AIP Ribs with Nightshade-free Cherry BBQ Sauce

AIP Ribs with Nightshade-free Cherry BBQ Sauce

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Summer is drawing to a close as the days are getting shorter, and mornings bring with them a slight chill in the air.  Luckily these AIP Ribs with Nightshade-free Cherry BBQ Sauce can be enjoyed no matter the season since they are cooked in a pressure cooker and finished in the oven.  They can also be finished on the grill and paired with a Vegetarian Antipasto Salad and some Avocado Fries for a perfect end-of-the-summer barbeque.

Why we love it

Sticking to an AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet is not easy, and you can forget about any traditional barbeque foods.  Fortunately, these AIP ribs and nightshade-free cherry BBQ sauce avoid any problematic foods you would typically see in barbeque recipes— and they taste great too!

What is the Autoimmune Protocol diet?

Very simply, when someone has an autoimmune disorder, their immune system produces antibodies that attack healthy cells and tissues rather than foreign or harmful cells as it is supposed to do.  This can result in chronic inflammation and depending on what part of the body is affected, symptoms can range from fatigue, joint pain, brain fog, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and tissue and nerve damage.

Now let’s talk about what the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet is and what it is intended to do.  The AIP diet, aka autoimmune paleo, is a two-phase elimination diet that is specifically designed to help those with autoimmune conditions determine their food allergies and sensitivities, reduce systemic inflammation, increase nutrient density in the diet, and balance gut flora.  First, the potentially problematic foods are removed from the diet for at least 30 days.  After the elimination phase, foods are then slowly reintroduced back into the diet one at a time while watching for any negative reactions.  Below is a general list of foods to avoid during the elimination phase, and foods to emphasize to help repair the gut and calm the immune system.

Foods to avoid on the AIP diet:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Nightshade vegetables: eggplants, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, etc., as well as spices derived from nightshade vegetables, such as paprika
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Nuts and seeds: all nuts and seeds and foods derived from them, such as flours, butter, or oils; also include cocoa and seed-based spices, such as coriander, cumin, anise, fennel, fenugreek, mustard, and nutmeg
  • All processed foods
  • Alcohol and coffee
  • Processed vegetable and seed oils
  • Refined or processed sugars
  • Food additives and artificial sweeteners

Foods to emphasize on the AIP diet:

  • A wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables (except nightshades)
  • High-quality animal protein
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Organ meats
  • Bone broth
  • Fermented foods
  • Herbs and spices (except those that come from seeds)
  • Healthy fats: beef tallow, duck fat, leaf lard, coconut oil, olive oil

Nightshades and Leaky Gut

While some foods on the “to avoid” list are healthy, they can increase the permeability of the intestinal lining, leading to a “leaky gut.”  In susceptible individuals, it is believed that this can be a triggering event for an autoimmune condition.  For example, nightshades contain three key compounds; glycoalkaloids, agglutinins, and capsaicin, which make them a common food sensitivity, especially those with compromised digestion as seen in those with autoimmunity.  People with healthy guts can usually handle these compounds just fine.  No matter which category you fall into, you are sure to enjoy this tasty Nightshade-free Cherry BBQ Sauce!

AIP Ribs

AIP Barbeque Ribs


2 – 2 ½ lb. baby back or St. Louis style ribs, cut into 3 equal sections

1 cup water or broth

BBQ sauce of choice

Spice Rub:

1 ¼ tsp. garlic powder

1 ¼ tsp. turmeric

1 ¼ tsp. dried oregano

1 ¼ tsp. ginger powder

¾ tsp. onion powder

½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ground cloves

¾ tsp. smoked sea salt

½ tsp. black pepper*


Pressure Cooker:
  1. Combine the ingredients for the spice rub.
  2. Remove the silverskin and cut the rack of ribs into 3 equal sections then rub each section with the spice rub.
  3. Place a steamer basket in the bottom of the pressure cooker. Add the broth or water.
  4. Place the ribs on the rack and arrange the ribs into a pyramid by standing each section up on its end and leaning them against one another.
  5. Place lid on pressure cooker and lock. Put on the stovetop on high heat until it comes up to pressure.
  6. Once at pressure (the button on the top will pop up) turn the heat down to medium/medium-low. It will still “sputter” but only mildly.
  7. After 30 minutes at pressure, remove from heat, place into the sink, and spray the side of the pressure cooker with cold water until the pressure releases. (Will take ~5 minutes).
Instant Pot:
  1. Combine the ingredients for the spice rub.
  2. Remove the silverskin and cut the rack of ribs into 3 equal sections then rub each section with the spice rub.
  3. Place the metal rack into the bottom of the Instant Pot. Add the broth or water.
  4. Place the ribs on the rack and arrange the ribs into a pyramid by standing each section up on its end and leaning them against one another.
  5. Place the lid on the Instant Pot and lock it into place. Flip the valve to the ‘Sealing’ position.
  6. Select the high-pressure setting and set the cooking time to 30 minutes.
  7. As soon as the cooking time is up, quickly release the pressure by flipping the valve to the ‘Venting’ position.
  1. Remove the ribs from the Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker and place them on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet (can line the baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up).
  2. Preheat the broiler to medium-high heat. Brush the ribs with barbecue sauce on both sides.
  3. Broil for 3-5 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and slightly caramelized.
  4. Cut into individual ribs for serving.


To finish the ribs on the grill, preheat the grill to low-medium and place them directly on the rack over indirect heat and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce ‘tightens’ and becomes thick and sticky. More caramelization will result from using the broiler than the grill to finish the ribs.

This method works with either baby back or St. Louis-style ribs.  Baby back are generally smaller but more tender, whereas St. Louis style will be bigger, meatier, and overall more flavorful.

*Black pepper is acceptable in the early reintroduction phase of the AIP diet but not during the strict elimination phase.

Serves 4

Method from Jessica Beacom, spice rub from Amber Frazier

Nightshade-Free Cherry BBQ Sauce


2 Tablespoons coconut oil

1 medium sweet onion, roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups pitted cherries, fresh or frozen, halved

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon smoked sea salt


  1. Heat the coconut oil in a saucepan on medium heat. When it is melted, add the onion, and cook for 7-10 minutes or until browned.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring, until fragrant.
  3. Add the cherries, maple syrup, cider vinegar, and smoked sea salt. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the mixture thickens considerably.
  4. Transfer to a blender, or use an immersion blender directly in the saucepan and blend on high until smooth consistency.

Makes about 3 cups

You can also substitute peaches for the cherries, and add 1 tsp of ginger for a lighter, more tangy sauce.

Adapted from Autoimmune Wellness

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Did you make this recipe?

We would love to hear your feedback, see your creations and share your recipe photo with the NTI community! Tag your photos on Instagram and/or Facebook with @ntischool, #ntieats, and #ntischool

More AIP-friendly recipes in the NTI collection:

Paleo Lamb Burgers with Dairy Free Tzatziki (omit red pepper flakes to make AIP)

Root Veggie Mash

Kale Guacamole (omit tomato to make AIP)

Dafna’s Moroccan Carrot Salad (sub smoked salt for cumin to make AIP)

Fruit Kanten

Related Reading…

Variety Is the Spice of Life… and Your Diet

Autoimmunity and the Holidays

Can Nutrition Therapy Help Migraine Headaches?

About the Author: Amber Frazier is a self-proclaimed nutrition nerd.  She believes that life should be about thriving, not just surviving— and proper nutrition can help everyone do just that.  As a graduate of both the Nutrition Therapist Master and Natural Food Chef programs, she has experienced firsthand how powerful food can be and wants to help others come to the same realization.  Find her on Instagram at @realfoodthriving.

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