Air Fryer Garlic Ribs (蒜香排骨)

5 from 1 vote
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Sharing a super easy and addictive air fryer ribs recipe that is inspired by Chinese fried garlic ribs. The ribs are juicy, tender, very flavorful, coated with a crispy crust and finished up with crispy garlic bits. If you are looking to enjoy ribs without guilt, you should make this air fryer version for a delicious and healthy meal with wholesome ingredients. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Air fryer garlic ribs in a platter

I love cooking with ribs because it’s a cut that gives you the right amount of lean-fat ratio and maximum flavor. In the past I’ve shared a fair number of rib recipes, such as Chinese Dry Rub Ribs, Chinese BBQ Ribs, Instant Pot Pork Ribs, and Mom’s Best Braised Pork Ribs. Today I want to share one of my favorite rib dishes of all time – Chinese garlic ribs. 

What are Chinese garlic ribs

Chinese garlic ribs, or Suan Xiang Pai Gu (蒜香排骨), is a famous dish from Shanghainese cuisine. Although it’s so popular that you will see it alongside different regional cuisines such as Sichuan, Northern, or Cantonese.

To cook the dish, small single riblets are marinated in a savory aromatic sauce, then deep fried until the outside is golden crispy. It is then quickly stir fried with a TON of crispy garlic to finish up.

The finished ribs are bursting with flavor, with a juicy texture and crispy exterior. Paired with crunchy garlic bits, it’s super addictive.

Why this recipe

To make Chinese garlic ribs more suitable for a casual home cooked dinner, I developed this air fryer version. With this Air Fryer recipe: 

  • You do not need a ton of oil for deep-frying.
  • The cooking is hands-off and pretty quick.
  • The clean up is easy peasy.
  • You can enjoy amazing tasting ribs that taste like fried but are much healthier!
Chinese garlic ribs in a platter
Air fryer ribs on a baking tray

Ingredients for air fryer garlic ribs

What kind of pork ribs to use

The best ribs to use for this recipe are the ones that have a good amount of fat layered in, and the meat on the ribs is not too thick. Because you will use a very short amount of time to cook a rather tough cut of meat, you want a decent fat layer to protect the lean meat from drying out. You also want to control the cooking time so the meat is just cooked through, which stays juicy. The ginger in this recipe will work to tenderize the pork, but it works better when the cut is not too thick.

Since we want to achieve a crispy crust and very flavorful meat, small single riblets work better than a whole rack of ribs. It is also how this dish is served in China.

If you have access to an Asian market, it’s best to buy chopped up ribs. The length of those ribs is half that of the regular ribs and it’s perfect for this dish. You can also find packaged single ribs at regular grocery stores, but they are not halved lengthwise. Alternatively, you can buy half a rack of ribs at the butcher and ask them to cut it in half across the bones. The butcher will use a saw to do it. Then you can easily cut the split rack into single riblets at home with a knife. 

Raw pork riblets in a bowl

Key ingredients

Air fryer garlic ribs use only a few pantry ingredients to create maximum flavor, but you might not have those ingredients on hand if you don’t cook Chinese food a lot.

Oyster sauce

Oyster Sauce (蚝油, hao you) is a thick, dark brown sauce and is very commonly used in stir fries and marinades. It has a sweet, salty, and deeply savory flavor. It is made from the essence or extract of oyster, with a few other ingredients, such as caramel and cornstarch. If you’re familiar with hoisin sauce, consider this one a superior version – it’s a bit savory and much more flavorful. You can easily find it at most Asian markets or on Amazon.

Shaoxing wine

Another key ingredient in Chinese cooking, Shaoxing wine adds depth of flavor to the dish and it’s hard to replace. However, if you cannot find it, the next best alternative is dry sherry. Alternatively, you can also replace it with Japanese sake, which can be found in regular grocery stores these days. If you need the dish to be alcohol-free, you can also skip this ingredient. 

How to make air fryer garlic ribs

  1. Marinate the ribs (very important)
  2. Coat the ribs with cornstarch right before cooking
  3. Cook in the air fryer 
  4. Fry the garlic while cooking the ribs
  5. Flip the ribs once and keep air frying
  6. Once done, plate the ribs and garnish with fried garlic

These air fried garlic ribs are golden brown on the outside with a crispy crust, the inside is extra tender and juicy. Plus, this recipe is so easy that it takes no time to put together (although you do need to get a bit organized and get that marinating time in!). 

Fair warming: you might end up consuming too many ribs, but at least this recipe is so much healthier than other deep fried ribs and those BBQ ribs that’re full of sugar.

How to make air fryer ribs step-by-step
Air fryer garlic ribs
Air fryer garlic ribs close up

Other delicious air fryer recipes

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Sharing a super easy and addictive air fryer ribs recipe that is inspired by Chinese fried garlic ribs. The ribs are juicy, tender, very flavorful, coated with a crispy crust and finished up with crispy garlic bits. If you are looking to enjoy ribs without guilt, you should make this air fryer version for a delicious and healthy meal with wholesome ingredients. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Air Fryer Garlic Ribs (蒜香排骨)

5 from 1 vote
Sharing a super easy and addictive air fryer ribs recipe that is inspired by Chinese fried garlic ribs. The ribs are juicy, tender, very flavorful, coated with a crispy crust and finished up with crispy garlic bits. If you are looking to enjoy ribs without guilt, you should make this air fryer version for a delicious and healthy meal with wholesome ingredients. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}
To make this dish gluten-free, use dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine. Make sure to use a gluten-free oyster sauce such as Lee Kum Kee green label.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: restaurant-style
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Marinating time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 35 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 rack (1.5 lb / 680 g) well-marbled pork ribs , cut into single ribs (*Footnote 1)

Marinade

  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger , grated
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Garlic crust

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper powder
  • Oil spray
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 head garlic , coarsely minced (*Footnote 3)
  • 2 green onions , sliced (optional, for garnish)

Instructions

  • Add the pork ribs into a big bowl or a large ziplock bag. Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well and pour over the ribs. Mix using a spatula (or massage the bag if using) until the ribs are evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge (highly recommended). (*Footnote 2)
  • When you’re ready to cook, drain the ribs and remove the excess marinade. Transfer to a large bowl if you used a ziplock bag. Combine the cornstarch and white pepper in a small bowl and stir to mix well. Then add it to the bowl of ribs, 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix to evenly coat the ribs, until all the ribs are covered. Add a bit more cornstarch if needed. Transfer the ribs into the air fryer basket without overlapping, meat side up. Spray with a generous amount of oil on top so there’s no visible dry cornstarch.
  • Cook in the air fryer at 350°F (176°C) for 10 minutes, until the top of the ribs turns golden brown. Remove the air fryer basket, flip the ribs, then cook for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the ribs turn golden brown throughout. Test a rib by cutting up a piece to make sure it’s cooked through. If not, you can cook them for another 5 to 10 minutes. (*Footnote 4)
  • While the ribs are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the garlic. Stir and cook until you see the edge of garlic turn pale golden. Turn to low heat. Cook and stir fry the garlic until most of them turn golden, 5 minutes or so. (*Footnote 5) Immediately transfer everything to a small bowl to cool.
  • Once the ribs are done, transfer them to a big platter, then cover the ribs with the fried garlic. Garnish with green onions if using. Serve hot as a main dish.

Notes

  1. If you have access to an Asian market, it’s best to buy chopped up ribs that are quite small (the length is half that of regular ribs). You can also find packaged single ribs at regular grocery stores, but they are not halved lengthwise. Alternatively, you can also buy half a rack of ribs at the butcher and ask them to cut it in half across the bones. The butcher will use a saw to do it. Then you can easily cut them into single riblets at home with a knife.
  2. I highly recommend marinating the pork overnight. The enzymes from the ginger will tenderize the ribs so you will get a better result when air frying. If you’re short on time, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda into the marinade. The baking soda will tenderize the ribs in a shorter amount of time.
  3. You can mince the garlic using a food processor.
  4. I use a Cuisinart Toaster Air Fryer Oven, which is quite powerful and usually requires a bit less time to brown and cook food. Depending on the brand of air fryer you use, you will need to slightly adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  5. It’s very important that you don’t overcook the garlic, which will make it turn bitter. If the garlic starts to brown too fast, you can remove the skillet from the stove to let the oil cool off for a bit, before restarting the cooking again. It’s important to fry the garlic until just golden. When it turns brown, it will taste a bit bitter. And do not worry if some of the garlic is still pale yellow. It will taste great and be nice and crispy once cooled.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 473kcal, Carbohydrates: 13.4g, Protein: 38.5g, Fat: 28.6g, Saturated Fat: 9.6g, Cholesterol: 146mg, Sodium: 545mg, Potassium: 474mg, Fiber: 0.7g, Sugar: 3.2g, Calcium: 67mg, Iron: 3mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Cyndy says:

    I love your recipes! However, I’m allergic to pork and tired of cooking it for everyone else. Is there a beef alternative for this?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      This recipe is actually great for lamb, if you happen to have lamb chops.
      For beef, I think short ribs can be really nice. I haven’t tested those cuts but I think they should work.

  2. Diane says:

    What style of ribs? baby back or st louis? thank you

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Either will work. I think St Louis works a bit better because it’s fattier. I would try to choose well marbled St Louis ribs that are not too thick.

  3. Mark Sheiko says:

    Looking forward to trying this enticing recipe. Here in Montana we have only pork baby back ribs and pork spare ribs available. The photo in your recipe looks like baby back ribs to me. Is that correct? Thanks!

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      The ones I got were from Asian market, already cut up. They didn’t specify the ribs, but I think it looks more like spare ribs. The ribs have been cut across the bones, so they are very short.
      I think spare ribs will work slightly better for this one because it’s fattier. But if they are too big to big in the air fryer, baby back ribs will work as well.

  4. Ary says:

    5 stars
    I did the following modifications:
    – 2.5 lbs mini bite-sized pork rib tips
    – Add a little Chinese Five Spice Powder
    – Coat them in a little oil before adding the cornstarch
    – Baked them in an oven on a baking rack, 400F 30 min
    – Skip the fried garlic part (I was running out of time lol)
    I work for a Chinese American company and my Chinese+Taiwanese coworkers were blown away. Oven baked didn’t give the exact crunch an air fryer (I assume) would bring, but it’s great for a double batch like mine.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      So happy to hear you tried this one out and liked it! It’s great to know that the oven method works as well. Thanks for leaving a positive review 🙂

  5. Alex Martell says:

    These were the best ribs I have ever had – no time for photos – recipe was exactly as it should be, no side tracking. Wow love them so much yes yes yes

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      So happy to hear you enjoyed it and thanks for leaving a positive review! 🙂

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