How to make costillas enchiladas, or grilled chile-marinated pork ribs

Luis Martinez
Special to Southern Kitchen

These spicy traditional pork ribs, or costillas enchiladas, are a standard at Oaxacan barbecues, according to Oaxaca native Luis Martinez. 

This method takes just about all day, including the marinating time, but Martinez promises it's worth it. 

"The adobo used in this recipe can also be used on pork loin and chicken breasts," he said. "Just slather this paste all over the meat, let it sit for a bit, and then grill."

Costillas enchiladas cooked over a makeshift grill in a wheelbarrow. The coals have been taken from nearby earthen ovens, used to distill mezcal.

Mexican traditions: In Oaxaca, Mexico, grilling and mezcal making go hand in hand

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The sauce recipe yields around 2 cups, so you'll have some left over. It can keep for weeks in the fridge.

This recipe makes 6-8 portions.


11 guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed

2 pasilla chiles, stems and seeds removed

6 whole peppercorns

4 whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

1/2 tablespoon dried oregano

8 garlic cloves, peeled

1 cup diced white onion

1/2 cup of white vinegar

One rack of baby back ribs; about 6 pounds

Sea salt


In a heated pan, toast the chiles. Turn them over regularly and grill until they are supple and fragrant, about 15-30 seconds.

Bring about a quart of water to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the chiles, and cover. Leave for 30 minutes or until the chiles are very tender. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid.

In a dry pan, toast the cumin for a few seconds. Add the oregano, cloves and thyme. Finally, add the black pepper. Roast these spices until they become aromatic.

In a molcajete (mortar) or spice grinder, grind the spices.

Put the softened chiles with the reserved soaking water into a blender, along with the onion, garlic, ground spice mixture and vinegar. Blend until smooth, and salt to taste. It should have the consistency of mustard.

Cut the rack of pork ribs into sections. Spread each piece of pork with the adobo mixture and stack in a nonreactive baking dish. Cover and let marinate, in the refrigerator, for 4 to 6 hours.

After the ribs have marinated, preheat the grill to high. Arrange the ribs on the grill and brown them for 3-5 minutes per side. Turn off half of the burners. Arrange them on the side of the grill with less heat so they can cook all the way inside, around 20-25 minutes depending on the temperature of the grill, taking care not to burn.

Serve immediately, accompanied by tortillas, guacamole and salsa.