Garlic-Rubbed Spareribs

Patricia Quintana loves to roast meat and fish in banana leaves, which add flavor and keep food moist and succulent. She cooks pork spareribs that way, then serves them with warm tortillas and bowls of garnishes alongside. You can also shred the sparerib meat, mix it with the onions it was roasted with and the pan juices and use the combination as a filling for the tortillas.

Plus: More Pork Recipes and Tips

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  • Servings: 6

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  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons annatto (achiote) seeds
  • 16 garlic cloves, 10 halved
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 racks large pork spareribs (about 3 1/2 pounds each), trimmed of excess fat
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 banana leaves, about 12 by 18 inches each (optional; see Note), thawed and patted dry
  • 18 bay leaves
  • 3 small red onions, thinly sliced
  • Two dozen 6-inch corn tortillas
  • Pickled Red Onions
  • Yucat√°n Table Sauce

How to make this recipe

  1. In a small saucepan, cover the annatto seeds with water, bring to a boil and simmer over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 2 hours. Drain the seeds and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a spice grinder and grind to a paste.

  2. Preheat the oven to 500°. Put the 6 whole garlic cloves in a pie plate and roast on the top rack of the oven for about 10 minutes, or until blackened on top. In a food processor, puree the roasted garlic with the halved garlic cloves and the onion. Add the annatto paste, oregano, pepper, grapefruit and orange juices and oil and process until blended.

  3. Rub the spareribs with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Set 1 of the racks in a large roasting pan and coat with one-third of the annatto marinade. Repeat with the remaining ribs and marinade, stacking the racks on top of each other. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line each of 3 large rimmed baking sheets with a banana leaf. Set a rack of ribs on each leaf, meaty side up. Arrange 6 bay leaves and one-third of the red onion slices on each rack and cover with a second banana leaf. Cover each pan tightly with foil and bake for about 2 1/2 hours, or until the ribs are very tender; shift the pans halfway through cooking. Remove the spareribs from the oven and let cool, covered, for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, wrap the tortillas in foil and warm in the oven for about 10 minutes.

  5. Preheat the broiler. Uncover the ribs and discard the banana leaves, onions and bay leaves. Broil the ribs, 1 rack at a time, 8 inches from the heat, for about 4 minutes, until crispy; baste occasionally with the pan juices.

  6. Cut the racks into ribs and serve with the warm tortillas and bowls of Pickled Red Onions and Yucatán Table Sauce.

Make Ahead

The recipe can be prepared through Step 3; refrigerate overnight.


Banana leaves are available in the freezer section of Latin and Asian markets and in the fresh produce section of some supermarkets.

Suggested Pairing

A spicy, fruity California Zinfandel will have the intensity to balance the meaty ribs. A dark Mexican beer is also fruity enough to stand up to the hearty grilled flavors.

Contributed By Photo © Maura McEvoy Published December 2003

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