10 Alternatives To BBQ Sauce For Ribs (Spicy, Sweet, Or Tangy!)

BBQ sauce and ribs go together like Texas and brisket – that much is clear.

But, just because it pairs so well doesn’t mean that every single person is going to love it. Plus, everyone likes to switch things up a bit, right?

Luckily, as it turns out, ribs go well with much more than your normal BBQ sauce. Spicy, sweet, and tangy options can be just as delectable with smoked or roasted pork ribs.

So, if you’re looking for a new flavor for your next ribs, here at the top 10 alternatives to BBQ sauce for ribs!

There’s no denying that BBQ sauce is the most popular and traditional sauce for pork ribs. But, it’s not the only option. 

Most BBQ sauces follow a similar flavor profile: sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy. The differences between one BBQ sauce concoction and the other depends on the ingredients used to bring out these flavors and the amount of each added.

But, to go one step further, it works so well because each of these flavors naturally pairs with the savory flavors of pork ribs. So, if you’re looking for BBQ sauce alternatives, you can simply apply or make a sauce that hero’s one of these key flavors.

The best alternatives to BBQ sauce for ribs takes one or more of the spicy, sweet, tangy, or salty flavors to the next level, making it the prominent flavor of the sauce.

Spicy Sauces For Ribs

If you love your spice then you will love a spicy sauce for your ribs. The naturally salty and sweet flavors of the meat and rub pair amazingly with flaming, fiery hot sauces. A perfect alternative for BBQ sauce for ribs. Not going to lie, these also make great alternatives to BBQ sauce for brisket too.

Here are a few of the most popular and delicious spicy sauces for ribs.

1. Chipotle Adobo Sauce

Adobo sauce is a Mexican sauce that blends tangy, salty, and spicy flavors with a hint of sweetness. It’s often available as a sauce in canned chipotle. Blend the chipotle can’s smoky, fiery contents and use it to glaze your ribs for a surprisingly mind-blowing rib.

2. Mexican Hot Sauce

Hot sauce in Mexico can be used for more than a dozen things, from fruit, to eggs, to snacks. One common use is to slather it all over chicharrones, or fried pork rinds. 

This may be why it pairs just so naturally with pork ribs, particularly if they are smoked on the grill. You can opt to use red Mexican hot sauce or green Mexican hot sauce, they both provide that zing and heat you’ve been looking for.

This fiery sauce is best drizzled over ribs as a finishing sauce rather than as a mop or a baste during the cook. 

3. Habanero Hot Sauce

Habanero, one of the hottest peppers in Mexico, goes splendidly with ribs.

If you baste your ribs with a habanero hot sauce as they cook you’ll end up with the sauce baked into the bark of the ribs. This creates an incredible, spicy, smokey, just seriously delicious. 

You can even apply it as an alternative binder to mustard before applying your dry rub! 

For those who love their lips burning with spice, you have the option of smothering your cooked ribs with some fresh habanero hot sauce before you feast.

4. Louisiana Hot Sauce

Louisiana hot sauce (whether it’s homemade or store-bought) is a vinegar-based hot sauce made with aged peppers, salt, and distilled vinegar.

What makes this so special?

Well, let’s just say this Southern-style hot sauce is everything you need if you love spice and want a solid alternative to BBQ sauce for your ribs. 

Sweet Sauces For Ribs

Due to the naturally salty and rich flavor of pork ribs, sweet or fruity sauces really pair well. Seriously.

So, if you’re looking for something different, here are the best sweet sauces for ribs.

5. Plum Sauce

Plum sauce is widely popular in Chinese cooking. It has a sweet-tart flavor with a hint of spiciness that works well as a sophisticated, delectable glaze for ribs.

To build up a great fruity and sweet flavor on your ribs you can apply multiple thin layers of plum sauce to your ribs as they cook.

Every hour baste or mop on another thin coating of your favorite plum sauce. In the end, you will have some incredibly amazing, sweet, and savory Chinese-style pork ribs to meet your every desire.

6. Hoisin Sauce

Another left-field entry, hoisin: a one-of-a-kind, seafood-flavored sauce that has a salty and sweet aroma. Surprisingly, hoisin pairs well as a rib finishing glaze. A perfect substitute for BBQ sauce that really delivers a uniquely different flavor.

Hoisin itself can be quite overpowering, but the savory richness of the rib doesn’t back down. The result is an amazing, flavorful, and masterful pairing

7. Alabama White Sauce

Alabama white sauce is a BBQ sauce made with a completely different, unexpected base ingredient: Mayonnaise. 

At first thought, it sounds a bit strange, but at second thought it seems totally obvious.

Once you’ve tried it you’ll be convinced too, as this is a perfect alternative to BBQ sauce for ribs.

Still providing a good hit of flavor, this sweet, vinegary, and peppery sauce has it all when paired with ribs. You can use it as a binder, mop sauce, or finishing sauce, all to equal deliciousness.

Tangy Sauces For Ribs

There’s nothing quite like the sourness of a tangy sauce. Particularly with something spicy or salty, a tang can really leave a complex and well-defined flavor profile.

When it comes to tangy sauces for ribs, you only need to look for inspiration from some of the Asian cousines. They’ve mastered the complexity of sourness. Here are the best tangy sauces for ribs.

8. Sweet & Sour Sauce

A sweet and sour sauce is a popular sauce alternative for ribs. It has the sweetness and tanginess as base flavors, but different recipes can make it spicy, salty, or rich in different ways.

While there’s some sweetness in this sauce, it’s the tangy sourness that gives it the famous name. The sourness comes directly from the vinegar, so if you like things sourer or milder you can adjust the amount of vinegar you add to your sauce!

9. Teriyaki Sauce

Where would we be without Teriyaki sauce? This Japanese-style sauce is tangy, salty, and is made famous by popular Japanese dishes like Chicken teriyaki.

When paired with ribs as a glaze, you can turn an American classic rib, into something quite exotic.

If you haven’t tried Teriyaki ribs at least once then you’re missing out!

Dry Rub Options For Ribs

They say that the true test of a pork rib is how good it tastes without any sauce at all.

If done correctly, letting the rub or the natural flavors of the rib shine can outperform even the best BBQ sauce.

So, if you’re looking for an alternative to BBQ sauce for ribs, try using the dry rub as the hero, or utilizing some strong smoking woods for ribs for maximum flavor.

10. Dry Spice Rub

In most recipes, you’ll find the dry rub base for ribs has brown sugar, dry mustard, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. However, you can always build on this base with other dry spices to elevate the ribs’ flavor.

Apply your favorite dry rub and leave it to sit on your ribs for between 2 hours to overnight for maximum flavor. Plus, the salt in the rub will be absorbed into the meat, which actually prevents moisture loss during the cooking process.

If done correctly, and cooked until ridiculously tender and juicy, then you won’t even notice it’s missing BBQ sauce. Viola, the perfect alternative.

How To Apply Sauce To Ribs

There’s a big difference between basting your ribs in sauce as they cook and simply slathering it over the ribs at the end.

In all honesty, both can be equally amazing, and it all depends on what sauces you’re using and what impact you’re going for.

Applying gradual layers of sauce to your ribs as they cook will help bake in the flavor to the rib whereas slathering it on at the end keeps the contrast between the sauce and the rib.

No matter what your style is here’s a quick guide on how to apply sauce to ribs in both fashions:

  1. Remove it from its packaging and pat dry. If your pork ribs smell, don’t worry – it’s normal if they’ve been stored in vacuum-sealed or airtight containers.
  2. Pat dry with a paper towel and remove the membrane on the underside of the rib.
  3. Applying your binder (optional) and dry rub to the rib.
  4. If you want to build layers of flavor, apply a thin layer of sauce to the ribs every one hour as they cook.
  5. If you want to save the sauce for the end product, then spritz your ribs with plain water if they need it, and lather on the sauce after you’ve rested your pork ribs and it’s time to serve! 

The Final Saucing

BBQ sauce and ribs will always have a place in American BBQ and will go down in history as a classic, traditional combination.

But, this doesn’t mean there aren’t some banging alternatives to BBQ sauce for ribs. If you love those spicy, sweet, or tangy flavors then you need only to look for a sauce that heroes these flavors for a perfect alternative.

If you haven’t tried ribs with these 10 best alternative sauces then you are missing out on some crazy delicious ribs.

If you have your own amazing alternative to BBQ sauce for ribs, let us know down below and I’ll be sure to try it out!

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