How To Fill That McRib Void While You Wait For Its Return

Every year since 1981, the McRib has been appearing and disappearing from the McDonald's menu, per USA Today. Though consumers can count on its annual return, the exact timeframe of its limited-time availability is always a highly anticipated surprise. With so much hype surrounding McRib season, you'd think the sandwich would be on the permanent menu by now, but the McRib was actually intended to be a seasonal offering from the very beginning. 

"In the 80s, the masterminds behind McDonald's food innovation had a truly unique idea: an undeniably delicious sandwich that could be enjoyed during the colder seasons," McDonald's Senior Archives Manager Mike Bullington revealed in 2021's McRib announcement.

Unfortunately for those who look forward to the McRib's yearly comeback, Roger Mandigo, a meat scientist who was on the team that originally created the McRib, says the sandwich's once-a-year offering is unlikely to change (via Reader's Digest). According to Mandigo, the saucy sandwich simply wouldn't be cost-effective if it were on the menu all the time.

Luckily, you don't have to deprive yourself of rib sandwiches outside of McRib season. There are plenty of other places to get your hands on an alternative, and it's easy enough to recreate too.

Arby's Real Country Style Rib Sandwich

During the McRib offseason, those hungry for a rib sandwich can get one from Arby's. The Real Country Style Rib Sandwich was first released in 2021 through a collab with East Texas institution Sadler's Smokehouse (via Chewboom) and now it consists of smoked rib meat, natural cheddar cheese, crispy onions, and barbecue sauce held together by a toasted bun. To make it a meal, the sandwich is served with either crinkle or curly fries and a beverage. 

Like the McRib, Arby's Real Country Style Rib Sandwich is a limited-time offering, however, it seems the release date is more predictable, given that it came back exactly a year after its first appearance on the menu, per Brand Eating.

Rib Sandwich at Troy's Barbecue

Thanks to a TikTok posted by a McDonald's worker that went viral, it's now common knowledge that McDonald's McRibs aren't made with rib meat. This information clearly hasn't stopped people from buying the McRib, but there's still no denying that a rib-shaped pork patty isn't the same thing as actual ribs. That's where the rib sandwich at the Florida-based Troy's Barbecue has McDonald's beat. 

Skipping the toppings entirely, the rib sandwich from Troy's Barbecue consists of bone-in ribs in between two slices of white bread — that's it. You'll have to work around the bones as you eat this sandwich, but if the meat is your favorite part of the McRib, this version is sure to satisfy your craving.

Pitmasters Back Alley BBQ's Mac Rib

If you find yourself in Washington D.C., you won't have to wait until McDonald's makes its announcement in order to enjoy a McRib. Pitmasters Back Alley BBQ sells a rib sandwich called a Mac Rib with nearly identical ingredients to the sandwich it was inspired by. Much like the McRib, the Mac Rib features a potato bun filled out with dill pickles, white onions, and barbecue sauce. But instead of the ground pork used in the McDonald's version, this D.C. barbecue joint makes theirs with boneless pork ribs that are smoked for 6 hours. A side of fries and coleslaw complete the meal.

Smoke & Fire Social Eatery's Mac Rib

When you order a Mac Rib from Smoke & Fire Social Eatery, you can fill your McRib void with not only ribs, but also two other types of meat. In addition to short rib, the sandwich at this California restaurant is stacked high with two smash burger patties and barbecue brisket, along with American cheese, grilled onions, and a signature sauce all sandwiched between three slices of Texas toast. It's safe to say the Mac Rib has enough flavor to hold you over until the McRib makes its yearly comeback.

Homemade McRib

For a rib sandwich that most closely resembles the kind sold at McDonald's, you'll have the best results taking to your own kitchen. Luckily, it's relatively easy to make because the McRib consists of a pork patty, a homestyle bun, pickles, onions, and barbecue sauce. In the nutrition facts, McDonald's specifies that the pork patty is mixed with water, salt, dextrose, rosemary extract, and preservatives, and a behind-the-scenes video (via ABC) revealed that the cut of pork used is pork shoulder

According to Mashed's copycat McRib recipe, you can leave out the preservatives and substitute the dextrose for sugar. Once you grind the pork and mix in the additives, you can fry up the patty, but for more McRib-like results, throw the patties in the freezer so they will keep their shape. If you go with the freezer method, you have time to spare anyway, so might as well make your own barbecue sauce with ketchup, molasses, Worcestershire, and a few other seasonings to drive home the flavor. Then, you can sauté your patty over high heat and dunk it in barbecue sauce before assembling. Grab your hoagie roll, place your saucy patty inside, top it with pickles and onions, and you have yourself a homemade McRib sandwich.