Thai coconut barbecue ribsI used to oversell things. For example, if I loved a movie, I’d tell my friends how amazing it was and how much they were going to love it. By nature, I get really excited when I love something, and my gut instinct is to rave about it to everyone, and share my excitement.  But I’ve been somewhat tamed over the years.  I’ve learned that when you recommend something too highly, there’s always the chance that people will expect too much and be disappointed.  I’ve also been told (mainly by my teenagers) that not everybody likes to be told how much they’re going to love something.  So I will resist saying what I’d like to say about these Thai coconut BBQ ribs (wink, wink) and just say that I discovered the recipe in Bon Appetite magazine in 1995, and haven’t stopped making them since.

One of the many excellent features of this recipe is that you can do all of the messy, difficult work the day before: the ribs are cut apart, steamed, and marinated in the fridge overnight.  Then all you have to do is throw them on the grill for a few minutes to brown them before serving. There is a wonderful harmony of many complex flavors in the sauce – a quality that is prized in Thai Cuisine.  Credit for this delicious combination of flavors goes to Bon Appetite – I’ve tweaked the recipe only a tiny bit, adding jalapeño peppers for some bite, a tad more shallots, and an oven-steaming method for those who don’t have a stove-top steamer.

trimming and cutting lemongrassLemongrass is a tropical plant that’s very popular in Thai cooking.  It adds an indescribably exotic, lemony flavor to a recipe.  If you’ve never used it before, it can be challenging to figure out. The outer shell is very hard.  But there are many layers and each one you peel off exposes one that is more tender underneath.  Look for a firm long stalk.  Cut off the lower root end and a few inches of the thin pointy end.  Peel off one or two tough outer layers along the stalk.  Then slice it with a sharp knife.  It’s extremely stringy and fibrous inside, so you’ll need a food processor or blender to further break it up.

Thai coconut BBQ sauceThe baby back ribs are cut apart and steamed until tender either in the oven….

baby back ribs or on the stove-top.

how to steam baby back ribsThe fully-cooked, tender, steamed ribs are tossed with the delicious Thai coconut sauce and marinated in the refrigerator overnight.

baby back ribs in Thai coconut marinade

how to marinate Thai BBQ ribs8 minutes on the grill gives the ribs a beautiful golden brown crust. Spoon some delicious coconut barbecue sauce on top and enjoy!

baby back pork ribs with Thai coconut BBQ sauce

Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Thai
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-6
Barbecued baby back ribs with Thai flavors. Ribs are steamed and then marinated overnight so you can just throw them on the grill before serving to brown them and sear in the delicious flavors of the marinade.
  • Ribs
  • 2 racks of baby back pork ribs, cut into individual ribs
  • BBQ sauce/marinade
  • 1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk (shake can before opening)
  • ½ cup roughly-chopped cilantro, packed (stems included)
  • ½ cup, packed, brown sugar
  • ½ cup roughly-chopped shallots
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons roughly-chopped garlic (4-5 large cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons roughly-chopped ginger root
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, ends trimmed, tough outer layers peeled off, roughly chopped
  • 1 large jalapeño pepper or two small, seeds and membranes removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Make the BBQ sauce/marinade Put all marinade ingredients into a blender or food processor and process 30 seconds to a minute, until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Pre-cook ribs Method 1: If you have a steamer, bring water to a boil under the steamer rack. Add ribs to steamer basket, cover and steam for 20 minutes. Method 2: For oven-steming, preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a large glass baking pan with foil. Add ribs, curved side up. Pour 1½ cups water into the pan under the ribs. Cover pan tightly with foil. Steam ribs in middle of the oven for 1 hour. Try to keep a little space between the ribs so they steam evenly. (you may need two pans to fit all the ribs)
  3. Place steamed ribs in a large, non-reactive baking pan. Let them cool for 10 minutes. Pour marinade on top and toss to coat. Cover pan with plastic wrap and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Preheat grill to medium-high. Remove ribs from marinade, reserving remaining marinade. Cook ribs for 8 minutes, turning a couple of times, until golden brown.
  5. Boil remaining marinade for a minute or two and pour it into a small bowl or gravy boat. Serve ribs with coconut barbecue sauce on the side.



  1. Marian Dioguardi says

    Fantastic…a recipe that my husband can and wants to make. The ribs are steaming now. The marinade is done. Tomorrow night is the night. Thank you.

    • Lisa Goldfinger says

      Hi lisa, I’ve never tried par-boiling them. My concern is that they might not be as tender. If you decide to give it a try, I’d love to know how they turn out. Lisa

      • M. Sun says

        I made these the other night they were absolutely fabulous. my only one comment would be that the sugar is, for me,a little too sweet. I would probably cut it in half. I would also serve it with lime wedges but these were so so good and oh by the way I did parboil them and they were so tender.

  2. Carolyn says

    YUM!! Made these tonight for dinner and everyone loved them. Served with an asian slaw, perfect dinner for a hot summer night. Will definitely make again. Thanks, Lisa!!

  3. Carole says

    Lovely work, Lisa! Would you be happy to link it in to the current Food on Friday which is about all things BBQ? This is the link . I do hope to see you there. Cheers

  4. Lisa Goldfinger says

    Hi Carol, thank you for the invitation to your site – it’s a fun concept! I’ll definitely be back. Best, Lisa

  5. Donna says

    I made these last night for dinner. They were terrific. Everyone loved them! I used light coconut milk and served with a lime wedge on the side. The lime really made them pop. Will definitely make again. Yum

  6. M. Sun says

    I am making again tonight but this time I am going to try in the oven. I need a new bbq but until then I will cook in the oven and also put under the broiler. We will see how well this works out. Not going to marinate them. Just going to toss with the bbq sauce and hope for the best.

  7. Frank Mosher says

    Really great blog!! I also would also parboil, just to remove some of the fat and seriously tenderize same, then marinate, and then bake in oven-saving some heated marinade to top with after! Grilling individual cut baby-back ribs on a “normal” BBQ is an arduous task, leading to serious char burning, and loss of product through the grates, and really not worth the effort in my HBO. Luv.

  8. Jeemin says

    I would love to try the Coconut BBQ Ribs. It’s sounds soooo good. But where can I find the recipe for the Coconut BBQ Sauce?


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