Easy Hawaiian Style Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs Recipe

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An easy and quick recipe for a perfect mixture of pineapple, vinegar, and spare ribs.

sweet and sour

My dad swears by this recipe because it is the closest recipe to his mom’s Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs. He remembers her making it in a big aluminum pot with pineapple for family potlucks.

Sweet and sour spare ribs is definitely a local favorite especially with my family. If you are a fan of having something sweet and sour, this is the perfect dish!

Where sweet and sour spare ribs come from

Sweet and sour spare ribs was brought to Hawaii from China which was then adopted to be part of a local dish. You’ll find a lot of local Chinese families having their own versions of this dish but this recipe is my family favorite and will probably be yours too.

What type of ribs to use

You can use either pork spare ribs or baby back spare ribs. Baby back spare ribs are the most common ribs used in this dish because of its tender and leaner meat.

Spare ribs are more budget friendly and have more meat in between the bones. That meat in between the bones also has more marbling which means more flavor. 

Either ribs are still an excellent choice to use for this Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs recipe. Just be sure to cut the ribs into 2×2 inch pieces. If you are a rib lover you should check out my other rib recipes like Kalbi Ribs.

pork spare ribs

How to cut the ribs

Cutting the ribs is fairly easy to do. There are two ways you can go about this:

Asking your local butcher is the easiest! You could ask the butcher to cut the ribs in half lengthwise. Then take it home and cut between the bones to make those 2×2 inch pieces. You don’t have to be precise but that’s the general size you’d want the pieces to come out as.

marinating spare ribs

The next way to cut the ribs into square pieces, you could cut the ribs yourself with a cleaver. The cleaver knife is the best to cut through bone. It is more dull, heavier than the other types of knives, making it perfect to cut through the ribs’ bones.

First, cut between the bones. Then carefully cut the bone in half or in thirds depending how long the bone is. Remember we are trying to cut it into 2×2 inch pieces so it becomes easy bite size pieces.

rib cuts

What makes it sweet and sour

The combination of sweet and sour in a dish is a pleasant mixture to eat. Sweet and sour is an explosion of flavors of it being sweet and a savory tangy dish that makes you keep coming back for more.

The pineapple in this Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs recipe brings a refreshing sweet and tangy taste. Also, keep in mind that pineapple does not in any way make it an authentic “Hawaiian” dish.

The sour flavor comes from the vinegar. If you don’t like having a strong sour or “pungent” taste, you could always adjust the vinegar to be less. But like most locals, we love the sour flavor which can be found in most crack seed snacks.

What to eat Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs with

Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs are commonly eaten with rice. Another great side dish to eat with this would be a scoop of mac salad.

Is there an Instant Pot version

Yes! You could definitely cook this Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs recipe in the Instant Pot. Here is a quick step by step for a faster way to cook this:

  1. Prep the ribs by cutting it into 2×2 pieces. Marinate ribs in the flour and shoyu for 30 minutes.
  2. Drizzle in some oil and sauté the ribs in the Instant Pot until all sides have been browned.
  3. Add in the rest of the ingredients; vinegar, pineapple juice, brown sugar, salt, garlic, ginger, and pineapple chunks.
  4. Close the Instant Pot and set the Instant Pot on manual high pressure for 30 minutes and allow 10 minutes natural release then press the quick release.
  5. Serve with white rice and enjoy!
sweet and sour spare ribs

Video Tutorial

Check out this video to help you gain more insight on how to make Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs. Also, subscribe to my YouTube to help support me so I can continue making more of these contents. Mahalo!

sweet and sour spare ribs thumbnail

Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

An easy and quick recipe for a perfect mixture of pineapple, vinegar, and spare ribs.
Prep Time 35 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 10 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese, Hawaiian
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 3 lbs pork spare ribs
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup shoyu soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup vinegar (adjust to your taste)
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic smashed
  • 1 inch ginger root smashed
  • 1 can pineapple chunks
  • 1 tsp oil

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the pork spare ribs by cutting it into 2×2 inch pieces. Marinate the ribs in the flour and shoyu for 30 minutes.
  • Drizzle some oil in a large pot. Over medium heat, add in the garlic and ginger. Quickly fry until fragrant. Add in the ribs and brown all sides.
  • Add in the rest of the ingredients except the pineapple chunks to the pot; vinegar, pineapple juice, brown sugar, and salt.
  • Cover the pot and let it simmer for an hour and a half. Then add in the pineapple chunks and let it simmer for another 30 minutes or until the ribs are fork tender.
  • Serve with rice and enjoy!
Keyword easy, local, pineapple, quick, simmer, sour, sweet, tangy

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3.5 6 votes
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Michael

5 stars
I like the simplicity of this recipe. The shoyu & flour marinade provides a good flavor base. I used unsweetened pineapple juice along with the juice from canned pineapple, and increased the brown sugar to taste. As I simmered the ribs, I used chicken broth to add to the sauce as it became thick. Overall I agree this recipe is a keeper!

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