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Smoked Onion Cola Ribs and Brats

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In this smoked pork ribs recipe, I am going to show you how to make my onion and cola smoked spare ribs as well as smoked brats and smoked boudin.

The cool think about this method is that the onions help to flavor the ribs but they also hold the ribs up off the bottom of the pan and let's that crust set instead of them sitting down in the juice.

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5-7 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 250°F (121°C)
  • Meat Finish Temp: Done when tender
  • Recommended Wood: Mesquite and cherry Mix
What You'll Need
  • 1 or more racks of full spare ribs or St. Louis spares
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • 2-liter bottle of cheap cola
  • 4 medium yellow onions
  • 16-20 cloves of garlic
  • Jeff's original rub
  • Jeff's barbecue sauce
  • Thermapen (for checking the rib meat between the bones for perfect doneness)
Prepare Ribs for Seasoning

Rinse the ribs under cold water and lay meaty side up on a cutting board


Remove any extra clumps or layers of fat then flip the rack of ribs over to bone side up.


Remove the flap of meat that runs along the bottom of the ribs if has not already been trimmed off by the butcher. This helps it to cook more evenly.

Remove the membrane (thick plastic stuff) by prying up with your fingers or a sharp object such as a butter knife. Once you are able to get ahold of it, use a paper towel or some catfish skinning pliers to get a good grip and pull it clean off. If it tears, just get another good hold on it and finish the job.

Removing this membrane is important as it allows the smoke to get to the meat better and makes for more enjoyable eating later.

Season them up

I usually apply a thin coat of yellow mustard to the ribs but decided this time to use apple cider vinegar to wet the surface instead.

Sprinkle my original rub onto the bone side of the ribs.


Let the ribs sit for about 5 minutes to allow the rub to mix with the apple cider vinegar and get that familiar “wet” look.

Note: you can flip the ribs over and season the other side now or you can wait and season them after placing the ribs on top of the onions and garlic in the next step. Doesn't matter when.. as long as you do it.

Prepare the Onion/Garlic Base

Slice 2 onions into ¼ inch slices and separate the rings into the pan.


Place 8-10 garlic cloves all over the pan in with the onion rings.


Pour cola (I used the cheap stuff) to about ½ the depth of the pan.


Now it is time to cut the rack of ribs in half and lay one of the halves bone side down on top of the onions.

If you decide to use St. Louis cut or even baby back ribs instead, you'll probably be able to fit more than just a half rack into each pan.


Pour some apple cider vinegar onto the top of the ribs now and use a brush or your hands to spread it all over the ribs making sure the entire surface is wet.

Note: you can definitely use yellow mustard if you'd rather. It works great and while I like to experiment, there's something to be said for, “if it's not broke, don't fix it”.

Sprinkle on a generous amount of my original rub onto the top (meaty) side of the ribs.

Let it sit for a few minutes while the rub and vinegar combine to form a paste. (this is a great time to go get the smoker ready).


Prepare a 2nd pan in the same way as the first using the other half of the rack of ribs, 2 more onions, 8-10 more garlic cloves and more cola.

Get the Smoker Ready

Set up. your smoker for cooking at about 250°F (121°C) using indirect heat to cause the cola, onions and garlic to steam into the ribs.

If your smoker uses a water pan, fill it up.

I recommend having enough smoking wood to last at least 4 hours if possible.

Once your smoker is preheated and maintaining the temperature, you are ready to move forward.

Smoking the Ribs

Place the pan of ribs on the smoker grate.

Continue adding smoke for at least 4 hours or until the ribs are completely done cooking.

Note: After a few hours the onions and garlic will cook down and create a lot of liquid in the pan, you may want to remove the ribs from the pan at that point and just lay them directly on the smoker grate. If you want to wrap the ribs in foil for a couple of hours, you can certainly do that as well after about 2.5 to 3 hours.

I recommend bending the ribs, pulling the bones apart and even going so far as to taste one of the ribs to allow you to make a determination of “done”. They are done when they are as tender as YOU and YOUR family likes them.

I highly recommend using a Thermapen to check the temperature of the ribs, In my opinion, they are pretty darn near perfect at 195°F (91°C).

Checking the temperature of pork ribs is difficult to do unless you have a thermometer like the Thermapen that has a very small diameter probe that will fit between the bones and give you an accurate measurement.

Serve the Smoked Ribs

When they are done, you can wrap them in foil, then in a towel and hold them for several hours in a cooler if you need to or you can go ahead and slice them up and divvy them out.


If you want to use baby back ribs you can but they will get done about an hour sooner usually. Check for tenderness and/or use a Thermapen to check between the bones for 195°F (91°C).

I recommend the non-meaty baby backs as that extra meat on the ones marketed as ” extra meaty” is just loin meat which is leaner and tends to dry out when cooked beyond 145°F (63°C).

If you don't like onions, try using cobs of corn or even potatoes instead to hold the ribs up off the bottom of the pan. The corn/potatoes will benefit from the cola and the rib juices as well.

You can also substitute an equal amount of sliced sweet peppers for one of the onions.

If you want the ribs to be more tender, consider removing the ribs from the pan after about 2.5 hours and wrapping them in foil for 1.5 to 2 hours. Afterwards, remove the foil and lay them on the smoker grate for 45-60 minutes unwrapped to firm up a little. This is also a great time to add some of my original barbecue sauce if you like sticky ribs.

Want to try something besides cola? Go for it.

How to Smoke Brats and Boudin

Brats and even links of boudin are very easy to smoke, but you can easily overcook them and make them tough or dry them out. Follow these simple instructions, and they will turn out perfect every time.

Prepare for Smoking

I like to place the brats and/or boudin on a Bradley rack. You can also just lay them directly on the smoker grate rounded side up (that was a joke).

Pictured at left are german style brats, the two links at top right are boudin and the ones at bottom right are American style brats.

Smoking the Brats/Boudin

Preheat the smoker to 225°F (107°C)

Make sure you have enough smoking wood for 2 hours.

Smoke the brats for exactly 2 hours and they are done.

The boudin is done when the skin is bite through crispy but the inside is not dried out. This is usually about 2 hours but I have went as long as 2.5 hours before.

Throw on an extra link and try it at 2 hours. If it's not done, go a little longer.

Note: this is one of the great reasons for smoking boudin instead of steaming them, microwaving them or any of the other ways that folks heat them up. The skin, when smoke cooked, is completely edible, has a slight crispiness to it and there is no need to peel off the skin.

Finishing Up

Serve and Enjoy!

3.3 from 7 votes

Onion and Cola Smoked Spare Ribs

With a base of onions, garlic and cheap cola, you can infuse spare ribs with lots of flavor while allowing the steam from the onions and cola to keep the ribs nice and moist while they smoke.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time5 hours
Total Time5 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 3 -4



Prepare Ribs For Smoking

  • Rinse ribs under cool water
  • Remove any large areas of fat on meaty side of ribs
  • Flip the ribs over and remove the membrane from the bone side
  • Wet the ribs with apple cider vinegar
  • Apply a generous coat of Jeff's original rub to the bone side
  • Turn the ribs over and apply the vinegar and rub to the meaty side
  • Cut the rack of ribs in half
  • Slice two onions into ¼ inch slices and separate the rings
  • Place the rings and 8-10 garlic cloves in a large foil pan
  • Pour enough cola to fill the pan to about ½ full
  • Lay one of the rib halves on top of the onions and garlic
  • Prepare a 2nd pan in the same manner for the other half of the ribs
  • Set up smoker to cook at about 250°F (121°C)
  • Place the pan(s) of ribs onto the smoker grates
  • Cook for 5-6 hours or until they ribs are as tender as you like them or about 195°F (91°C).

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3.29 from 7 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. 1 star
    I don’t like the 1-5 star rating. Isn’t “Would I make it again or not” a better choice? I would NOT make this again as there are so many other better recipes.

    1. The system that we use now does not have an option for “make it again, yes or no”. I agree that’s a great way to rate a recipe. Thank you for your feedback, much appreciated!😀

  2. 5 stars
    The system that we use now does not have an option for “make it again, yes or no”. I agree that’s a great way to rate a recipe. Thank you for your feedback, much appreciated!😀

  3. When we tried this recipe, the pan kept filling all the way up with liquid. I thought the onions were supposed to hold the ribs above the liquid, not in it. I believe I followed the recipe exactly… What am I doing wrong?

  4. Jeff
    The coke and ribs recipe was great. I am repeating the same recipe this weekend with a 5 lb brisket. I am doing it in the oven at 250 and was wondering about the cooking time. If you can’t reply I guess 195 to 200 completed internal temp would be good. ??

  5. Hi Jeff
    I purchased your rub and sauce recipe well over a year ago and have had great success with both. I adjusted the rub recipe to suite my family as I kept getting the ” too hot for me” nag. i made it simple – just make a double batch but only put in what would normally go in a single batch of the ingredients that make it hot like pepper etc. i also reduced the salt to half.

    I smoked two racks of pork side ribs with this onion cola recipe on the weekend and they were fantastic. I must say they may be the best ribs I’ve ever done. They were so tender they were off the chart. Great job Jeff and many thanks for making me a backyard hero!
    Tim from Calgary

  6. Jeff for the cke and onion do you leave them in the pan for the whole 7 hrs or you take them out and finish on the grate? I have them on as we speak and have an hr to go . Man do they look and smell good

    1. On this recipe, I leave mine in the pan the entire time but It would not hurt anything to move them to the grate for the last hour or so if you wanted to do that.

      1. I am getting ready to make these tomorrow, mouth watering thinking about it, however I am also wondering what you do with the vegtables after it is done. Are they good enough to eat or is the intention to discard when done and only used to flavor the ribs.

        Depending on the answer I will throw a lot more in…if edible (and good) I was thinking onions, peppers, potatoes and corn on the cob.

        Please let me know how the vegtqbles turn out…Jeff or anyone who has cooked it already.

    1. These may not be as “fall off the bone” tender as if you did them 3-2-1 style but, if you want that, you can put some foil over the top of them after about 3 hours. Leave it on for about 1-2 hours then remove the foil for the last hour or two.

      Check the tenderness after about 5 hours and when they get as tender as you like them, they are done.

  7. For brats, we like to sauté a bunch of onions then add two or three cans of coors depending on the number of brats. We let the brats boil for 15-20 minutes and then put on the grill (now on the smoker). Do you think I need to adjust my smoking time?


    1. I would reduce the smoke time to around an hour, try them at that point and if they need more, you can easily keep them going.

      If you want more smoke flavor, simply setup the smoker to run cooler (180-200°F) and then smoke them for 2 hours as usual.

      This will cause less cooking to take place in that time frame but the same amount of smoke.

    2. Trying the ribs St Louis style. been on the greenegg for 4 1/2 hours. is this o be a fall of the bone in 7 to 8 hours at 225.?

  8. Hi Jeff – Can the ribs be substituted for another meat and still get the cola and onion infusion? I was thinking something like a Boston Butt

    1. You can definitely use other types of meat and it will work in the same way. Pork butt would work, brisket, even the brats I mentioned would work well laid on top of the bed of onions.

      Let your imagination run wild!

      1. Hi Guys — just a data point. My ribs cooked this style turned out so well i decided i would try with brisket. I didn’t think it transfers over to brisket as well. I reduced about 9 bottles of Mexican coca cola (real cane sugar!) and mixed in some Jeff Rub, turned it into a paste and marinated a 13 lb brisket overnight in it. Then, did the onion/garlic bed thing, filled large pan, added coke, and set on smoker for ~14 hour cook until ~205 degree internal temp. Others seemed to like, i decided i would probably never go back to not injecting. Hard to beat the beefy flavor in a beef base-based injection/marinade. Will try Jeff Texas Rub next time.

    1. Absolutely! You can use other types of soft drinks, tea, coffee, juices, water, beer, wine, etc.

      The idea is that the liquid will steam and infuse flavors into the meat.

  9. Thank you Jeff for your recipes, we have used several and enjoyed each. We have BBQ ribs using Dr Pepper soda for many years. It has a unique almost woody taste. You may want to try it in place of cola. This being Memorial weekend, what better time than to smoke some ribs and try out your recipe.
    Thanks again.