Kenny Gilbert’s Jerk-Spiced Spareribs

In his enlightening new cookbook, the Jacksonville chef brings home global variations on Southern classics

Photo: Kristen Penoyer

Kenny Gilbert made a name for himself as a Top Chef contestant and occasional personal chef to Oprah Winfrey. And as the proprietor of Silkie’s Chicken & Champagne Bar, a Jacksonville, Florida, spot popular for foodie spins on fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, mac and cheese, Hoppin’ John, and other comfort foods (plus bubbly cocktails), he knows what Southerners like to eat. Indeed, his first cookbook, the new Southern Cooking, Global Flavors, devotes entire chapters to iconic Southern main dishes and sides such as pork ribs and slaw, fish and grits, oxtails and rice, and collards and cornbread. 

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But as you might glean from the title, there’s a twist. Instead of simply showcasing chefy preparations of traditional recipes, Gilbert supplies several additional interpretations that bring the flavors of diverse cultures to these favorites. Doing so draws upon his experiences in restaurant kitchens in the Caribbean and worldwide, and especially highlights the invaluable influence of the African diaspora on Southern and American cuisine.

photo: courtesy of kenny gilbert

“Here, I share my expertise in understanding authentic flavor profiles and cooking methods from across the world to create a cookbook that celebrates the multicultural American experience, grounded in my own personal food culture,” Gilbert writes in the book’s introduction.

For an appetizing example, consider the chapter on ribs and slaw, which uses fairly familiar executions inspired by Gilbert’s parents as a starting place for variations influenced by the cuisines of Spain, Hawaii, and—as with the jerk-and-guava-forward recipe provided below—the Caribbean. After all, grilling season is just around the corner!

Get Gilbert’s recipe for coffee-rubbed spareribs with poblano apple slaw here

Get Gilbert’s recipe for wasabi, honey, and soy-glazed baby back ribs here.




    • 2 cups ketchup

    • 2 cups yellow mustard

    • 1 cup honey

    • 1 cup coconut sugar

    • 1 cup mango nectar

    • Juice of 2 lemons (¼ cup)

    • 2 habanero peppers, finely chopped

    • 2 Scotch bonnet peppers, finely chopped, or 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper

    • 1 tbsp. kosher salt


    • 3 slabs St. Louis–style ribs

    • ½ cup jerk spice (such as Chef Kenny’s Jerk Spice)

    • 3 cups habanero-mango BBQ Sauce (see above)


    • 1 cup canned coconut milk

    • ½ cup mayonnaise

    • ½ cup guava paste

    • ¼ cup coconut vinegar

    • Kosher salt

    • 6 cups grated cabbage

    • ½ cup red bell pepper, diced small

    • 1 tsp. ground ginger

  • for serving

    • Mango wedges


  1. Make the sauce: Whisk the ketchup, mustard, honey, coconut sugar, mango nectar, lemon juice, peppers, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and puree with a handheld blender under smooth. Set aside. (Extra can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

  2. Make the ribs: Preheat the oven, or a smoker with charcoal and pecan wood, to 300°F. Liberally season the ribs on both sides with the jerk spice. Set the ribs on the grate of the smoker, backbone side down, and cook for 90 to 120 minutes or until internal temperature is 165°F. If cooking in the oven, put the ribs on sheet pans lined with foil and cook for 90 to 120 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Transfer each slab to a large sheet of foil, backbone side down. Pour 1 cup of the sauce over each slab and wrap in foil. Return ribs to the smoker or oven and cook for another 75 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 195°F. Rest the foil-wrapped ribs in a cooler (without ice) for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 3 hours before serving.

  3. Make the slaw: In a large bowl, combine the coconut milk, mayonnaise, guava paste, vinegar, and salt with a handheld blender until smooth. Add the cabbage, bell pepper, and ginger, and toss to combine.

  4. Build: Using a sharp knife, cut the slabs into three-rib portions. (Cut close to the bone of the next rib so that every rib will have meat on the bone.) Place on plates with a small cup of sauce and slaw. Garnish with mango wedges.

Southern Cooking, Global Flavors By Chef Kenny Gilbert. April 2023 / Hardcover / $35.00 978-0-8478-9925-8 Rizzoli