Lamb Ribs with Spicy Harissa Barbecue Sauce Recipe

Perfect for parties, these ribs pre-roast in the oven, then crisp up under the broiler. Ask your butcher for a Denver cut, the lamb rib equivalent of St. Louis–style pork spare ribs, which is a fatty portion from the belly side. The ever-dependable harissa—a North African garlicky chile paste—adorns this dish as a spicy, tangy, layered barbecue sauce.

Featured in: “Eating More Lamb Could Change the Future of Appalachia.”


Lamb Ribs with Spicy Harissa Barbecue Sauce
Lamb Ribs with Spicy Harissa Barbecue Sauce

Harissa barbecue sauce gives these thick, fatty lamb ribs a sweet heat and addicting tang. They’re pre-roasted before hitting the broiler, making them perfect for parties and gatherings.

Yield: serves 4


2 hours, 10 minutes

For the ribs:

  • 1 tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. smoked hot paprika
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 racks of lamb ribs (3¼ lb. total), cut Denver-style

For the harissa barbecue sauce:

  • ½ cups ketchup
  • 2-3 tbsp. harissa paste
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Thinly sliced scallions or cilantro leaves, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and set a rack in the center.
  2. To a large bowl, add the coriander, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves, and stir to combine. Add the ribs, and rub the seasoning evenly over them.
  3. Wrap each rack tightly in foil, and place on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Roast until the meat is tender when poked with a knife, about 1½ hours.
  4. Meanwhile, make the sauce: To a medium bowl, add the ketchup, harissa, honey, mustard, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk to combine, then set aside.
  5. Unwrap the ribs, discarding the foil and any rendered fat. Preheat the broiler, line the baking sheet with a fresh sheet of foil, and place a wire rack on top. Set the ribs on the rack and broil, watching closely for burning, until browned and crispy, 5–10 minutes.
  6. Remove the baking sheet, brush the ribs with a thin layer of the prepared sauce, then continue broiling until the tops are glazed and sticky, 1–3 minutes more.
  7. Remove the racks from the oven, let cool slightly, then slice into individual ribs. Transfer to a platter, top with scallions or cilantro, and serve hot, with extra sauce for dipping.

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