Grab a hold of these smoked Spicy Cajun Pork Ribs and you won’t want to let go. Each juicy bite is crispy and savory, hitting you with heat. Unlike traditional BBQ, these pork ribs skip the sugar and focus on herbal, earthy flavors with chiles.
Sweet BBQ can take a pause because these savory Cajun pork ribs are the focus today. Each bite is crispy on the outside, giving that textural contrast as you bite into juicy, soft pork. Using the hot and fast method for cooking these baby back ribs, you’ll ensure they stay very moist.
Why This Recipe Works
- Meaty, savory pork. If you love pork, these Cajun ribs are for you. Baby back ribs are extremely meaty, allowing the natural pork flavors to really shine through with every bite.
- Sugar-free BBQ. While I do love some sweet heat, the lack of sugar from this recipe is noticeable, in a good way. The savory Cajun seasoning compliments the sweet pork flavors, whereas the sugar can mute it.
Hot and Fast Technique
This recipe utilizes the “hot and fast” method for smoking pork ribs. Over the years I’ve adapted to this method, used by many competitive BBQ chefs.
Hot and fast ribs involve cooking at a higher temperature (300°F) for a period of time, wrapping in foil for a little bit, and then unwrapping to set the bark. Typically at the end, the ribs are sauced or glazed while unwrapped. No BBQ sauce for this recipe though!
The results speak for themselves. Each bite has very juicy, meaty pork that hasn’t dried out. There’s still plenty of smoke flavor (and the smoke ring, if that’s your thing) so you aren’t missing out.
The best part about these Cajun ribs is that they don’t have a lot of ingredients. There’s a rub, a mop sauce, and that’s about it. Let’s break it down.
- Baby back ribs – I do recommend these meaty ribs over spare because of the hot and fast process that’s being used. Spare ribs would taste good with the flavors, but this recipe is considering the leaner fat content, and thicker baby backs for the process.
- Cajun seasoning – There are a lot of different options out there, so I recommend using your favorite.
- Louisiana hot sauce – Cajun isn’t the same without its hot sauce, and I’m very particular about the Louisiana hot sauce brand. Feel free to use your personal favorite, but this is the best.
- Worcestershire sauce – Savory dashes of this magical sauce transform the ribs into something else. This is absolutely key, and irreplaceable for this recipe.
- Fresh thyme – Sprigs of thyme are used for the mop sauce, and they make all of the difference. Save some sprigs for the plate or platter, which smell amazing once you place hot Cajun ribs directly on them for serving.
Prepping the Ribs
Get out the baby back ribs and pat them dry with a paper towel. Remove the membrane by getting your finger, or a butterknife, under the skin and peeling it off.
Season all sides generously with the Cajun seasoning and allow them to soak it in. This can be done hours ahead of time, even overnight if you had to.
You do not need to use a binder, the salt from the rub will draw out juices and help the spices to stick to the surface.
Smoking the Ribs
Smoke the baby back ribs at 300°F for 90 minutes. We’ll be hitting them with some liquid in a bit to keep them moist and add a layer of flavor.
Go ahead, sit down, and relax for a little bit! Not too long though, we need to make the mop sauce.
I recommend using wood that doesn’t have a strong, specific flavor profile. Avoid mesquite, hickory, and cherry in particular for this recipe.
Preparing the Mop Sauce
This mop sauce is critical for this recipe and will be used halfway through the smoking process, as well as during the wrap. It’s very simple to put together and can be prepared as soon as the ribs go on the smoker.
Cajun Mop Sauce
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup Louisiana hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3-4 springs of fresh thyme
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat to melt everything together. Stir to combine the butter. Keep the mop sauce slightly warm before applying it to the ribs.
Mop the Ribs
After the first hour of smoking at 300°F, apply the mop sauce to the pork ribs. It shouldn’t take much of the sauce, there will be at least half of it left in the pan.
Having a mop brush is very helpful, as you can carefully dab the meat without brushing off the spices. I recommend looking at this 18″ basting mop, or another similar one, that has replaceable mop heads.
Continue to smoke the ribs for the full 90 minutes before wrapping.
Wrap with Mop Sauce
Remember how I told you not to use all of the mop sauce? Now it’s time.
Lay out two sheets of heavy-duty foil on the counter. Place the rack of ribs meat side down. Pour over a little of the mop sauce underneath and on top. Wrap tightly, crimping up the edges. Repeat this for each rack.
Place the foil-wrapped ribs back onto the smoker and cook for another 45 minutes, meat-side down.
This is the braising stage, which helped the meat to tenderize in the liquid. Cooking at a higher heat of 300°F will accomplish this pretty quickly.
Rebuild the Bark
Once the 45 minutes have passed it’s time for the finish line. Braising the ribs has softened the bark a little, so this last step helps to firm it back up.
Open up the foil and carefully flip the ribs so they are meat-side up. Be careful not to spill the spicy juices, which can be used at the very end. Smoke the exposed ribs for another 15-20 minutes until the bark has been rebuilt.
NOTE: You might notice a bald spot or two where the bark shifted or rubbed off. Add more spices to this area and it should rebuild the bark during this phase.
How can you tell when baby back ribs are done?
This is all about personal preference and intuition. Most people prefer a little bite, meaning that the ribs won’t be falling off the bone. The internal temp will be around 208-210°F and the rack should bend slightly when you pick them up with your tongs.
If you do like it where the bones can pull out, then cook them a little longer.
Slice and Serve
Keep those juices in the foil if possible, they add a nice glaze if you’d like to pour it over the ribs after they are sliced.
Let the ribs rest for a few minutes before slicing. Pork ribs are easiest to slice when flipped meat-side down, so you can slice between the bones.
Serving the hot ribs with a handful of fresh thyme adds a nice aroma when serving. It’s not necessary but it adds to the overall experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, this process works with both types of ribs. During the last phase of rebuilding the bark, use your intuition to tell you if they need to be cooked longer.
This process takes about 2.5 hours total, which is pretty fast considering BBQ. Smoking takes 90 minutes, braising takes 45, and rebuilding the bark takes another 15-20 minutes.
Not for this recipe. The mop sauce needs to be in the foil, seasoning the ribs while they braise. Butcher paper generally works well for slower cooks, but at this higher temperature, the foil is better.
Sides to Serve with Cajun Pork Ribs
- Coal-Roasted Pineapple Burnt Ends
- Grilled Broccoli Crunch Salad
- Creamy Southwestern Coleslaw
- Jalapeno Pimento Cheese
- Southern Macaroni Salad
- 3 racks of baby back ribs
- Cajun seasoning of choice
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup Louisiana hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3–4 springs of fresh thyme
- Preparing the meat. Using a paper towel, remove the membrane from the back side of the ribs that runs along the bones. Trim any excess fat from the sides. Season the ribs generously on all sides and allow them to rest for at least 15 minutes, up to overnight.
- Smoke the ribs for 90 minutes at 300°F. Place the ribs in the smoker with the meat facing up. Allow them to cook undisturbed.
- Prepare the mop sauce. Place the butter, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and thyme in a saucepan over medium heat. Melt everything together and stir to combine. Keep this sauce handy for the mopping phase. Add additional hot sauce as desired.
- Apply the mop sauce after the first hour. Using a pastry brush or basting mop, gently add some of the mop sauce to the top of the ribs. There should be more than half left after this application, which will be used next. Continue to cook the ribs for the full 90 minutes.
- Wrap and braise the ribs for 45 minutes. Remove the ribs from the smoker. Lay out 2 sheets of heavy-duty foil onto a counter. Place a rack of ribs meat-side down. Pour some of the mop sauce along the sides and top of the rack. Wrap the foil layers tightly around the ribs, crimping the edges so the seam is on the top. Repeat this for each rack, and place them back in the smoker for 45 minutes.
- Rebuild the bark. Open up the foil where the seam was crimped on the top. Using tongs, carefully flip the ribs so the meat is exposed. If there are any bald spots, sprinkle additional seasoning on those. Cook for another 15-20 minutes until the bark has firmed up and they are cooked to your liking. The meat temperature will be about 208-210°F.
- Slice and serve. Allow the ribs to rest for a few minutes before slicing between the bones. Keep as much of the juices from the foil as possible to pour over the ribs when serving.
- Use heavy-duty foil instead of butcher paper for the braising phase.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
- Category: Pork
- Method: Smoking
- Cuisine: BBQ
Keywords: pork ribs, baby back ribs, Cajun ribs, Cajun pork ribs, spicy, hot sauce