mexican pork ribs with creamy cheese grits

Mexican pork ribs. Chili. Tomato. Spice. Creamy cheese grits. It comes together beautifully on the plate. A deeply flavoured, mildly spicy sauce blends with the creaminess of the grits. Meltingly tender pork ribs add a touch of richness. This dish takes Mexican cooking into fine dining territory.

The key is slow roasting back ribs in the oven before a quick braise to enrich the sauce. The slow roasting browns the ribs and contributes the always important Maillard flavour compounds (those flavours you can only get by browning your meat). With any other meat you can brown in the pot but back ribs are curved. You can’t brown them evenly.

Nice thing about this dish is you can cook the ribs ahead and be ready for a dinner party. You can prep the sauce as well. When you are ready to serve you can simply warm the sauce then add the ribs to simmer for 20-25 minutes to let it all come together while you make the grits. Takes some of the pressure off…

Braised baby backs a la Mexicana with cheese grits.

Credit goes to the for the idea to cook the back ribs initially. A solid cookie sheet and a bakers rack lets air circulate around the ribs, promoting browning.

The cheese grits are really cheese polenta. You can’t get grits up where I live. But the fine ground cornmeal works well here. You are going for rich, smooth and creamy. No grit needed.

Melting pork back ribs, fire roasted tomatoes and cheese polenta come together in this fine dining riff on Mexican pork chili.

This dish plates up easily. Spoon some of the grits in the centre of a plate and place two ribs on the grits. Spoon some sauce around the ribs and you have a dish that puts most Mexican restaurants to shame. Worthy of a dinner party. Mexican pork ribs, fire roasted tomatoes, cheese grits. Could be on a menu somewhere.

Melting pork back ribs, fire roasted tomatoes and cheese polenta come together in this fine dining riff on Mexican pork chili.
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4.91 from 10 votes

mexican pork ribs with creamy cheese grits

Melting pork back ribs, fire roasted tomatoes and cheese polenta come together in this fine dining riff on Mexican pork chili.
Course Main
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 25 minutes
Servings 4


The ribs

  • 1 3 lb rack meaty pork back ribs
  • 2 Tbsp pure chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp granulated onion

The sauce

  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 15 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp pure chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped


The ribs

  • Pre-heat your oven to 300F
  • Mix pure chili powder, cumin, granulated garlic, granulated onion and salt. This is your dry rub.
  • Remove silver skin from the rib side of the ribs. Insert a knife between the membrane and the rib and lift. Get your fingers under the skin and pull. This is easy sometimes and thoroughly annoying other times. I've never been able to figure out why.
  • Thoroughly coat the ribs with the dry rub.
  • Place ribs on a rack on the cookie sheet, place in oven and slow roast until they reach an internal temperature of about 185F. This can take up to 2 1/2 hours depending on the rack. Measure temperature in the thick parts and between the ribs. Don't let the probe touch bone. That will mess up the reading.
  • While the ribs are cooking prep the sauce.

The sauce

  • Add oil to a pan and heat over medium low.
  • Add the onion, chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano and salt and cook until the onions are translucent.
  • Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds.
  • Add tomatoes and a splash of chicken stock and simmer around 30-45 minutes, taking care not to let the pot boil dry.
  • When the ribs have reached 185F or so remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  • Slice into individual ribs and add to the tomato sauce. Add the cilantro. Simmer ribs in sauce for about 20-30 minutes.


Substitute rendered pork lard for the vegetable oil in the sauce if you can find it.
Pure chili powder is not the same as supermarket chili powder. Look for pure ancho or New Mexican red chili powder.


Melting pork back ribs, fire roasted tomatoes and cheese polenta come together in this fine dining riff on Mexican pork chili.
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4.86 from 7 votes

creamy cheese grits

These "grits" are a jumble of the top two cheese grits recipes on the web. Use whatever recipe you are comfortable with.
Course side
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4


  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 4 oz grated old cheddar


  • Add salt to the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low.
  • Add cornmeal gradually, stirring to incorporate each time before adding more.
  • Cook, covered, stirring every 3-4 minutes for 20 minutes or until creamy.
  • Remove from heat and stir in butter and cream.
  • Add cheddar while stirring and serve immediately


The recipe actually uses cornmeal - not hominy grits.

14 thoughts on “mexican pork ribs with creamy cheese grits”

  1. 4 stars
    Since discovering your website, this is the second recipe I’ve made from it this week. It’s a well-written, enjoyable site and it doesn’t distract the reader with boring stories of their lives, kids, past travels, or other topics unrelated to the recipe. Well done! Now, onto my comments….
    I think I would call this recipe “New Mexican” rather than Mexican. As you noted, the proper chile powder is essential (I used ancho), and is a far cry from traditional ribs–and I was looking for a change from my usual technique, and the southwestern flavors were intriguing.
    While I thought the rub allowed the flavor of the pork to shine nicely, I still thought it needed something more. I’m not sure what that is (as I’ve only made it once). Perhaps some black pepper, or smoked and/or hot paprika, or some Mexican oregano into the blend. We’ll see.
    The “sauce,” such as it is, is tricky to meld into the ribs. It’s chunky, not “saucy” (or at least that’s how mine came out), with little moisture to braise in. How, exactly, you toss a cut up rack into a pot/skillet of sauce to simmer well, I don’t know; and it’s a step I’m not sure is necessary, as the ribs have already cooked. Next time I will do one of two things: place the cut ribs in a large skillet (in which the sauce was made) on top of the sauce, cover, and “steam” the ribs for a short time so the flavors of the sauce begin to imbue themselves into the ribs. Or, as I said, just ditch the whole step, serve some ribs over the polenta/grits, and top with the sauce (or reverse it, i.e., ribs over sauce, perhaps).
    The “grits” cooked super-fast in the broth. Like five minutes, not twenty. Blending the corn meal VERY gradually (advise your readers to use a whisk!!), which I did, prevents lumps, too. The butter and heavy cream made them flavorful, but not rich; a very nice accompaniment.
    Lastly, this “style” of ribs could inspire other variations. For example, I’m toying with the idea of using this technique and making a “Cajun” option (a different rub and maybe a “Holy Trinity” sauce), and serving it over traditional hominy cheese grits.
    But before I do, I have some more of your other recipes to try… 😉

    • Thanks for the detailed review and for sharing ideas. I love that you are taking this recipe and making it your own!

  2. Oh my! Meat lover heaven right here. I have never used fire roasted tomatoes before but I think I may need to pick up a can now to try this out! 🙂 This looks so flavour-intensive, I absolutely love it. To be honest I have never had good grits before but I know Terry loves it so I will need to check out these cheesy goodness!

    • Fire roasted tomatoes is an ingredient I started using after watching Rick Bayless’ Mexico – One plate at a time. He uses them everywhere and I really like them in any Mexican or Tex-Mex dish that uses canned tomatoes. Muir Glen are my fave if you can get them. The grits are really just polenta with marketing… Can’t get hominy up north.

  3. I’m always looking for a good recipe that does not involve smoking or grilling ribs. (We live in an apartment.) This is perfect! And it definitely has a casual/yet gourmet type of feel that is definitely my favorite thing.

    • I’m a huge fan of ribs and a huge fan of braises (especially in the winter). This one is a way I get my rib fix when it’s too cold to make BBQ.

  4. 5 stars
    Romain, you are speaking my language here! Ribs are pretty much my favorite food ever and you’ve managed to take everything I love about them and elevate all those delicious qualities. The dish looks so elegant and delicious. I’ll be making this over the weekend! 🙂

  5. Ohhh, this looks sooooo good! I love ribs, but have always relied on trusty BBQ sauce. I like this new take! And I love when I can prepare components ahead of time for a quicker assembly. It let’s me spend time with family and friends instead of in the kitchen!

    • It’s totally different from BBQ ribs. I love BBQ ribs but it’s nice to mix things up. This is a braise. Think pork stew.

4.91 from 10 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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