If you have never made your own barbecue sauce before, I’m going to have to insist that you try to at least once. And while I’m loath to ensnare myself in the myriad layers of barbecue conviction across this land — from the don’t-come-near-my-sauce-with-those-tomatoes whole-hoggin’ in Carolina to the don’t-you-dare-come-near-my-mesquite with sauce in Texas (and then the small matter of me being from New Jersey where barbecue just meant cooking your hamburgers and hot dogs outdoors) — I might have to insist that you try this one because it’s sacrilegiously good.
I like to believe Ina Garten and I share an absorption with making typically unremarkable foods remarkable again. Okay, maybe it’s a stretch but her lemon cake has got to be one of the top five cakes ever made with her orange chocolate chunk version squarely in the top ten; her coleslaw made me like coleslaw and her barbecue sauce is a spectacular Eastern/Asian/Southern mutt.
I’ll admit it’s a bit of an ingredient dump. I hate overly relying on things from jars and bottles when cooking, so this recipe taking but two of thirteen ingredients from the produce aisle caused me pause — the first time. After I’d tried it, however, with flavors so loud you can almost hear them, I’ve happily brought home groceries bags full of clink and liquid weight to make it again and again.
Since we’re barbecue-agnostic in these parts, we felt free to couple our sauce-laden chicken with asparagus and a napa slaw for dinner and I encourage you to also innovate as you please. I suspect Whole Foods boneless, skinless chicken thighs broiled in the oven weren’t getting us invited to any Memphis pig-pickins, anyhow.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce
This is fantastic brushed over chicken to grill, Ina has also used it on ribs (but you all know I’m a dry rub girl). Although it’s not strictly vegetarian (it has Worcestershire sauce) or vegan (ditto, plus honey), I think it would be excellent on sturdy grilled tofu.
Use a mild chili powder here for a classic barbecue sauce flavor. If using a hotter one, add it to taste because 2 tablespoons of a very hot one could quickly make the sauce taste like hot sauce. I also find that red pepper flakes vary wildly (my current jar can heat a dish with just a pinch or two) so I’d add these to taste as well.
Update: I revisited this in 2017 and found I could use a little less oil and more tomato paste and it worked out just as well. Consider these ingredient levels fairly flexible if you want to adjust to your tastes.
- 1 1/2 cups minced yellow onion (from 1 large onion)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup (265 grams) tomato paste (from a 10-ounce can)
- 1 cup (235 ml) apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup (335 grams) honey
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup (240 grams) smooth dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) soy sauce
- 1 cup (335 grams) hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons mild chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- Red pepper flakes, to taste (Ina recommends 1/2 tablespoon, mine are quite hot and I use 1/2 teaspoon)
In a large saucepan on low heat, cook the onions and garlic in oil for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions are transluscent and soft, but not browned. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to a month.
Do ahead: Although we’ve stored it in the fridge longer than a month with no notable decline in quality, we more often freeze extras.