Fricasé de Costillitas (Baby Back Ribs Fricassée)

Baby Back Ribs Fricassée
Costillitas de fricase, baby back ribs fricassee served with fried yuca and red bean congri and maduros. pinit

Fall-off-the-bone Tender: Irresistible Fricasé de Costillitas Recipe

Where have Fricasé de Costillitas en cazuela been all of my life? That is exactly what I said to myself after making this recipe and then taking the first bite! I was inspired to make these oh so tender baby back ribs after trying them at a local Cuban restaurant. So far I have made them three times and each time I mumble to myself, “Where have you been all of my life?” Now you might be asking yourself the same thing……

Fall-off-the-bone tender and bursting with flavor, Fricasé de Costilitas is an irresistible recipe that combines succulent baby back pork ribs that have been marinated in a vibrant marinade and then cooked in a delicate sofrito sauce, creating a meal that is both comforting and satisfying.

What Is Cuban Baby Back Ribs Fricassée?

Let’s start with how Julia Child defines a fricassée. She states a fricassée is half way between a sauté and a stew. A sauté has no liquid and a stew starts with a liquid. A fricassée sautés the meat first and then some liquid is added and simmered to finish. Just like Cuban Chicken Fricassée (Fricasé de Pollo) we are going to do exactly that.

We are going to sauté pieces of baby back ribs until a golden brown color is achieved on each section of ribs. Then, we are going to make a light sofrito sauce for the ribs to simmer in until fall-off-the-bone tender.

I say a light sofrito sauce because when making Cuban Chicken Fricassée the sauce is thicker and has the addition of potatoes. The sofrito sauce for these baby back ribs is much lighter and allows the ribs to really tenderize as they cook without potatoes. However, once again I like to make a lot because the next day when the flavors really combine the taste is amazing. I am all about cooking once and having leftovers or making 2 different meals out of one recipe.

If you are new to Cuban cooking this is a great recipe to start with. It has classic Cuban flavors in the sofrito. A sofrito is a base of onions, bell peppers and garlic.  The second reason is that you essentially cannot overcook the meat because the ribs braise in a beautiful flavorful broth.

I am positive once you take your first bite of Fricasé de Costillitas (Baby Back Ribs Fricassée) you are going to be mumbling to yourself the same thing, “Where have you been all of my life?”

Ingredients for Fricasé de Costillitas

To create the perfect Fricasé de Costillitas, you will need a variety of ingredients that come together to create a symphony of flavors. Here’s a list of the key components:

  1. Pork ribs: Choose meaty ribs with a good amount of fat for maximum flavor and tenderness. Use kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to season the ribs first.
  2. Marinate: Let the ribs marinate for at least 2 hours. For the best flavor, let the ribs marinate over night.
  3. Sofrito: Using fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic will add depth of flavor and complement the pork ribs beautifully.
  4. Stock or broth: This provides a savory base for the sauce and also adds depth of flavor.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Preparing Fricasé de Costillitas

Let’s dive into the step-by-step process of preparing the perfect Fricasé de Costillitas. Follow these instructions closely to achieve the best results:

Marinate the ribs: Start by marinating the pork ribs in a mixture of naranja agria, lime juice and garlic. Allow the ribs to marinate for at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight in the refrigerator. This will infuse the meat with flavor and tenderize it.

Brown the ribs: Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add a splash of olive oil. Remove the ribs from the marinade, allowing any excess liquid to drip off, and brown them on all sides. This step adds depth of flavor to the meat.

Sauté the vegetables: Once the ribs are browned, remove them from the pot and set them aside. In the same pot, sauté onions and peppers until they are softened and slightly caramelized. This will add sweetness and depth to the sauce.

Create the sauce: Deglaze the pot with the wine. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes, seasonings and stock or broth. Stir well to combine all the flavors. Bring the sauce to a simmer.

Slow-cook the ribs: Return the browned ribs to the pot, making sure they are fully submerged in the sauce. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Allow the ribs to simmer gently for 2 to 3 hours, or until they are tender and fall off the bone.

Adjust the seasoning: Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Tips for Achieving Fall-off-the-Bone Tenderness

The key to achieving fall-off-the-bone tenderness in your Fricasé de Costillitas lies in the cooking technique and a few additional tips. Here are some suggestions to ensure your ribs are tender and juicy:

  1. Marinate overnight: For the best flavor and tenderness, marinate the ribs overnight. This allows the spices to penetrate the meat and tenderize it.
  2. Low and slow cooking: Simmer the ribs over low heat for a long period of time to ensure they become tender. This slow-cooking method allows the collagen in the meat to break down, resulting in succulent, melt-in-your-mouth ribs.
  3. Choose the right cut of ribs: Look for meaty ribs with a good amount of fat. This will contribute to the tenderness and flavor of the dish.
  4. Skim off excess fat: As the ribs cook, some fat may rise to the surface of the sauce. Use a spoon to skim off any excess fat to achieve a more refined and less greasy final dish.
  5. Rest before serving: After the ribs are cooked, allow them to rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the meat to reabsorb some of the flavorful juices, resulting in a more tender and juicy bite.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your Fricasé de Costillitas turns out irresistibly tender, with meat that practically falls off the bone.

Serving Suggestions for Fricasé de Costillitas

Fricasé de Costiliitas is a versatile dish that can be served in various ways, depending on your preferences and the occasion. Here are a few serving suggestions to inspire you:

  1. Classic pairing: Serve the Fricasé de Costillitas with fluffy white rice and a side of black beans. This classic combination highlights the flavors of the dish and provides a satisfying and complete meal.
  2. Bread lovers’ delight: If you’re a bread lover, consider serving the Fricasé de Costillitas with crusty bread. Use the bread to soak up the rich sauce, allowing every last bit of flavor to be enjoyed.
  3. Fresh and vibrant: For a lighter option, serve the baby back ribs with a fresh green salad dressed with a tangy vinaigrette, Ensalada de Ajo. The acidity of the salad will complement the richness of the dish.
  4. Finger foods: French fries or Yuca fries add the perfect side crunch.

Sharing is caring…..Below is a Pinterest ready photo.

Recipe Tip

When cooking baby back ribs the membrane or silver skin needs to be removed. Watch the video below for easy instructions on how to remove it.

Fricasé de Costillitas (Baby Back Ribs Fricassée)

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 2 hrs Cook Time 2 hrs Total Time 4 hrs
Servings: 6
Best Season: Suitable throughout the year


Fricasé de Costillitas are Cuban style tender baby back ribs slow cooked in a delicate sofrito until they are fall of the bone tender.


Baby Back Ribs (Costillitas) Marinade



Baby Back Ribs (Costillitas) Marinade

  1. Remove the membrane or silver skin from the baby back ribs. This needs to be done for a more tender cook. Then cut the rack of ribs into sections of 2 bones each. Salt and pepper both sides of ribs. I like to use kosher salt when seasoning meat. Smash or mince the garlic. In a bowl or ziplock bag add garlic, naranja agria and lime juice.
    A bowl of naranja agria, a bowl of lime juice and a mortar and pestle with smashed garlic for marinating baby back ribs.
  2. Add ribs to marinade and let the ribs marinate for 2 hours.
    Baby back ribs marinating in naranja agria, lime juice and garlic.


  1. While the ribs are marinating, prep the rest of the ingredients. Chop the bell pepper. Chop the onion. Smash or mince the garlic.
    Diced onions and bell peppers along with smashed garlic for costillitas fricasé.
  2. Purée the cherry tomatoes.
  3. After the ribs have been marinated, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Remove ribs from marinade and brown each rib section on both sides. When browned remove and reserve on a plate. Do not overcrowd the ribs while browning. Cook in batches if necessary. Don't worry about any browned bits left in the pot.
    Browning baby back ribs in olive oil for costillitas fricasé.
  4. In the same pot sauté the onions and bell peppers for a few minutes. When the onions and peppers start to soften add the smashed or minced garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
    Sautéing ingredients for baby back ribs fricassée.
  5. Next, deglaze the pan with the vino seco (white wine) and scrape up all of the browned bits and stir. In the center of the pot add the 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and stir. 

    After vegetables have sautéed deglaze with vino seco and stir up bits.
  6. Stir in the puréed cherry tomatoes.
    Add puréed cherry tomatoes to vegetables.
  7. Next, add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 2 tablespoons cumin and 1 bay leaf. Stir in 32 oz of chicken stock. Let sauce simmer on medium heat for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors combine. Taste sauce and adjust salt and seasoning if needed.
    Add chicken broth to sauce.
  8. Add the ribs back into the fricasé and bring to a boil. After a boil is reached, reduce heat to low. Put a lid on and continue cooking for another 2-3 hours.

    Ribs are done when completely tender. Serve with beans and rice.

    Cooked baby back ribs fricassée.
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