Baby Back Ribs (Japanese Style)

Here is a different way to make baby back ribs – cook them in a pan!

Up until now I was used to baking them in the oven for a couple of hours until the ribs were super tender and tasted sweet and tangy. But I never knew that by pan frying baby back ribs I would end up with a strong meat flavor that’s almost smoky.

This is a popular method in Japan because of the lack of ovens; most Japanese homes only have two gas burners and a small fish grill/toaster located below. The reason why is because grilling and frying are preferred methods and ovens take too much space.


Crazy uh? You are probably thinking “I could never do without an oven!” and I must admit I had a hard time cooking without one when I lived in Tokyo.

Pot roasts and Thanksgiving turkey dinners were wiped from my menu, it was a little sad but I got used to it and instead learned to grill fish really well and became a toaster oven master!

Toaster oven baby back ribs? Maybe in the near future, we’ll see 😉


These Japanese style baby back ribs are moist but dry as far as no sauce will be left to pour over.

They are also tender but not fall off the bone tender, more like Chinese buffet spare ribs which I find delicious!

You can double the recipe if there are more than two of you and serve them with rice (Ben loved them with coconut milk rice and beans) and a side of miso glazed eggplant (nasu dengaku) or on top of some quick yaki udon with dashi butter, so good!


If you are wondering what type of sake to use for cooking, there are two options:

  • Cooking Sake, which can easily be found in Japanese grocery stores or most Asian supermarkets.
  • Regular drinking sake, which has a stronger flavor but is more expensive.

Many people say there isn’t much of a difference between the two but I beg to differ; while at my mother’s in Japan, I cooked using a high quality, sweet sake and found that the flavors came out tasting more elevated.

So if you can afford a good bottle of sweet sake, go with that and if not, cooking sake is great too (I use it most of the time as I did for these baby back ribs.)

ribs-in-pan ribs-cooked baby-back-ribs-2 Print

Baby Back Ribs (Japanese Style)

Tender and delicious Japanese style ribs for meat lovers!

  • Author: Caroline Phelps
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time: 65 minutes
  • Yield: 4 people 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Cuisine: Japanese


  • 1 pound baby back ribs
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 5 tablespoons sake

For the marinade:

  • 1/4 onion (grated)
  • 1 clove garlic (grated)
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch black pepper


  1. In a ziploc bag, add all the ingredients for the marinade.
  2. Add pork ribs, seal and refrigerate for an hour.
  3. In a large pan over low heat, add oil and turn the heat up to medium. Add ribs and cook for about 4 minutes on each side.
  4. When the pork is golden brown, lower heat to low and add sake. Cover and simmer on low for an hour.
  5. Stir once in a while and flip them over, if the ribs are beginning to char, add 2 tbsp sake.
  6. Raise heat to high and cook until liquid is gone.
  7. Serve warm.

Keywords: recipe, roasting, meat

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