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 the Instant Pot cooks it to perfection – it’s such a bold and delicious dish-—I hope you enjoy my version of this classic Vietnamese comfort food.

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

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

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

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



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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 Teaspoon Sweet Soy Sauce
  • 1 Large Shallot, minced
  • 4 Large Garlic Cloves, minced
  • ⅓ Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Coconut Water


  • 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 Teaspoon Sweet Soy 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 & 1 Tablespoon of Water into the Instant Pot, press Sauté and use the “More” setting. You don’t need to stir it, the sugar will begin to melt and caramelize once it’s hot enough. 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 look dark golden, like maple syrup.

  • 4)

    Carefully add the pork ribs and marinade to the pot and stir well coating all the pieces with the caramel. Add 1 Cup of Coconut Water. Seal the Instant Pot lid, switch the knob to “Sealing” and press Manual / High Pressure for 8 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 10 minutes, then 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. 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!

  • Kathy

    January 4, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    I made this recipe for a group of friends and it turned out fantastic! The first time I used coconut milk which was really rich but left a lot of fat that I did a poor job of skimming. The second time I used coconut water and not as much fat but still turned out amazing. I will note from start to finish it took me longer than 20 minutes waiting for the water to boil to clean the pork/ cleaning the pork and waiting for the sauce to thicken at the end. Thanks for the recipe!! Will definitely make again.

  • Samantha

    January 14, 2019 at 6:42 am

    Wow. This was “blow your socks off” good. I made the recipe exactly as written. I wouldn’t change a thing! I spooned some of the sauce over rice and I swear I could have eaten bowl after bowl of just that. I will definitely be making this recipe again!

    1. Van

      January 15, 2019 at 6:47 pm

      Glad you loved it Samantha! Thanks for trying it out 😀

  • Jessica

    May 22, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    This is delicious!! I think I’ll put a little less sugar next time and less than 13min IP. I wanted fall of the bones but then I didn’t realize I need to cook down the liquid. I have to dump out half the liquid so that it doesn’t take too long to cook down. I only put one can of coconut milk but I have about 3.5 lbs of meat. I increased the other ratio but didn’t increase the coconut milk. Did I do something wrong? I can’t wait to make this again!

    1. Van

      May 25, 2019 at 9:07 am

      It’s fine if you didn’t increase the coconut milk. So glad you’re customizing it to suit your taste!

  • Nicco

    October 21, 2019 at 7:57 am

    Can you tell me the approx. Volume of “1 can of coconut milk” in ounces or millilitres? The stores in my city have coconut milk cans come in a variety of sizes. Thanks!!

    1. Van

      October 21, 2019 at 11:13 am

      Hi Nicco, look for a can that has 13.5oz or 400ml. Hope you enjoy the dish!

  • Stephanie

    March 25, 2020 at 7:15 am

    I’m confused.. all these comments are mentioning coconut milk but I don’t see it in the recipe list?

    1. Van

      March 25, 2020 at 5:25 pm

      Hi Stephanie, you can substitute coconut milk for the coconut water if you want a richer coconut flavor.

  • Thanh

    November 10, 2020 at 10:27 pm

    Can I use coco soda instead

    1. Van

      November 10, 2020 at 10:28 pm

      Hi Thanh, yes you can, the ribs will be sweeter though

  • T

    November 12, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    Looks delicious! Do you happen to have stove top or crock pot cooking suggestions for this? I no longer have access to have an instant pot

    1. Van

      November 12, 2020 at 1:38 pm

      Thanks, you can simmer it on low heat using the stovetop for about 45-60 minutes instead of using the Instant Pot.

  • Ellie

    May 27, 2021 at 9:09 pm

    I don’t have sweet soy sauce, can I use regular soy sauce?

    1. Van

      May 27, 2021 at 9:14 pm

      Hi Ellie, yes you can use regular soy sauce

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