Recipe: Barbecue Sauce

I think we all know refrigerator space is a precious commodity. I am always shifting containers around, trying to use up leftovers to free up space, and keeping chilled beverages to a minimum. The one thing that we always have room for is our crazy collection of condiments. We usually have a few kinds of mustard, some spicy horseradish, the requisite ketchup, ranch dressing, a few kinds of hot sauce, and any other number of specialized condiments in our refrigerator door…not to mention a variety of pickled things and yogurt. Sean’s a dipper and needs a lot of options, plus, I can never resist an interesting condiment at the store. One of our faves is BBQ sauce and it is one of the things that I rarely purchase these days.

My mom is a fan of doctoring up store bought bottles with a little sugar and spice. I often just go the fancy ketchup route, small batch style. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking of making barbecue sauce entirely from scratch.

So, this rainy weekend, I did, and it was so, so good.

I don’t know what I was waiting for.

The thing is, it is exactly to my taste. I know there are about a billion different specialty sauces I could buy, but I always find those are either missing tang, heat, or sweet, and I personally need a specific balance of all of those flavors. So, I set out to make my own, and guess what? It wasn’t even difficult.

I felt like a champ.

I, actually, still do.

You can too, with a few pantry items and a little time!

I made it sweet, spicy, tangy, with a little bitter edge from the instant espresso.

Guess what else?

You can totally adjust all of the elements and make this sauce your own.

Want more cumin or spice?

Less sweet, more tang?

Go for it!

It’s all you.

Your signature sauce….

Something all your own…

That, is a a beautiful thing my friends.

You can dip fries into your sauce, barbecue up some chicken, or slather it on a burger. You could even replace the tomato sauce on a pizza with some of this BBQ goodness and make it something really special.

Basically, do what you want with this sauce, whatever you see fit.

This is your signature sauce, after all.

BBQ Sauce

You can make this recipe beginning with 2 cups of ketchup instead of the tomatoes. Just reduce the cider vinegar, molasses, and maple syrup by half. You can use even less sweet stuff if you’d like, we like our BBQ sauce on the sweeter side with some spice for good measure. I used home-pickled jalapeños–which were super spicy. You can reduce or multiply jalapeños and sriracha to your taste. 

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons pickled jalapeños

1 can whole tomatoes, crushed with fingers

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, plus 3 tablespoons, divided

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 + teaspoons sriracha

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon instant espresso granules

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon each:


ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon each:


chinese 5 spice



1 bay leaf

salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan saute onions until transluscent in a bit of olive oil. Add garlic and jalapeños, saute until garlic is fragrant. Add whole tomatoes, crushing with fingers, and simmer over medium for about 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from heat and using either a blender or an immersion blender, puree tomato mixture. Press through a mesh sieve if desired, to remove seeds and any solid bits.

Return pan to medium heat and add 1/2 cup cider vinegar, lemon juice, molasses, maple syrup, sriracha, soy sauce, worcestershire, espresso granules, and all dry spices. Stir everything together until completely combined and continue to cook at a low simmer for about 1 hour, until sauce is reduced, thickened, and dark burgundy in color. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of cider vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and allow to cool a few minutes before ladling into jars. Allow jars to cool to room temperature before placing sauce in the refrigerator. Sauce will keep a few weeks properly stored.







  1. says

    This stuff looks so good!

    P.S. I read the ingredient list to Jake and he’s wondering if we could swap jars of bbq sauce. He just made some today! We both want to try yours’!

  2. says

    I cannot wait to try this recipe! I have made a few BBQ sauces and they are never quite good enough but this one sounds great! Thanks for sharing.

  3. says

    You know what? I think when our anniversary comes up (in about a month) I think this would be a great thing for my husband and I to do together when we have the kids somewhere else. He is a connoisseur of barbeque sauces, or so he would like to think, and I think he would really get a kick out of it and it is something we could do together. Thanks.

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