Rib of the Week: Pork Spare Ribs with Cocoa Spice Rub

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These ribs borrow heavily from Mexican mole—that dark, rich concoction of onion, garlic, several different kinds of chili peppers topped off with a good dose of chocolate. You usually see it served most with chicken, but the flavors are also really well suited to pork.

Chocolate and pork? Yep, chocolate and pork. Trust me. It’s good.

This spice rub uses generous amounts of kosher salt, chili powder, ground garlic, and ginger. Bitter, unsweetened cocoa powder deepens and enhances the heat from the chili and ginger.

The resulting flavors are earthy, complex, and oh-so-satisfying.

I like to serve these with white rice that’s been cooked with butter, salt, and a little chipotle chili powder.

Pork Spare Ribs with Cocoa Spice Rub

2 lbs. pork spare ribs
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbls. ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground clove
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbls. ground garlic
1 Tbls. kosher salt
2 Tbls. olive oil
spray oil
chili flakes
dried parsley

Line a sheet pan with foil and/or parchment paper. Set it aside. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, put the cocoa powder, chili, clove, ginger, garlic, and kosher salt.

Mix them together with a fork or small whisk until uniform. Set the bowl aside for a minute while you grab the meat.

Get your pork ribs out of the fridge.

Put them in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Drizzle in the olive oil, seal the bag well, and give it a few shakes to coat the meat.

Pour the spice rub into the bag and over the ribs.

Seal the bag well and smoosh it around between your hands to coat the ribs with the spice rub. When the oil and the spices combine, the inside of your bag will be instantly coated with chocolate-y goodness. It will be messy looking. That’s just fine.

When you open the bag, your ribs should be covered in cocoa rub, like this:

Take the ribs out of the bag, giving them a little shake to knock off any excess spice. Lay them out on your prepared pan.

Hit the surface lightly with a little spray oil. I do this to help ensure I’ll get a good crust, since the fat content in the ribs will vary.

Sprinkle the ribs with dried parsley and chili flakes (I used Aleppo chili from Penzey’s) to taste.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake for about 1 hour at 350 degrees.

They’re done when the meat has developed a deep brown crust and comes away from the bone easily when you pull at it with a fork.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. This sounds incredibly delicious. I make a version in the traditional Chinese technique of steaming the meat first, then suace it in a mole like sauce with soy and chili. Jeremi Leung from Whampoa Club in Shanghai does a similar one. Yes, chocolate and pork is really great!
  2. I live in Cincinnati, as you may realize, and the city is (in)famous for this bizzare runny-chilli-on-spaghetti stuff, but one of the local chains puts a hint of cocoa into the sauce. Sometimes, at 3am, a guy has to do what a guy has to do. This, however, looks delicious. Next time I do ribs (which will be soon!) I'll do these. Nicely done.
  3. Hi Jessie! Why not chocolate and pork? It's a perfect blend and the unsweetened cocoa powder gives the Mex tinge! Yes! unsweetened chocolate match perfectly with meat! Jessie this dark-cripsy-rib..is making me drooling :) Gera .:. sweetsfoods
  4. Hehe thanks, guys! They were super yummy. I hope you like them if you give the rub a try. :D I think it would be good on a pork roast, too. And Gabi--Funny you should mention bacon brownies! April over at The Hungry Engineer recently posted a recipe for them that's to die for! Go take a peek: http://www.thehungryengineer.com/cooking/bacon-brownies/ Cheers! +Jessie
  5. Jessie, you really do nibble on a lot of ribs doncha? Heheh...and yes, chocolate and pork do go well together. In fact, I made pork ribs with chocolate sauce seasoning several days ago and it turned out quite good too. Never thought of using cocoa powder though but now I know, I'll definitely give it a try next.
  6. I searched online for a cocoa rub for spare ribs that I actually had all the ingredients for and came upon this one. Well I have to say that while I thought they were just okay, my husband was emphatic that they were best thing he has ever eaten in life! He hates the idea of chocolate and meat together, so I didn't even tell him the main ingredient of the rub! Sneaky me! ;) Thanks for posting the recipe, I'll definitely be using it again!
    • Oh goodness, I'm so glad he liked it! If you're a wine drinker and are into that whole chocolate and wine thing, these would be really good with a couple of glasses of shiraz... Cheers! +Jessie
      • Confirmed, shiraz is great with this. I started doing cocoa on back ribs on my own some time ago, and it turned out great! Glad to learn someone else has the same intuition :)
  7. It would make the blog much nicer if there was a way to print off the recipes without all the extra pictures, comments and advertising. If you would like an example of a nice way to print off of a blog, check out the one called Smitten Kitchen. The blog has great ideas and recipes and I would be much more inclined to save them if they were easily printed. Thanks.