juices. It would’ve been nice to have a little sauce left after the meat was cooked. I added about 1/2 cup water after the 3 hours of roasting to scrape up all the yummy fond on the bottom and sides of the pot. This added a little more moisture, and a tiny bit of “gravy.” The beef short ribs with chile coffee rub were juicy, so delicious, so flavorful, and just plain memorable.

The flavor and tenderness of these ribs are amazing. My ribs were falling off the bone, they were so tender and well done at 3 hours. I’d recommend checking them at 2 hours and then every 20 minutes after that until they reach the level of doneness you want. As for skimming fat from the sauce, there didn’t appear to be much on mine; however, my sauce was so thick and cooked down by the end of 3 hours that trying to skim any fat off of it would’ve been a challenge.

The beef short ribs with chile rub were a little too spicy for me, though, so I’d recommend that you replace the chipotle chile powder with ancho chile powder in the rub, and use either sweet bell or frying peppers in place of the jalapeños in the main recipe if you don’t like a lot of heat.

I served this dish for dinner with mashed potatoes and braised chard during a blustery cold weekend at the lake and my extended family couldn’t stop talking about it. They loved it so much that we served the leftovers the second night with cabbage slaw in tortillas as tacos.

While the recipe calls for bone-in ribs, we purchased boneless by mistake. I don’t think this had any impact on the outcome—the meat was fall-apart tender and juicy and cooked in about the same time.

The coffee in the rub imparted a nice subtle flavor, but didn’t overpower the meat. The jalapeño gave the beef a nice kick the first night, but was much subtler the next night.

Everything is better covered in coffee, including these beef short ribs with chile rub. The ingredients are pantry-friendly, simple to use, and produce a great dish. I let my rub marinate the ribs for about 24 hours. When it came time to brown the ribs, that went a bit quicker for me than the recipe stated—about 6 minutes per batch. The aroma wafting through the kitchen during the browning process was absolutely wonderful!

The ribs that emerged from the oven after 3 hours were perfectly tender, full of flavor, and juicy. They didn’t need any additional sauce. These were a tremendous hit with our guests. Watch the ribs closely while browning, as there was a lot of smoke in the kitchen and they finished browning pretty fast. If using the braising liquid as sauce, plan some time to skim the fat off the top because there was a significant amount.

These ribs were fantastic! We loved the smoky, punchy, deeply flavored sauce that permeated the fork-tender meat through and through. The ribs were enjoyed with sweet corn bread the first night, and the meat was shredded and wrapped in corn tortillas the second night (cilantro was a better herb for this than basil).

Be cautious when cooking the garlic, onion, and jalapeños, as they easily burn; turn the heat way down, or flash-sauté them and add the liquids quickly. Skip the jalapeños if you could do without the heat. Not a fan of heavy sauce? Skim the fat off the sauce before serving. I think the same rub and sauce would be good with pork shoulder or chicken legs.

This is a winner. That much coffee scared me a bit, but it absolutely made the dish. Jalapeño peppers are hard to judge heatwise, so I used only one but included the seeds. Next time I’d use both, I think. I didn’t add the salt and pepper to the sauce and it was fine.

Three hours in the oven was perfect, as the meat fell off the bones. I skimmed about 1/2 cup fat from the sauce. The sauce did cook down a lot—more sauce would’ve been the only change I’d make in this recipe, and I’ll definitely be making these again. We’ve some leftover meat that I’m going to shred and put into ravioli. Maybe I’ll serve them with some chipotle sour cream…

This is a quick little rub to throw together and keep in the pantry for grilling season. The chipotle gives it a little heat, the cumin gives it a little earthiness, and the paprika gives it a nice bit of smokiness. I’d recommend making sure the coffee is very finely ground. I think this recipe would be easy to double for using frequently on meats. It keeps for a month so it’s worth doing and having on hand.

This is a lovely rub (and I make rubs all the time). I expected it to be a bit lacking, as many coffee-based rubs usually have a laundry list of ingredients, but the chipotle and the paprika really sing in this rub. We enjoyed it on a flat iron steak with stellar results. Directions suggest that it will keep for a month, but I suspect that you will use it time and time again before that much time goes by.

Originally published October 13, 2015


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  1. 5 stars
    Made this last night and it was delicious. I, too, was confused about the coffee. I did use finely ground coffee beans from Peet’s Coffee for the rub. For the sauce, I used instant espresso powder and made one cup coffee using 2 tsp. of the powder? Is that how it was supposed to be? I also used 8 very large and meaty short ribs. They shrink up a lot, so we will get at least two good dinners for the two of us from this, and one or two small ribs left over. I served with a cauliflower mash, with butter, roasted garlic and fresh thyme from our garden. Also, red chard cooked in the water left on the leaves from rinsing them, crushed red pepper and fresh lemon juice.

    The Balsamic Vinegar touch in the recipe is brilliant. Thank for a very nice recipe.

    As with all short ribs, there is a lot of fat associated with this recipe. I skimmed as much as I could from the top last night, and this morning removed the solidified fat.

    1. Karen, you’re welcome and thanks so much for asking about the coffee. Yes, what you did is perfect. I reworded the recipe instructions slightly trying to clarify. Kindly let me know if it makes a little more sense now? So pleased that you loved this recipe! And perfect on refrigerating it overnight and then skimming.

  2. Hi, Renee –

    Quick question (although this probably sounds ridiculous). When you say 1 cup freshly brewed espresso, are you referring to the small cup espresso comes in or a regular size cup?

    I’ve been looking at this recipe for some time and now that it’s cooler, I’ve finally been hankering to make this.



    1. Hey JT, not ridiculous at all. I love that you asked for clarification. We actually mean 1 measuring cup of espresso, as in 8 ounces. I know it sounds like quite a lot, but the tomatoes temper the bitterness of the espresso quite nicely. Really glad to hear you’re going to make it, would love to know what you think…

  3. 5 stars
    This was wonderful. I Increased the tomatoes, espresso and vinegar by half again, because I wanted lots of sauce. Amazing. Can’t wait to reheat the leftovers!

    1. Many thanks for taking the time to let us know, Pam. Brilliant thinking on making extra sauce to spoon over mashed potatoes or polenta or rice or, gosh, just about anything, actually! Really looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

  4. Torture, torture I tell you!
    That photo of the short ribs will haunt my dreams tonight.

    Don’t get me started on the chorizo bites…grrrrr.

    I’m thinking I may do the short ribs in the crockpot.

      1. Will do Renee…I personally wouldn’t mind having it for Thanksgiving…we’re not big bird fans, dark meat only.

  5. Ahhhh a beef short ribs recipe done on the stove… I love this. Love the flavors. I do have one question – is the ground coffee beans the same as the ground coffee I put in my coffee filter? I assume that if I finely grind coffee beans that is what I get, right? Thank you! This is our kind of autumn/winter meal.

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