Lip-Smackin’ Barbecue Sauce

I admit it – I love good sauce. Sauce of all kinds, made from scratch and not from a bottle or packet.

But in the sweltering heat of summer there is only one sauce – barbecue sauce. You know the kind ….thick, dark, sultry, sweet-hot, smoky, lip-smacking, and finger-lickin’ delicious.  For me, tasty barbecue sauce is inseparable from properly cooked meat.

This year I committed to making my own barbecue sauce because commercial products are full of high fructose corn syrup and are boringly flavorless. Phooey on that. Now there’s no turning back and I am happy for that.

I experimented with quite a few recipes from high-profile grill-meisters before settling on the Branding Iron Barbecue Sauce recipe in one of my most treasured cookbooks: The Southwestern Grill ( Harvard Common Press, 2000 ) by the late, great author Michael McLaughlin.

Michael’s recipe has the flavor and texture that I had in mind, and like all passionate cooks, I fiddled with the recipe. I ramped up the heat a bit and made a few adjustments for personal taste such as eliminating the store-bought salsa and substituted Mexican salsa de chile fresco instead. I also added more crushed tomatoes to replace the tomato juice as we like it thick.  And we like the texture of the sauce as it is so I don’t puree the batch when finished.

Bob and I had the priviledge of meeting Michael several times and sharing some good barbecue with him, so I like to think of him as my ‘kitchen angel’, peering over my shoulder every time I fuss over his recipe and grinning with approval.

Branding Iron Barbeque Sauce, My Way

makes about 7 cups

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large, fresh jalapeno, stemmed and minced
  • 2  cans crushed tomatoes ( one 28 oz can and one 14 oz can )
  • 1 small can ( 7¾ oz )  El Pato Mexican  salsa de chile fresco or salsa de jalapeno (  both are smooth textured, thin, zippy tomato-based sauces and not to be confused with bottled ‘hot sauce’ )
  • 1 cup  tomato ketchup ( Heinz-brand contains no high frutose corn syrup )
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup canned chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 5 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke seasoning

1. In a heavy nonreactive saucepan warm the olive oil over low heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeno. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, salsa de chile fresco or salsa de jalapeno, ketchup, wine, chipotles, molasses, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and liquid smoke. Bring to a simmer then partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

2. Cool to room temperature.  Puree in a food processor for a smooth sauce.

3. Use immediately or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months.

Photo courtesy of the Calgary Public Library Food Blog


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