Masala Chai Pork Ribs

May 31, 2021
2 Ratings
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

I have a weak spot for Assam tea. My mornings start with three cups of Assam with excessive amounts of milk and sugar. Late afternoons call for a strong Assam with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper, nutmeg, and anise -- a Masala Chai experience to replenish, invigorate, and help survive a long day in the office. I love the blend so much that I began thinking how to use it in cooking more often. The sweetness of my mixture, the scent of it, and all the complex aromas seem to be a perfect match for slow cooked pork ribs. The tea blend penetrates the meat as the ribs simmer slowly in the oven, and then, after hours of cooking, culminate in a beautiful black syrupy glaze. I like to serve the ribs with mashed sweet potatoes and Fennel Slaw with Vanilla Vinaigrette. A day that starts with Assam and ends with Assam – it cannot get better than that.

Make sure you are using meaty spare ribs, not the leaner and pricier baby back ribs. —QueenSashy

Test Kitchen Notes

I knew the blend of spices and tea would be delicious and was excited for this dish. I swooned at the aroma filling my house while the ribs were in the oven, and the falling-apart meat had a wonderful flavor. I reduced the liquid to more of a syrup than a glaze for fear of having nothing left. I basted four times, every 30 seconds; I was left with just a spoonful of sauce, which I ate right from the spoon. Next time I might add a touch of orange juice for acid; other than that, this dish was magical. —savorthis

What You'll Need
  • For the rub
  • 2 tablespoons (or content of 4 tea bags) Assam tea, or any similar strong malty black tea, such as Irish breakfast or Scottish breakfast
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • For the ribs
  • 2 pounds pork spare ribs
  • 2 tablespoons Assam tea (or 4 tea bags)
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar
  • 12 whole cardamom pods
  • 1 to 2 ounces ginger, shaved or cut into small pieces
  • 16 cloves
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  1. Prepare the rub. In a small bowl, mix all ingredients. Rub the ribs all over with the spice rub. Wrap the ribs in plastic wrap and put them into the fridge to sit overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 250F. Steep the tea in 4 cups of boiling water for 5 to 6 minutes, until very dark and strong. Discard the tea leaves (or bags) and stir in the brown sugar. Add all other ingredients. Pour the mixture around the ribs in the pan. Cover with lid and roast until tender, about 4 hours.
  3. Remove the ribs from the oven and preheat the broiler.
  4. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan and skim off all the fat. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until reduced to thick syrup.
  5. Arrange the ribs on a rack. Glaze the upper side of the ribs with the syrup, and place under the broiler for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the glaze starts to bubble. (Because of the rub, the ribs will already be almost black, and with the glaze they will become like black lacquer, so keep an eye on them while under the broiler; there will be a fine line between black lacquer and burnt syrup.)
  6. Remove the ribs from the oven, let them rest for a couple of minutes, and then serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • charles
  • Rocky
  • Deb Roseman
    Deb Roseman
  • NakedBeet
  • savorthis
Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.

19 Reviews

charles May 31, 2021
Found them good but definitely not going to be for everyone. I think the people who will not like it, are going to be the people who always expect ribs to taste like American BBQ ribs. I say this more as a warning if you are bringing them to a gathering, versus if you are just making them for your significant other and yourself.

To me this is a nice, sweet, sticky take on an Asian ribs, and I can easily see myself making it again. I will say it feels like a rib that complements an entire meal, but doesn't take center stage. It reminds me of kalbi ribs, more in what you can pair it with than taste. I could really see eating it with coconut rice with a side of some Asian slaw, or using it to make some bibmbap bowls.
Rocky October 28, 2020
I'm gonna give this recipie a go and let you know.
Rocky November 2, 2020
Brava QueenSashy!
I made this dish.... And it was just great!
Tea: I used what I had on hand. Twinings English breakfast tea for the rub and Chinese gunpowder tea "for the ribs".
I forgot the ginger BUT next time I promise myself I wont. Cooking time at 180° C was 3 hours covered with tin foil and the meat was falling off the bone. I uncovered, tasted and sprinkled a bit of salt on. I didn't do the glaze 'cause I got lazy.
I will make this again even if we don't have guests AND will glaze.
Very good although I think that the mix of aromatics may be everyone's cup of tea.
Kate June 5, 2015
My hockey team has fallen in love with these ribs. And I frequently triple and quadruple this recipe when we cook out. If you are going down that road I would suggest that you don't need to do multiply the mixture in step 2 by quite so many. Yes you will need some more but not four times the amount.
QueenSashy June 6, 2015
Kate - I love your hockey team -- let them know that they now have a huge fan in me :) I never quadrupled the recipe, (I mainly do like double or so) but you are very right in observing that one does not really need to multiply the liquid by the same amount...
Deb R. April 3, 2013
Can't wait to try these on the smoker!
QueenSashy April 4, 2013
I envy you - I so wished I had one... Please let me know how they turned out.
Deb R. April 3, 2013
Can't wait to try these on the smoker!
NakedBeet March 8, 2013
I am so eager to try this out!!! Congrats on the CP.
QueenSashy April 4, 2013
savorthis February 22, 2013
I love doing ribs with tea, but I have always used lapsang souchong. I love the mix of spices in your recipe and just happened to buy a huge pack of ribs so I am excited to try this.
QueenSashy February 22, 2013
I love your dishes and look forward to the feedback
savorthis February 25, 2013
Thank you! Question- it says mix all the rub ingredients- should they be ground up first?
savorthis February 25, 2013
Wait- scratch that. I was looking at the first set of ingredients and thinking RUB. Nevermind!
QueenSashy February 25, 2013
i know, things got shuffled a bit in the site redesign. but if you are using leaf tea for the rub, you will have to crush it...
Madhuja February 18, 2013
This looks really good!
QueenSashy February 22, 2013
lapadia February 18, 2013
Nice job with the flavors!
QueenSashy February 18, 2013
Thank you.