Instant Pot Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Spare Ribs Recipe (Sườn Ram Mặn)

March 12, 2018Van
Blog post

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 7 minutes

Serves: 4

Every Vietnamese household will likely have their own special recipe for these Caramelized Pork Spare Ribs (Sườn Ram Mặn). You start by making caramel (Nước Màu), which gives the ribs a lovely flavor and that beautiful amber sheen—taste begins with the eyes and that color gets the tastebuds going.  The secret to great spare ribs is to make sure they’re extra tender and juicy, I braise them in coconut milk—although coconut water is also an option, I prefer the deep flavor that the coconut milk brings. It’s such a bold and delicious dish-—I hope you enjoy my Instant Pot version of this classic Vietnamese comfort food.

Instant Pot Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Spare Ribs - Sườn Ram Mặn

Print Recipe

Instant Pot Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Spare Ribs Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 7 minutes
  • Serves: 4


  • 2½ Pounds Pork Spare Ribs, cut into individual riblets
  • ½ Teaspoon Five Spice Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • ½ Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Red Boat Fish Sauce
  • 1 Large Shallot, minced
  • 4 Large Garlic Cloves, minced
  • ⅓ Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1¾ Cups Coconut Water or 1 Can of Coconut Milk


  • 1)

    Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the pork spare ribs and blanch them for about 3-4 minutes. Drain them into a colander and rinse well with water.

  • 2)

    In a large bowl, add ½ Teaspoon Five Spice Powder, 2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt, ½ Ground Black Pepper, 1 Tablespoon of Fish Sauce, 1 Large minced Shallot, 4 Large minced Garlic Cloves and mix well. Add the spare ribs and toss them well to coat them in the marinade and set aside.

  • 3)

    Add ⅓ Cup Granulated Sugar, press Sauté and use the “More” setting. Depending on your Instant Pot model, it can take 5-15 minutes before the sugar starts caramelizing into a nice dark color, keep an eye on it once you start seeing a little color, you want the caramel sauce to almost be the color of coffee, a dark golden brown.

  • 4)

    Add the pork ribs and marinade to the pot and stir well coating all the pieces with the caramel. Add 1¾ Cups of Coconut Water or 1 Can of Coconut Milk. Seal the Instant Pot lid, switch the knob to “Sealing” and press Manual / High Pressure for 7 minutes (you can do 13 minutes if you want them falling off the bone). After the timer is up and your hear the beep, wait and additional 7 minutes while it releases the pressure naturally. Switch the knob to “Venting” and release the rest of the steam.

  • 5)

    Once the pin drops, open the lid and hit Cancel on the Instant Pot and choose Sauté, it should still be on the “More” setting. Use a fat skimmer to remove some of the fat. Let it Sauté for about 15-20 minutes so the liquid evaporates, stir occasionally to ensure even browning. When most of the liquid has evaporated, the ribs should be a beautiful dark amber color.

  • 6)

    Garnish with sliced green onions or sliced Thai chilies and serve with jasmine rice. Enjoy!

↓ Supplies to make this recipe ↓



  • Stevie Marie

    April 30, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    This was SO GOOD. The coconut milk was just perfect. I drizzled some sauce over the rice and everyone ate it up. Thanks for the great quick recipe.

    1. Van

      April 30, 2018 at 6:26 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it Stevie! That sauce is awesome, my kids love it on their rice as well 😀

  • Lily

    May 9, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Hi Van,

    Can the recipe be doubled? If so, do I just double the cooking time?

    1. Van

      May 9, 2018 at 6:37 pm

      Hi Lily, you can double the recipe, just keep the same cooking time. Hope you enjoy it!

  • Joyce

    May 10, 2018 at 10:29 am

    What kind of pork ribs do you recommend – baby back or St. Louis style?

    1. Van

      May 10, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      Hi Joyce, either of those would work well, you’d just have to ask your butcher to cross cut them into thirds.

  • jamie

    July 17, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    thanks for this recipe! can i use plain milk instead of coconut milk? Also, prep time is only 15 minutes??? it seems a lot longer, to boil/blanche the ribs, to make the sugar caramel, to get the IP to pressure, etc…When i add it all up, it’s almost 45 minutes i think. It would be good to be realistic about prep time and cook time so that when we try to decide what to make, we know quickly how long to consider. but thank you for the recipe. i will have to try this

    1. Van

      July 17, 2018 at 3:17 pm

      Hi Jamie, regular milk will not work for this recipe, you can use either coconut milk or coconut water. Prep time should only take about 15 minutes – multi-tasking recipes is how you can cut your prep time, you can caramelized the sugar and parboil the ribs at the same time since the parboiling step happens on a regular stove. Most Instant Pot recipes don’t include the time it takes to come to pressure, because it’s a little different depending on the model and it’s already known that it takes time for the pot to come to pressure. This recipe is very delicious, hope you enjoy it!

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