How many calories are in a full rack of ribs?

A full rack of ribs is a delicious, meaty treat that can feed multiple people. But with all that meat and sauce, ribs can also pack a lot of calories. So how many calories are actually in a full rack of pork or beef ribs?

The total calories in a rack of ribs depends on a few factors:

  • Type of ribs (pork, beef, etc.)
  • Weight of the rack
  • Whether the ribs have sauce or seasoning on them
  • How the ribs are cooked (grilled, baked, etc.)

In general, a full rack of pork spare ribs without sauce contains about 1300-1500 calories. Beef ribs tend to have slightly more at around 1500-1800 calories for a full rack. Adding barbecue sauce or other flavorings will add more calories – usually around 100-300 calories per rack depending on amount.

Calories in Pork Ribs

Let’s take a closer look at the calorie counts for different types of pork ribs:

Pork Spare Ribs

Pork spare ribs come from the belly side of the pig. A full rack of St. Louis style spare ribs weighing around 2-3 pounds contains about:

  • 1300 calories for a 2 pound rack
  • 1500 calories for a 3 pound rack

If slathered in barbecue sauce, add around 100-300 calories to the totals above.

Pork Back Ribs

Pork back ribs, also known as baby back ribs, are cut from closer to the spine and tend to be meatier and more tender. For a typical full rack:

  • A 2 pound rack contains around 1500 calories
  • A 2.5-3 pound rack contains around 1700-1800 calories

Again, sauce can add 100-300 calories per rack.

Pork Country-Style Ribs

Country-style ribs are cut from the shoulder area and contain more bone. A full rack weighs around 2.5-3 pounds and contains about:

  • 1700 calories for a 2.5 pound rack
  • 1900 calories for a 3 pound rack

Calories in Beef Ribs

Beef ribs can come from different areas of the cow. Here are calorie totals for some popular types:

Beef Short Ribs

Short ribs come from the belly/underside area and are usually braised or slow cooked. For a full rack (around 3-4 pounds):

  • 1500 calories for a 3 pound rack
  • 1800 calories for a 4 pound rack

Beef Back Ribs

Back ribs come from along the spine and tend to be meatier. A 2.5-3.5 pound rack contains about:

  • 1700 calories for a 2.5 pound rack
  • 2000 calories for a 3.5 pound rack

Beef Dino Ribs

Dino ribs are sliced from the rib primal along the spine and weigh around 2-5 pounds per rack. Expect:

  • 1500 calories for a 2 pound rack
  • 2500 calories for a 4 pound rack

How Cooking Method Affects Calorie Count

How you cook your ribs also impacts their final calorie content. Here is how different cooking methods compare:

Cooking Method Effects on Calorie Content
Grilling Causes fat to drip away, lowering calories compared to roasting. Least caloric option.
Roasting Much of the fat is retained during cooking, resulting in highest calorie content.
Braising Some fat melts away, but ribs still absorb braising liquid. Calories similar to roasting.
Smoking More fat drips away compared to roasting. Lower calorie than roasting but higher than grilling.

As a general guideline:

  • Grilled ribs = lowest calorie option
  • Smoked or baked ribs = moderate calories
  • Braised or roasted ribs = highest calories

Calories in Ribs With and Without Sauce

Adding sauce significantly increases the calories in ribs. Here are some estimates for how sauce impacts calorie content:

  • A dry rub adds negligible calories, around 50 or less per rack.
  • A light brushing of barbecue sauce adds around 100-150 calories.
  • Heavily sauced ribs can add 300 or more calories to the rack.

To keep calories under control, opt for drier seasonings like a spice rub. Or just sauce portions of the rack rather than dousing completely.

Comparing Rib Calories to Other BBQ Cuts

Ribs tend to have more calories than other popular barbecued cuts of meat. Here’s how they compare per serving size:

BBQ Cut Calories (per 5-6oz serving)
Pork spare ribs 690-860
Beef short ribs 700-900
Chicken drumstick 180-230
Brisket 450-600
Pulled pork 300-450
Sausage 550-800

As you can see, ribs are one of the higher-calorie BBQ options. But the good news is that the high protein and fat content means they also tend to be quite filling and satisfying.

Tips for Lightening Up Your Rib Calories

If you want to enjoy ribs without going overboard on calories, here are some tips:

  • Trim off excess fat before cooking to reduce calories.
  • Remove the membrane or skin for fewer calories.
  • Opt for a dry rub over heavy sauces.
  • Grill instead of roast, braise, or fry.
  • Portion out individual ribs rather than eating a whole slab.
  • Pair with lower calorie side dishes like a salad.
  • Share racks family-style instead of overeating individually.

Should You Be Concerned About Ribs and Calories?

While ribs are one of the higher calorie BBQ options, they can still fit into a healthy diet in moderation. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Focus on your total daily or weekly calorie target, rather than just a single meal.
  • Balance higher calorie ribs with lighter sides and other meals.
  • Watch your portion sizes. Stick to 1-2 ribs as a serving.
  • Consider ribs an occasional indulgence food rather than an everyday meal.

At the end of the day, ribs are a delicious and popular American food tradition. With some mindfulness about portions and preparation, you can still enjoy them while maintaining a healthy diet overall.


A full rack of ribs can indeed pack a lot of calories. But the exact amount depends on factors like the cut, weight, cooking method, and whether sauce is added. In general, a full rack of pork spare ribs contains 1300-1500 calories, while beef ribs are 1500-1800 calories. Grilling instead of braising and minimizing sauce are two ways to lighten up the calorie load. At the end of the day, ribs can be enjoyed in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet and active lifestyle.

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