Applebee’s Riblets – CopyKat Recipes


Indulge in the irresistible flavors of Applebee’s Riblets with this easy copycat recipe. Tender pork riblets are perfectly seasoned, cooked to perfection, and smothered in barbecue sauce. These homemade riblets are sure to be a favorite and you can enjoy the taste of your favorite restaurant dish in the comfort of your own home!

Copycat Applebee's riblets and a small cup of barbecue sauce on a platter.Copycat Applebee's riblets and a small cup of barbecue sauce on a platter.

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Why Applebee’s Riblets are the perfect addition to your next barbecue?

Rib aficionados dream about succulent meat so tender it comes clean off the bone, and Applebee’s makes their dreams come true.

Applebee’s famous riblets may be small in size, but they’re huge when it comes to flavor. Sweet and tangy with plenty of smoky taste, Riblets are sure to please even the harshest rib critics, so remember to make a platter the next time you are craving some real tasty BBQ. 

Why you’ll love this recipe 

These Riblets have all the flavor of smoked ribs without any of the mess of a smoker. The only downside to making this copycat Applebee’s Riblets recipe is you have to be patient. But don’t think of the long cooking time as a negative.

A simple homemade seasoning mix gives them a nice flavor and they are finished with barbecue sauce for even more deliciousness.

Since this dish is pretty much hands-free, once it goes into the oven, you’ll have plenty of time to prepare the rest of the dishes for your party. And because it only takes mere minutes to heat on the grill, you’ll actually be able to enjoy your party. 

Ingredients you will need 

For marinating the riblets, you’ll need:

  • Corn syrup
  • Hickory-flavored Liquid Smoke flavoring
  • Riblets or rib tips

Although riblets and rib tips are different cuts, it is almost impossible to find true riblets for sale in the supermarket. Rib tips will work almost as well. 

For seasoning the riblets, you’ll need these spices:

  • Kosher salt
  • White granulated sugar
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Smoked paprika
  • Ground black pepper

To steam the riblets, you’ll need:

To finish the riblets on the grill, you’ll need:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Honey barbecue sauce or Sweet Asian chile sauce (optional)
Copycat Applebee's riblets ingredients on a tray.Copycat Applebee's riblets ingredients on a tray.

What are Applebee’s Riblets? 

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to answering the question, what are riblets? So much that professional cooks and butchers can’t even agree.

But when it comes to the cut of meat Applebee’s uses for its Riblets, there is a definitive answer. According to Applebee’s response to, riblets are pork feather bones. Feather bones are also known as finger and Button ribs. 

Riblets vs Ribs

There are a lot of different types of ribs out there, but riblets are technically not one of them. While real ribs are the bones that make up the ribcage, riblets come from bones much further down on the vertebra.

How to make Applebee’s Riblets 

To marinate the riblets:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the corn syrup and liquid smoke.
  2. Add the riblets to the bowl. Toss to coat and set to the side. 

To season the riblets:

  1. In a separate bowl, whisk together the kosher salt, white granulated sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and ground black pepper.
  2. Rub the dry seasoning all over the marinaded riblets.
  3. Cover the bowl and let the riblets rest for about 30 minutes. 

To steam the riblets: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 275°F. 
  2. Pour the water and hickory-flavored Liquid Smoke into a deep pan like a broiler pan or roaster pan and place a rack in the pan. 
  3. Place the riblets on top of the rack, cover the roasting pan with two layers of foil wrap, and put the pan in the oven. 
  4. Steam the riblets until tender, about two and a half hours. Add more water and Liquid Smoke as necessary.
  5. Remove the riblets from the oven.

To finish the riblets:

  1. Heat a grill to medium-high.
  2. Brush the riblets with vegetable oil and sear quickly on both sides until lightly charred. 
  3. Add sauce, if using, and serve hot. 
Collage of making copycat Applebee's riblets.Collage of making copycat Applebee's riblets.

What to serve with riblets 

All the sides you serve with regular ribs will go with riblets. Here are three great options:

  • Coleslaw. The crunch contrasts with the tender meat, while the creaminess works well with the sweetness of the riblets. Try classic coleslaw, or get more creative with this Pineapple Coleslaw recipe
  • Beans. Not only are beans good for you, but they’re tasty. With hundreds of ways to make them, from Latino-style Frijoles a la Charra to New England baked beans, you’ll find a favorite. 
  • Collard greens. Hardy and slightly bitter, collard greens pair well with a plate of riblets, especially since they’re packed with nutrients. 

How to store leftover riblets 

You can keep any leftovers in the fridge for a couple of days or freeze them for up to a month. 

  1. Cool the riblets and cut them into portions that will fit into freezer bags. 
  2. Put the riblets in the freezer bags and squeeze out as much air as possible. 
  3. Seal the bags and put them in the fridge or freezer. Defrost the frozen ribs overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 

What is the best way to reheat Applebee’s Riblets? 

An excellent method to warm extra riblets is in a 250°F oven:

  1. Place the riblets in a baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. 
  2. Heat until warmed through, 20 to 30 minutes. 
Copycat Applebee's riblets and barbecue sauce on a platter.Copycat Applebee's riblets and barbecue sauce on a platter.

More copycat Applebee’s recipes

Favorite BBQ recipes

Check out more of my easy dinner recipes and the best copycat restaurant recipes on CopyKat!

Copycat Applebee's riblets and a small cup of barbecue sauce on a platter.Copycat Applebee's riblets and a small cup of barbecue sauce on a platter.

Applebee’s Riblets

You can make tender pork riblets like Applebee’s with this easy copycat recipe.

Add to Collection

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: American

Keyword: Applebees Recipes

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Marinate: 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 6

Calories: 486kcal


  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon hickory-flavored liquid smoke divided use
  • 2 pounds riblets or rib tips
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • barbecue sauce such as Sweet Baby Ray’s, optional


  • In a large bowl, combine the corn syrup and 1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke. Add the riblets and toss to combine.

  • In a separate bowl, combine the salt, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and ground black pepper. Rub the seasoning over the riblets and let them stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

  • Preheat the broiler. Broil the riblets 5 to 6 inches from the flame until browned on both sides, about 8 to 10 minutes per side. Remove from the broiler.

  • Preheat the oven to 275°F. Set an oven-safe rack inside a rimmed baking pan or roasting pan. Pour the water and 1 tablespoon of liquid smoke into the pan. Place the riblets on the rack and cover the pan tightly. Transfer the pan to the oven, being careful not to splash the water onto the riblets. Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is tender. Add additional water to the pan as needed. When the riblets are finished, discard the cooking liquid.

  • Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Brush the riblets with the vegetable oil and grill until lightly charred, 2 to 4 minutes per side. If desired, brush the riblets with the barbecue sauce before flipping to give the riblets a glazed appearance. Serve immediately with extra sauce on the side, if desired.


Calories: 486kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 1151mg | Potassium: 67mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 136IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 0.2mg

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