Pork Ribs on the Grill: South American style

Are you looking for a tender, sweet and spicy recipe for those pork ribs hanging out in the bottom drawer of your fridge? Well, look no further—these South American style pork ribs will absolutely blow your mind.

Also known as costillas de cerdo a la parilla, these South American style pork ribs are doused in a marinade before being cooked at a low temperature for a longer amount of time than beef ribs. Citrus, chile peppers, spices, and a sweet addition (like brown sugar or molasses) are very common pork rib seasonings for this region. The unique blend of spice and sweetness is a welcome switch-up from the other pork rib recipes I have on hand. In fact, I make these at least twice a month because I honestly just can’t get enough of the unique flavor combo. Marinate them overnight for the best possible taste. If that isn’t possible, then aim for at least 4 hours of marinating before cooking.

For this recipe, I decided to use a bag of peach woodchips I had on hand. I don’t get to use this particular bag often, so I figured why not use them now while I have other fruity flavors going on? I must say that it actually worked out pretty well and that I will definitely be using them again with this recipe. Apple, cherry, and oak wood are some other great woodchip choices. I don’t recommend hickory or barbecue chips as the strong, smoky wood flavoring they impart will overtake the delicate fruitiness and spice in these ribs.

Below, you’ll find directions on how to make these ribs by first pre-roasting them in the oven and then finishing them off on the grill with a nice sear. If you want to skip the oven step entirely, then read to the bottom of the recipe where I’ll show you how to make these pork ribs on the grill only. I’ve made them both ways and personally don’t prefer one over the other. It really comes down to what you have available and how long you have to prep and cook before serving these bad boys.

What you’ll need:


  • 1 ½ - 2 pound rack of pork ribs
  • Aluminum foil
  • Baking dish
  • Grill
  • Food processor/blender
  • Woodchips (optional)

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 4 whole scallions
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed (ground cumin works too)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 2 tablespoons fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon aji pance chile pepper paste
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (or substitute molasses)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

Pro-tip:

Adjust spices and/or sweet ingredients depending on your personal preference. I personally tend to go a little heavy on the aji pance chile paste, but that isn’t necessary to achieve the perfect flavor balance.

Instructions:

1. Slide a knife under the membrane on the bony side of the rack of ribs. It should loosen fairly easily. Peel it away completely and discard. Now rinse the ribs and pat dry. Rub coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper all over meat for best flavor. Set aside.

2. For the marinade: peel garlic and chop coarsely. Next chop both white and green segments of the scallions. Place into food processor or blender with remaining marinade ingredients. Process/blend until smooth and even throughout.

3. In a shallow dish, cover the ribs with the marinade on both sides. Make sure to coat thickly and evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 4-6 hours (overnight preferably).

4. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 250 F degrees. Lay out the ribs on a large piece of aluminum foil and recoat in marinade. Wrap the ribs up tightly in foil, making sure that no marinade can escape. Place wrapped ribs on a baking sheet and roast for three hours until mostly cooked. Remove from oven and allow to cool for up to one hour.

5. Now heat the grill to medium-high heat. Add woodchips as usual, if using. Place charcoal on one side so that you are left with two sections: an area with direct heat and an area with indirect heat. First place ribs on direct heat (side with charcoal) and sear each side. Then move the ribs to the cooler side of the grill and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes on each side, frequently brushing with remaining marinade. Remove from heat and serve warm.

To cook the ribs on the grill only:

6. Prep the grill the same as above with one area reserved for indirect heat. Sear the ribs on each side directly over the coals, then place them on the side with indirect heat (temperature should be no more than 250 F degrees). Allow to cook there for 3 - 3 ½ hours until internal temperature of the ribs reaches 160 F degrees, basting occasionally throughout grilling with marinade.

And there you have it! Tender, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs with a deliciously sweet and tangy marinade. If you want to go the extra mile, chop up some mangos, cilantro, and purple onions in a dish for a complementary garnish. The faux-salsa really brings out the subtle citrus notes in the ribs—and your guests will be talking about it for weeks!

You can also whip up some citrus roasted sweet potatoes, yellow saffron rice with spices, pineapple black beans, or even a simple Caribbean-style sweet corn to bring it all together. But no matter what you choose to serve on the side, these South American ribs will speak for themselves as some of the best around.

What do you like to serve with pork ribs? Have you ever made any South American citrus-style meats before? How did you like this recipe? Let us know in the comments!

Frequently Asked Questions​

What Kind of Sauce Do You Serve with South American Ribs?

What Are the Different Types of Pork Ribs?

Which Pork Ribs Are the Meatiest?

What are Costillas de Cerdo a la Parilla?

What is The Thin Membrane On Top of Pork Ribs?

Each Share Saves a Steak From Being Cooked Well Done