These Chinese boneless spare ribs are just like the takeout recipe. Sticky and sweet with crispy edges and that deep red color. Learn how easily you can make them at home!
Takeout options in our town are pretty slim.
It’s pretty much either pizza or Chinese.
Everything else is just too far away to warrant takeout.
If you want another cuisine, you basically have to go out and make a meal of it.
Because of this, we eat our fair share of Chinese takeout.
Usually, that just means a small wonton soup for me and a shared container of boring chicken and broccoli.
But a few months back, Ulysses threw a curve ball into our typical takeout order and came home with a small container of boneless spare ribs.
It was like an immediate throw back to my childhood.
I don’t think I’ve had a Chinese spare rib since takeout as a kid.
Traditional Chinese spare ribs, the ones with the pork bone, were always in the order when we got takeout growing up.
Somewhere in the last 20+ years though I completely forgot about them.
You know how Chinese takeout menus go, there’s approximately 500 things on them, 75% of which you have no idea what they even are and you order the same 5 items in rotation every single time.
These boneless spare ribs were not in our regular rotation so they threw me off my game entirely.
I ate my wonton soup, put a normal sized serving of rice + chicken and broccoli on my plate and added a few of the spare ribs on the side thinking I wouldn’t really be into them.
How wrong I was.
I think I went back 3 times for more until eventually we both just polished off the entire container between comments like “these are SO good” and “we need to order these more often!”.
Needless to say, boneless pork spare ribs have been on our Chinese takeout order ever since.
And recently, I found myself examining them a little more thoughtfully wondering if I could replicate them at home in a slightly better for you but still authentic way.
And here we are.
I’ve made copycat versions of a few restaurant dishes here and there like my Kung Pao chickpea recipe (a vegetarian take on Kung Pao).
But, I can confidently say this recipe for Chinese spare ribs is by far my favorite and maybe even the best replication I’ve managed to date.
And the best part is how simple it is.
The key in how to make boneless spare ribs that taste just like Chinese takeout is all in the marinade.
Letting the pork absorb all that flavor overnight makes a huge difference in the final dish.
HOW TO MAKE CHINESE BONELESS SPARERIBS
First, start with the pork.
You can use either boneless pork spare ribs if you can find them (boneless pork country ribs are likely easier to locate) or, boneless pork loin like I did here.
Using pork loin will also keep the fat content a bit lower in the recipe.
Traditionally, in Chinese restaurants they’ll actually use boneless pork butt (which is technically from the shoulder of the pig – I know, confusing much?!) cut into thick slices, roasted and then sliced into long thing lengths.
If using the pork loin, slice the pork into thin strips.
Keeping the slices thin helps the edges crisp up and get that crunchy texture like the takeout dish has.
Next, make the marinade. Marinade ingredients include:
- soy sauce
- hoisin sauce
- red wine
- Chinese Five Spice
- red food coloring (optional – but gives the spare ribs that traditional takeout red color)
It’s best to let the pork sit in the marinade overnight but if you’re short on time, 4 hours or so will do.
The cooking technique is probably not what you expect for boneless spare ribs.
Those crispy edges make you think they’d be fried but these actually get baked in the oven.
The trick to a crispy bake on these is to lay them on a baking rack on top of baking sheet. This allows the heat in the oven to circulate around all the edges getting them nicely browned and crispy.
Brushing the pork with the extra marinade while it cooks also helps with that sticky glaze that makes Chinese spare ribs so delicious.
If you love sticky, sweet and savory foods, you will absolutely love these pork spare ribs.
They remind me a lot of this sticky honey soy pork chop recipe actually which is like the non-takeout version of this recipe.
WHAT CAN I SUBSTITUTE FOR CHINESE 5 SPICE?
Chinese 5 spice powder/seasoning is a pretty crucial ingredient in the flavor of these pork spare ribs so omitting it isn’t really an option.
If you don’t have a Chinese 5 spice powder on hand though you probably have all the components that go in it individually: cinnamon, fennel, cloves, star anise, white pepper.
Regular pepper is fine to substitute for white pepper (I admittedly don’t even keep white pepper on hand).
WHAT DO I SERVE WITH CHINESE BONELESS RIBS?
If you want to keep with the Chinese takeout theme, some garlicky broccoli and fried rice are obviously great side dish options with this dish.
For a light and fresh option, try this bok choy salad.
Pineapple fried rice is a fun twist on the traditional menu item too for a bit of sweetness with your sparerib dinner.
Whip up a batch of sweet and sour tofu to go with the boneless spareribs and have a Chinese takeout feast at home!
THE HISTORY OF CHINESE BONELESS SPARERIBS
Chinese boneless spareribs were actually created when takeout restaurant owners were getting feedback that people loved spareribs but not the high price tag they came with.
To combat this, they created the Chinese boneless sparerib!
Using pork butt, they were able to keep the price point lower but keep almost the exact same taste and flavor of traditional Chinese spareribs.
It was a win win!
IS THERE ANOTHER OPTION FOR RED FOOD COLORING?
I despise traditional food dyes.
I think they’re highly unnecessary and just a bunch of suspect chemicals that have no place in our bodies.
Please don’t get me started on my thoughts on red velvet anything…
That said, if you want the traditional “look” to Chinese boneless spare ribs, you need to use some coloring agent for that red appearance.
Of course, you can just omit this ingredient and the spare ribs will taste just as good, they just won’t have that “traditional” color.
See my Chinese spare ribs web story too!
Want more recipes like these boneless spare ribs?
And if you’re looking for a “real” rib recipe, don’t miss these sticky maple apple pork ribs – they’re fall off the bone tender and finger licking good!
- 1.5 pounds boneless pork loin (or boneless spare ribs)
- 1/3 cup soy sauce (*see note)
- 1/3 cup hoisin sauce (*see note)
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
- 2 drops natural red food coloring
- Thinly slice the pork into strips about 3" long and place in a large sealable plastic bag.
- Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl until well combined.
- Pour the marinade into the plastic bag with the pork.
- Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4 hours.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a baking rack on top.
- Place the pork slices on top of the baking rack. Reserve any extra marinade.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes brushing the pork slices with the extra marinade 2-3 times while cooking.
- Broil for last 1-2 minutes for extra crispy edges.
- Remove from oven and serve with rice and steamed vegetables. Best enjoyed immediately.
*Make sure to use gluten-free soy sauce and hoisin sauce if necessary
**Red food coloring is optional but gives the boneless spare ribs that classic red color of takeout. Beet root powder is an alternative option as well.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 411Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 137mgSodium: 1576mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 1gSugar: 9gProtein: 48g
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.