Main dish

Dr Pepper ribs: sticky, spicy and sweet

Dr Pepper ribs DSC7189

I’ve been on a rib kick lately. I usually like my ribs simple—seasoned with nothing but a salt, cayenne and black pepper rub, smoked low and slow over post-oak wood. But when I’m trying to make outdoor fare inside, I tend to change my tune. Take my Dr Pepper ribs. These are sticky, spicy and sweet, which is the exact opposite of how I like my barbecue. And yet, I love my Dr Pepper ribs so much that I could eat a whole rack by myself.

Now if you know me well, you are aware that I’m a staunch opponent of sauce on barbecue. And yes, these ribs are wet and messy, so much in fact that if you don’t have a stack of napkins nearby you should probably wear a bib. So what changed my mind and why did I decide to make saucy ribs?

We Texans love to cook with Dr Pepper. I love to use Dr Pepper in my peanut brittle and a Dr Pepper chocolate cake is wonderful as well as it always turns out so moist. But I’d never tried using Dr Pepper with meat and I was curious if it would make that much of a difference.

Dr Pepper ribs | Homesick Texan
I’ve tried making meat with my stove-top smoker in the style that I like it, but save for fish and vegetables, the results haven’t been great. So when it comes to oven-baked ribs, I decided to eschew outside authenticity and instead shoot for lots of flavor. Enter the Dr Pepper.

At first I tried making my ribs savory, using the Dr Pepper as only a tenderizer. This was wrong as the ribs were soggy with a strange flavor. It wasn’t, however the Dr Pepper’s fault—it was mine for pretending that the drink was something it wasn’t. So I decided that I would embrace the Dr Pepper’s inherent sweetness and try to compliment that with flavors that balanced it instead of fought it.

I coated the ribs in a smoky, sweet dry rub made with chipotle powder and brown sugar and let them rest for a few hours. I then made a glaze with my chipotle ketchup, Dr Pepper, mustard, vinegar, molasses and allspice. I baked the ribs in a low oven for a little over an hour and then started applying my Dr Pepper glaze. After another hour and a stint under the broiler, the meat was tender and each bite was coated in a sticky glaze both fiery and sweet.

Now because these ribs are messy, you may be tempted to eat these with a knife and a fork. Don’t. A year ago, the family was gathered for Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s farm and her neighbor brought over some ribs. Because we were having a sit-down dinner, I started to eat my ribs with a knife and a fork. “What are you doing?” said my uncle. “You don’t eat ribs with silverware! Use your hands like a Texan.”

Dr Pepper ribs | Homesick Texan
You won’t find wet, sticky ribs at a Hill Country barbecue joint, so you could argue ribs such as these aren’t authentically Texan. But that’s just silly. Why? Because there’s nothing more Texan than Dr Pepper, chipotle peppers and eating meat with your hands!

What do you like to make with Dr Pepper?

Dr Pepper ribs DSC7189
5 from 1 vote

Dr Pepper ribs

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


Ingredients for the ribs:

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup black pepper
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 racks pork ribs, St. Louis cut
  • 1/4 cup Dr Pepper

Ingredients for the glaze:

  • 2 cups Dr Pepper
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup mustard
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle powder


  1. To make a rub, stir together the salt, black pepper, brown sugar, mustard powder, chipotle powder, allspice, and cayenne. Coat the ribs with the rub on both sides, wrap in plastic, then place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

  2. Heat the oven to 300° F and bring the ribs to room temperature.

  3. In a foil-lined large baking or roasting pan, arrange the ribs with the meat side up, pour in 1/4 cup of Dr Pepper, cover pan tightly with foil and place in the oven.

  4. Meanwhile, to make the glaze, place the Dr Pepper, ketchup, mustard, apple cider vinegar, molasses, and chipotle powder in a pan, bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes until thick and syrupy.

  5. After an hour and a half, take the ribs out of the oven and spread some of the glaze on each side of the racks. Place back in the oven, meat side up and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

  6. After 30 minutes, take out the ribs and spread more glaze over them and cook for 30 more minutes or until ribs are desired tenderness.

  7. At this point, take the ribs out of the oven, spread more glaze on them and then cook each side under the broiler for four minutes.

  8. Divide and serve!

Recipe Notes

You can use my chipotle ketchup instead of regular ketchup for the glaze. I used cane sugar Dr Pepper though you can also use regular Dr Pepper, just don’t use diet!

  1. Pink of Perfection

    How many ways can I say, “Good God YES!” This is positively brilliant and sounds a-MAY-zing. I’ve never cooked anything with Dr Pepper, but clearly this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

  2. I don’t drink soft drinks much, but I’m a Dr. Pepper gal all the way; have been all my life, though I’ve never cooked with it. Now I *must* try this.

  3. There is more than one way to skin a cat so going sticky time to time is not sacrilegious but just good respect to the meat gods. Personally I prefer the dry rubbed too but some days I am to lazy to tend a smoker all day long.

  4. These ribs sound awesome. I love that you incorporated the chipotle ketchup into the recipe. I occasionally use Dr. Pepper to make roast in the slow cooker. I’ve also used root beer, but I much prefer the good Dr.

  5. CraftyCanadian

    YUM! Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce is the BEST! Neither my husband or I are fans of sweet sauces – we prefer sauce the likes of the infamous Salt Lick. I was looking for something a little different and this seemed to fit the bill… I picked up a roast chicken from the grocery, cut it up, slathered it in sauce and reheated on fairly high heat to get a bit of browning/carmelization going on. Made garlic bread, added a vegetable, and voila! yummy QUICK week night meal 🙂

  6. CraftyCanadian

    Oh and could you possibly post the recipe for Dr. Pepper Chocolate Cake? It sounds delish 🙂

  7. Yay! I heart Dr Pepper. I’m in recovery for my out-of-control love for Diet Dr Pepper (particularly with cherries added at a Sonic happy hour). I love to cook with Dr Pepper and I’m really excited to try your recipe because I’ve never before been brave enough to take on ribs! (And being an “adopted” Texan since I grew up in the deep South, I say, “Bring on the saucy ribs! Sticky BBQ has a place in my heart too. It’ll be like Texas meets home on my plate!”

  8. ChowMama Stacie

    YUM!! I’ve been craving these since reading about a restaurant due to open this month in my home borough of Brooklyn, NY. The owner, the former partner in Momofuku of world renowned David Chang, apparently specializes in Dr Pepper ribs. Now I don’t have to wait for his damn opening after all!! Thanks!

  9. Farmer Jen

    I love ribs, and I used to drink a lot of Dr. Pepper as a teenager. This sounds like a winning combo. Must try it!

  10. My mom just drove up to Dublin from her house in Austin to buy a case of REAL Dr. Pepper to ship to me here in San Diego. I just might have to use one of those precious bottles to make these ribs. 🙂

  11. Oh yum! Nothing beats a good Dublin Dr. Pepper. I guess you can only find those in TX, because after moving out to CA I haven’t come across them anywhere!

  12. I wish that you could send some of ribs to me!

    BTW, I had some real “Dublin” Dr. Pepper when I was in Texas in April. (I almost made it to Dublin, but my Dad gave out at Hico. We got our DP at a filling station in Hillsboro.)

  13. suburban housefrau

    We recently got our Dublin DP at a convenience store in Tolar. We were headed out to Stephenville, but gave up due to weather and took our chance that it would be cheaper in Tolar than at a Central Market. It was! They want something like $7 for a 6-pack at CM and we got ours for $3 a 6-pack. We bought 2 cases. 😉

    I absolutely LOVE DP cake and chocolate DP frosting.

  14. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    I haven’t cooked with Dr. Pepper, but this makes me feel better about the Fresca cake I baked a few months ago.

  15. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen dr. Pepper. Those looks really yummy.

  16. I can not wait to try these! I want to let you know that I love puffy taco shells and make yours all the time! I use your flour taco shell recipe and then fry them. You literally saved my taco loving life by posting that one! Thanks!!!

  17. M. Housman

    I was just telling my husband about your Dr. Pepper peanut brittle. He is a DP addict. Snubs his nose at Mr. Pibb and how dare anyone serve Dr. Thunder…

    Wait until I tell him about this!

  18. I’ve got a Dr. Pepper pecan chipped beef cheese ball recipe in an old Brittin/Daniel cookbook I snagged from my grandmother. Sacrilegious as it may be to admit, I’m not sure the tiny amount of DP adds much flavor, but I use it anyway because it’s just so much damn fun.

  19. aussiehen

    OMG that sounds so good. DP is really expensive here in Australia but I might just give this a go next time I come across some.

  20. Dr. Pepper Smoked Sausage on the stove for a quick meal is what my mom made. Get a deep skillet, some thawed smoked sausage cut up, add a bottle of your fave bbq sauce (I prefer a mesquite of hickory smoked) and put over the sausage. Then add a can of Dr. P or coke if you don't have any Dr.P. I prefer drinking coke to Dr. P, but Dr.P's better for the recipe. It just gives it better flavor. Mix the Dr.P & BBQ sauce and let it slowly simmer. THis is great for when you don't know when family's coming home. Add some ranch style beans or something and you're good to go. Delicious!

  21. Heather Laurel

    Honestly, this blog is the best thing for someone who claims that God may have her a Yankee-child but heaven knows she’s a Texan at heart!

    I’ve planning the menu for the Father’s Day BBQ I’m throwing and I was thinking…gosh I need a damn good ribs recipe. While my dad is a dry rub kinda guy I hope I can win his heart with this recipe, because it sounds absolutely fabulous.

    I might have to give it a test run this weekend.


    Thanks so much for your awesome recipes! You make me feel like I’m back in Texas.

  22. Lisa Fain

    Pink of Perfection–Girl, you mean to say you’ve never cooked with Dr Pepper? What are you waiting for?

    Andrea–It’s an awesome secret ingredient!

    Jeff–Well thank you–that’s just what I needed to hear.

    M –I’ll have to try root beer–I bet that’s delicious as well.

    Crafty Canadian–What a meal! And yes, I’ll post the Dr Pepper cake recipe real soon.

    Sara–Ribs are scary at first, but they get easier with practice.

    Chow Mama Stacie–What’s the name of the restaurant? I bet it’s going to be good!

    Farmer Jen–If you like ribs and Dr Pepper, it is indeed a winning combo!

    Sarah–Your mom is awesome.

    Laura–Nope, you have to get them shipped to you if you live outside the state.

    Bee–It’s cool that you’re now starting to see Dublin Dr Pepper in more places–my mom gets hers at the local grocery store.

    Suburban Housefrau–Wow! $3 a 6-pack? What a price!

    Lydia–Cooking with soda is a time-honored American tradition and you should never feel bad about it.

    Helene–They were!

    Rachel–Now why didn’t I think of that–I’ll have to make my puffy shells with flour tortillas next time!

    M. Houseman–Mr Pipp and Dr Thunder are just wrong.

    Alexis–That cheese ball leaves me speechless. I have got to see that recipe!

    Aussiehen–You could substitute Coke or root beer if those are more affordable.

    Jo–Oh, my! I’ll have to make that soon!

  23. Lisa Fain

    Heather Laurel–You’re very welcome. Hope you enjoy the ribs!

  24. I don’t drink soda much, but this is a reason to go out and buy some Dr. Pepper. I love ribs!!!

  25. Susan from Food Blogga

    Well, I like my ribs wet and sticky, especially with maple syrup (I did grow up in New England after all). As for Dr. Pepper, I think I tasted it once when I was a kid. Let’s just say I never craved a second can. But if anyone could convince me to try a sauce with Dr. Pepper, you could. So I’ll keep an open mind. 🙂

  26. ohhh myy i am reading thes at 2:30 in the morning and now I am hungry … I hardly eat meat at all anymore …but these look soo yummy !!! I love my Dr P in the winter time or if i am feeling achy i heat up a lil bit with a slice of lemon in it and it just makes me feel so much better . keep up the great work and keep the recipes coming !!!

  27. Michelle

    I have seen this recipe in a book, and prefer a dry rib as well, but must say, as a recovering Dr. Pepper addict, these look mighty tasty. I live in Oklahoma, and was shocked to find a store just this week, that sold Dublin Dr. Pepper. I’m off the wagon. Will have to try this recipe. Thanks!

  28. ATigerinTheKitchen

    Wow…I’ve never been a Dr. Pepper fan but these sound amazing. I’m definitely trying this. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Lisa!? where on earth do you get dublin dr pepper in new york?!!??!?

  30. Outstanding! I am sure I have used Dr. Pepper when making chili. Either Dr. Pepper or Coke seems to mellow out the flavors – something about the sweetness countering the acidic of the tomatoes.

  31. Outstanding! I’m sure I have used Dr. Pepper when making chili. Maybe even enchilada sauce. Seems to mellow out the flavors.

  32. unconfidentialcook

    If anything could get my husband to try making a new kind of bbq rib, it would be DP!

  33. Donna @ Way More Homemade

    Did you smuggle that back with you after your visit here a couple of months ago? Good on ya.

    We use Dr. Pepper in our favorite jello (black cherry jello with bing cherries and pineapple in it).

    I’ve got some ribs in the freezer calling my name. They just might be calling for some DP also.

    (We always thought it funny that with my maiden name, my initials were DP 🙂 )

  34. Re: Dr. Pepper cheese Pecan Ball w/ Dried Beef:
    I know, right?! Here it is.

    1/2 lb American cheese, grated
    3 oz cream cheese
    3-4 Tb Dr. Pepper
    2 tsp lemon juice
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp garlic, minced
    1/16 tsp dried red pepper flakes
    1/2 c pecans
    1.5 c chopped dried beef

    Blend 2 cheeses and DP in mixer till fluffy. Add remaining ingredients except beef. Shape into 2 balls & chill 20 min. Roll balls in chipped beef.

    This is from Texas on the Half Shell by Brittin and Daniel (1982), and that particular recipe came from one M.A. Pepper.

  35. Wow! I can not wait to cook these! We just recently moved from New Braunfels to just outside Boston, MA, and lordy how I miss my barbque ribs. Dr Pepper can be hard to find here too (and Frito’s bean dip for some reason)! But I have just got to make this!

    Thanks for a great recipe!

  36. pennydelossantos

    someday I hope I can inspire people like you do through your blog. All these comments are just great. The ribs in this post sound incredible. As a Texas I can honestly say I have never cooked with Dr Pepper but my roots are from south Texas, we usually use a good Mexican beer in out cooking.
    Thank you for the wonderful recipe, you have no idea how badly I want ribs right now!

  37. meredith

    I’m studying abroad in France and Dr. Pepper is hard to come by. This recipe might have made me even more homesick. Right after my texmex joint-this is the first meal I’m making.

  38. Marie Reed

    Cool! Who would have thunk it?

  39. Keesha aka PrissyCook

    What about Dr. Pepper gum? Remember that?

    I made these this weekend, they were awesome!

  40. F*** yes, this recipe looks awesome! I’ve heard of cooking with Dr. Pepper but never tried it. This, however, inspires me to give it a shot.

  41. Desmone007

    Mmmmm…I love me some good ribs! Never thought Dr. Pepper would be likely flavor enhancer so to speak. I definitely want to try it now though..Thanks for sharing!

  42. I don’t think I’ve ever made anything with Dr. Pepper, but those ribs sound awesome!

  43. Lisa Fain

    Arlene–This is a perfect excuse to buy soda!

    Susan–Just remember our palates do change as we get older though maple syrup sounds good, too!

    Darlene–I’ve never tried that but will definitely do that next flu season.

    A Tiger in the Kitchen–You’re very welcome.

    Amanda–I didn’t–it was sent to me from Texas.

    Marsha–In chili, eh? That I have to try!

    Unconfidentialcook–Here’s to the persuasive powers of Dr Pepper!

    Donna–Oh, my! I love that black-cherry Jello with Dr Pepper–I completely forgot about it.

    Alexis–I am SO making this! Thank you for the recipe!

    Candi–I never see Frito’s bean dip in New York either. That plus some Fritos is one of my favorite snacks, plus it forms a complete protein so it’s healthy!

    Penny–Aw, thank you. I think, however, that you underestimate the power of your photography!

    Meredith–I know how feel–that first meal when you get home from being abroad is crucial and mine is always Tex-Mex as well.

    Marie Reed–Yay for Dr Pepper!

    Keesha–I don’t remember that, sounds fun, though. And thanks!

    Garrett–Thank you! I hope you enjoy them!

    Desomone007–You’re very welcome!

    Brilynn–Try it, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

  44. Karen B.

    This sounds fantastic. And, can I just say I love how you answer comments personally? Your site is wonderful. My son and his six-man football teammate are getting your biscuits with breakfast in the morning!

  45. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh! I’m so excited to see this (can you tell?)!! I made a soup with Dr. Pepper a couple months ago, and it was wonderful! I can’t wait to try this! Seriously, I will be making this! I bet I’ll want to eat an entire rack myself, too! 🙂

  46. bayousister

    This sounds amazing! Can’t wait to try it. I’ve often grilled Dr Pepper hamburgers. They are yummmy!

  47. My best friend’s brother was the manager for the DP Distribution in Mason for as long as I have known them. All this talk of DP BBQ and Chocolate cake and whatnot leaves me longing for home. Can’t wait to get back to The Lone Star State! Thanks for the ideas.

  48. I made this a few days ago and it was really good. I put in all 4 tsp of chipotle sauce and it left quite a burn! Maybe next time I will just use 3 tsp! But I had already made a slaw recipe and it cooled me down!

  49. Made the ribs, minus one or two ingredients, (didn’t have them) Had DP though, they were delicious!! very good flavor

  50. just jane

    I made this last weekend and the four tsp of of chipotle powder killed me and my friends. I had to mellow it out. Other than that it had great flavor. Next time I think one to two tsp will suffice. 🙂

  51. The BBQ Grail

    I love to marinade my briskets in Dr. Pepper. It's fantastic. I whish I could get the "old school" Dr. Pepper out here in California. It's got to make a difference. A good different…

  52. Neil the Cook

    Dr Pepper and BBQ, especially ribs are a match made in heaven. I baste my ribs in a DP sauce, but the key is using Dublin DP syrup, not the bottled drink. It adds a unique flavor.

  53. Twilight

    They used Dr. Pepper in the last episode of Top Chef Masters (the winner used Frito flour onion/shallot rings with a Dr. Pepper aioli). The judges raved about them.


  54. Amsterdandi

    As I scrolled down the page to send you three cheers, two thumbs up and one cyber howdy for the grin I have reading your blog and recipes… I saw Twilight's comment about Frito onion rings/Dr.Pepper aioli on Chef Masters. What the what?

    I can't believe the DP reduction 'secret' went national! Back home in Cowtown (Fort Worth), it’s a given that Fritos and Dr. Pepper are basic food groups. Hopefully, Frito Chili Pie remains sacred at least! Especially the stadium method – although if Friday night Texas football has never been experienced, one couldn't possibly understand the clever bag-as-bowl idea, nor fully appreciate the divinely simple corn commas blanketed with thinned-out, overly simmered, yet strangely appealing, chili that’s best served by ladling from a vat of PTA Hormel… and washed down with DP in a sweating waxed-paper cup, naturally. Sigh.

    Howdy from Andi, a recovering Texan in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    (lost in drooling Texmex reverie and visions of El Fenix salsa)

  55. We are the Guerra's!

    Hi Lisa! For this recipe, can you skip the mustard? I am actually very highly allergic to mustard (no Salt Lick BBQ for me!) and would love to try this but need to leave it out. Should I try to sub it with sumthin' else or just leave it out altogether? And can you post a recipe on DP Chocolate Cake?! Holy hell that sounds tasty!

  56. Lisa Fain

    We are the Guerra's–You can skip the mustard if you're allergic–it won't taste quite the same but it should be fine.

  57. Twilight

    I don't see anything wrong with the spread of good Texas food; that way I don't crave as many things while I'm away from my 'homeland'.

    I found, btw, Frito pie (out of the bag, no less) in a sports bar in NYC last year. It went great with a Shiner and the UT football game on TV.

  58. buggedcom

    I also recommend using the sauce in conjunction with a tomatoe puree for a sauce base on a pizza. Simply fantastic

  59. We are the Guerra's!

    Oh. My. Hell. These were freaking amazing! I made them last night for a friend's birthday party and they were GONE. We cooked them for two hours in the oven and then threw them on the grill for about 30 minutes to get a nice crispy crust on them and they were so good. HEB had boston butt ribs already cut up on sale so we used though and they were still good. Lisa, thanks so much for the recipe! We've got a new family favorite!

  60. I've heard of coca cola ribs but these I have to try.

    You really can't beat DP, especially with salted peanuts thrown in the bottle. A snack you can drink and chew…

  61. I made this yesterday. They were AMAZING! Thx!!!

  62. Just wanted to share with you that I made your recipe last night and these ribs were so good! We invited some friends over and I used them as guinea pigs and they loved them. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas!!!

  63. Dr. pepper a little melted butter and brown sugar makes a good glaze for a ham

  64. sarah Kantz

    my dads been making dr pepper ribs since i was a little girl and when i come back to texas to visit he always asks what i want him to make for me and I always answer with his dr pepper ribs! and chipped beef, of course!

    he never follows a recipe so i will definitely be trying this one! thanks!


  65. Transplanted Texan in Queens

    Do you think this would work on short ribs as well? Thanks!

  66. Lisa Fain

    Transplanted Texan–The sauce may work but I don't think the cooking technique would unless you usually cook your short ribs like pork ribs. I tend to braise my short ribs usually, instead.

  67. Love this site! Will the rub and BBQ sauce work w/grilled chicken? Not sure we have the time to slow-bake ribs in the oven.

  68. Lisa Fain

    s-t–I've never tried it with chicken but I reckon it would.

  69. Anonymous

    I was wondering if I could use diet coke or pepsi instead of Dr.Pepper?

  70. Lisa Fain

    Anon–You could do it with regular Coke but I wouldn't use diet drinks–I find the artificial sweeteners leave a strange taste.

  71. Audrey McCann

    I'm having a grill off this weekend… Top chef style.. Totally gonna do this recipe.. Gonna start in the oven as said, but will finish on the grill.. Sides will be a poppy seed co'slaw (red cabbage, apple, carrot, raisins, and the white poppy seed dressing) and a jalapeno cheesy scalloped potato dish. Can't wait.. I'll let you know the results… I'm not competing against ribs.. So not sure exactly how the judging is gonna happen. I'm going up against a brisket.. And not sure what else.. Wish me luck!

  72. Clare Dal Broi

    Hi, could you use this on pork butt in a webber kettle? When would you start glazing? Have tried the ribs and they are great! Clare Australia

  73. Lisa Fain

    Clare–I have not tried the sauce on a grilled pork butt, but if you do be sure and let us know how it works!

  74. Clare Dal Broi

    Tried the low and slow technique on the webber kettle using the Dr Pepper rub & sauce ( with regular Dr Pepper) turned out great on the pork shoulder ( butt) I started basting after getting a nice dark bark on the outside. Also I used some smoking chips to enhance the smokiness from the chipotle. Great recipes Lisa and thanks for sharing, I love trying American cooking in Australia!

  75. Morgz Richards


    The only thing i was wondering is how spicy is this? I am fairly good with most spicy stuff but i have our niece coming over the weekend i plan on making these?

    Should i risk or is it a no go for kids do you reckon?
    If i leave out some of the spice ( i know, i should slap myself in the face for suggesting it) will they be more sweet than spicy?

  76. Lisa Fain

    Morgz–Well, I have a high tolerance for heat, so I don't think they're al that spicy but you might cut back for your niece.

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