Barbecue: Cherry-Smoked Vietnamese-Flavored Ribs Recipe


I love writing for Serious Eats and constantly creating new recipes but since I'm producing well over 50 grilling recipes a year, I rarely find myself revisiting these blogged recipes. That's a shame because there are so many great ones—these ribs done in a Vietnamese-inspired marinade, then slow smoked over cherry wood are a fine example.

This was actually one of my first creations in my shiny new smoker years ago. Even though they were pretty stellar, I quickly delved into deeper exploration of different styles of barbecue ribs and these became a forgotten memory. Until a couple weeks ago!

What I remembered as being great was even beyond that. The fish sauce-based marinade is salty and tangy, imparting a flavor that you could loosely refer to as Vietnamese. Lighter than barbecue rub, the marinade really let the sweetness of the cherry smoke shine through in the juicy, tender meat.

After tearing through one rib after another, I started feeling nostalgic for other recipes I've loved and left. It's time to revisit more of these and put together a greatest grilling hits, wouldn't ya say?

Recipe Facts



Active: 60 mins
Total: 12 hrs
Serves: 4 servings

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  • For the marinade
  • 1/4 cup Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 2 teaspoons grate lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 racks spareribs, preferable St. Louis cut
  • 3-4 fist size chunks of cherry wood
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Type of fire: Indirect
  • Grill heat: Low


  1. In a small bowl mix together fish sauce, orange juice, 1/4 cup cilantro, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, tamarind paste, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, and ginger to make the marinade.

  2. Place ribs in an extra-large resealable plastic bag and pour in marinade. Seal bag and toss to coat ribs completely with marinade. Marinate in refrigerator overnight to 24 hours.

  3. Remove ribs from refrigerator while preparing the smoker or grill. Fire up smoker or grill to 225°F, adding chunks of smoking wood chunks when at temperature. When the wood is ignited and producing smoke, place the ribs in smoker or grill meat side up, reserving marinade.

  4. Pour reserved marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat and boil gently for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.

  5. Smoke ribs until they have a slight bend when lifted from one end, about 5-6 hours for spare ribs, basting with marinade every hour after 2 hours of smoking.

  6. Remove ribs from smoker, brush meat side with remaining marinade then grill meat side down over a hot grill or place in a heated broiler meat side-up until sauce caramelizes lightly. Let ribs cool for 5 to 10 minutes, garnish with fresh cilantro, and serve.

Special equipment

Smoker or Grill