The Australian earned the accolade after surpassing all expectations in what was his first season with the team, which included scoring the first three victories of his F1 career - he was also the only non-Mercedes driver to triumph - and eclipsing four-time world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel.
In addition, Ricciardo claimed a further five podiums and scored points in all but three races, helping him to finish third in the drivers' standings.
Ricciardo had been shortlisted for the award alongside footballers James Rodriguez and Mario Gotze, who played starring roles for Colombia and Germany respectively in the FIFA World Cup; Marin Cilic and the Switzerland Davis Cup Team in the world of tennis; and Mikaela Shiffrin, who became the youngest ever Alpine skiing Olympic Slalom champion.
Ricciardo is the fourth F1 driver to win the Breakthrough of the Year award, following in the footsteps of Juan Pablo Montoya (2002), Lewis Hamilton (2008) and Jenson Button (2010).
Hamilton meanwhile was looking to become only the third F1 driver to be named Laureus Sportsman of the Year, after winning a place on the six-man shortlist following his scintillating title triumph last year. Michael Schumacher (2002 and '04) and Sebastian Vettel (2014) previously collected the accolade.
In the end however tennis star Novak Djokovic claimed the award. The Serbian was victorious at Wimbledon, took over the No.1 ranking, and won the ATP Finals for the third time in a row.
World number one golfer Rory McIlroy, football's World and UEFA Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, MotoGP sensation and two-time champion Marc Marquez and new pole-vault world record holder Renaud Lavillenie were also shortlisted.
Laureus chairman Edwin Moses, who went unbeaten in the 400-metre hurdles for a remarkable nine years, nine months and nine days between 1977 and 1987, was an honoured guest at last weekend's 2015 Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix and led the post-race podium interviews.