Terry Sargent's Vegan "Boneless Ribs"

Terry Sargent is one of our 2021 Cooks of the Year.

Terry Sargent’s Vegan “Boneless Ribs”
Photo: Robbie Caponetto
Active Time:
25 mins
Bake Time:
45 mins
Chill Time:
4 hrs 30 mins
Grill Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
5 hrs 55 mins

"Barbecue is a way of cooking, not a type of meat," says Terry Sargent. At Grass VBQ Joint, his plant-based restaurant in Stone Mountain, Georgia, he's changing the hearts and minds of carnivores one "veef" brisket sandwich at a time. "Some people will walk in and have no idea that it's vegan. Then they'll come back another day and say, 'Wait a minute. This is a vegan restaurant?'" Sargent says. And now, you can recreate that unique experience at home.

Sargent's Vegan "Boneless Ribs" start with a can of shredded jackfruit, which mimics the look and texture of pulled pork. Vital wheat gluten, chickpea flour, and pea protein give the ribs their body, while smoked paprika and liquid smoke prime these ribs with the essence of a grilled pork rib. The ribs are baked, then chilled completely in the refrigerator before grilling. The "meat" slabs lend well to charring, but they're quite delicate— use a fish spatula to carefully move and flip the ribs.

These vegan ribs are a labor of love, but they sure are worth it. They can also be baked ahead of time to be grilled later, making them a great option for a BBQ. Serve these ribs with a vegan take on a traditional BBQ side, like Tabitha Brown's vegan Mac and Cheese.


  • 1 cup canned jackfruit, drained and shredded (from 1 [20-oz.] can green jackfruit in brine) 

  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten (such as Bob's Red Mill)

  • 5 tablespoons chickpea flour (such as Bob's Red Mill)

  • 3 tablespoons pea protein powder (such as Bob's Red Mill)

  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika

  • 2 teaspoons onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons natural creamy peanut butter

  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 3 cups vegetable broth, divided 

  • ½ cup bottled barbecue sauce

  • Neutral oil (such as canola, vegetable, or grapeseed), for grilling

  • Thinly sliced scallions


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

  2. Stir together jackfruit, wheat gluten, chickpea flour, pea protein powder, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in bowl of a stand mixer until well combined. Whisk together peanut butter, liquid smoke, soy sauce, and 1 cup of the vegetable broth in a medium bowl until well combined.

  3. Add broth mixture to jackfruit mixture, stirring gently until mixture is well combined and has formed a soft dough. Beat dough with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until dough comes together and is slightly elastic, 5 to 7 minutes.

  4. Place dough in prepared baking dish, flattening dough so it spreads evenly across entire dish while keeping top as flat and smooth as possible. Cut dough in half lengthwise; then cut 8 (1-inch-thick) strips crosswise to yield 16 (4- x 1-inch) slices. (Don't pull the slices apart; you just want the ability to easily separate them after grilling.) Pour remaining 2 cups broth on top of dough; cover dish with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven until ribs have almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes (broth will not be completely absorbed). Remove baking dish from oven, uncover, and carefully pour off and discard excess broth. Cool at room temperature 30 minutes. Cover baking dish with plastic wrap; chill completely, at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Remove baking dish from refrigerator. Carefully remove ribs from dish, but do not separate individual pieces. Gently separate ribs along lengthwise cut to yield 2 (4- x 8-inch) slabs; gently pat slabs dry with paper towels.

  5. Preheat grill to medium (350°F to 400°F). Brush tops of ribs evenly with ¼ cup barbecue sauce. Place ribs, sauce side down, on grates well coated with neutral oil. Grill, uncovered, until ribs are deeply browned, 6 to 8 minutes; brush tops with remaining ¼ cup barbecue sauce. Carefully flip ribs. Continue grilling, uncovered, until deeply browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. (Alternatively, preheat a grill pan over medium heat; lightly grease grill pan with neutral oil. Brush tops of ribs evenly with ¼ cup barbecue sauce. Place ribs, sauce side down, on grill pan; cook until ribs are deeply browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Brush tops with remaining ¼ cup barbecue sauce. Flip ribs; continue cooking until deeply browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes.) Transfer ribs to a large serving platter; garnish with scallions.

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