Costillas con Verdolaga

Pork Ribs with Purslane


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    6 to 8

Appears in

Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico


By Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral

Published 2019

  • About

This is one of the first dishes I asked my mom to teach me how to make. The first time she cooked for my now-husband, this is the dish I asked her to make for him. I knew it would be the perfect first impression. We are happily married now, so I guess the magic of the dish worked. The trick to this recipe is browning the ribs as much as possible, making them extra crispy. The sauce will scoop up every bit, making it that much more delicious.


  • pounds (2 kg) pork spare ribs, cut into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces by your butcher and trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 head of garlic (25 g), cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 pounds (910 g) Roma tomatoes, halved
  • Generous 1 pound (500 g) tomatillos, peeled and rinsed
  • 5 morita chiles (can be substituted with chipotle chiles) (10 g)
  • 2 cups (90 g) purslane leaves


In a large skillet, bring 6 cups (1.4 L) of water to a boil. Add the pork ribs and lower the heat to a simmer. Skim impurities that start to rise to the top. When no more impurities are surfacing, add the garlic and salt. Keep simmering. In about 20 minutes, reserve 1 cup (240 ml) of pork broth. Keep simmering until all the water has evaporated. This process should take about 45 minutes.

Keep the heat at a consistent level and make sure that all sides of the pork get evenly brown and crispy. Once all sides are crispy, remove the ribs from the pan. Remove any excess pork fat, too, but make sure to leave at least 1 tablespoon in the pan. If the garlic cloves didn’t fall apart, remove any cloves that are still around. Turn off the heat.

In a 4-quart (3.8 L) saucepan, add the sliced tomatoes, tomatillos, and 1 cup (240 ml) of water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes and tomatillos start to change color. Once they do, turn off the heat.

In a comal or cast-iron skillet over medium heat, briefly toast the dried chiles for a minute or two on each side and then let soak in hot water for 20 minutes, or until tender.

In a blender, combine the cooked tomatoes and tomatillos and their cooking water along with the chiles and blend until smooth.

Heat the pan you used to cook the pork over low heat and add the tomato-tomatillo mixture and the reserved cup of pork broth. Add salt to taste and bring to a simmer, and scrape the bits of pork that stuck to the bottom of the pan so that it flavors the stew. Add the purslane leaves and continue to simmer, covered, for another 5 minutes.

Add the fried pork ribs back to the pan and simmer until the meat is warmed through. If the salsa is too thick, feel free to add a little more water to thin it down a bit. The texture should be like a nice salsa, not a paste. Serve the ribs with the purslane and salsa.