a recipe: bbq sauce that’s hot, sweet and black as sin

Homemade barbecue sauce, sweet, hot and full of rich flavor, is one of our favorite indulgences.  One of the last opportunities for summer barbecues lurks just around the corner, and we’re preparing for labor day by planning our last big picnic of the season: grass-fed brisket with homemade barbecue sauce, fresh tomato salad, plenty of sour pickles, grilled sweet corn, mixed potato salad with mizunablackberry ice cream with wildflower honey with a long draught of lemony, gingery water kefir to wash it all down.  And we’ll break out the slip-n-slide and the music and the good times, celebrating the warmth of the summer sun one last time before the snows begin to hit again in a few weeks.

We like a barbecue sauce to be bold and rich and not for the faint of heart.  After spending years looking for a good additive-, preservative-free barbecue sauce made from organic ingredients, we began making our own.  It took a lot of trial and error to come up with a decent homemade barbecue sauce, but, eventually we settled on this one: a combination of tomato paste, molasses, unrefined cane sugar, onion, garlic and chipotle chilies.  If you’re a touch faint of palate (or just don’t like breaking into beads of sweat as you eat your meal), go slowly in adding the chili powder.  We love to slather this homemade barbecue sauce over grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork or even over a spatchcock chicken on the grill.

homemade barbecue sauce

homemade barbecue sauce

By support Published: August 22, 2010

  • Yield: about 1 quart.
  • Prep: about 30 minutes min
  • Cook: about 30 min
  • Ready In:

A combination of molasses, chipotle chili and tomato, this homemade barbecue is hot, sweet and black as sin. Pastured lard and fish sauce might seem, at first, like odd additions, but both help to flesh out the rich and complex flavor of the sauce. Take care to add the chipotle chili powder slowly, tasting along the way, lest you overseason the sauce – making it unbearably hot. Unless, of course, you’re culinary masochists and you like the lingering pain of a torturously hot sauce (like me).


  • 2 to 3 tbsp pastured lard, bacon fat or coconut oil
  • 1 small onion (minced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste (preferably homemade)
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1 cup whole (unrefined evaporated cane juice)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • up to 2 tbsp chipotle chili powder


  1. Melt up to three tablespoon pastured lard, bacon fat or coconut oil over a medium flame, then toss in the minced onion and garlic.
  2. Fry the minced onion and garlic in the hot fat until fragrant and translucent. Allow its edges to caramelize a bit.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, then spoon about 1/4 cup tomato paste into the saucepan. Take care because the tomato paste could splatter in the hot fat.
  4. Stir one cup molasses, one cup whole unrefined evaporated cane juice and two tablespoons fish sauce into the tomato paste. Continue to stir the sauce together until the molasses completely dissolves into the tomato paste and the sauce becomes uniform in color.
  5. Stir unrefined sea salt, onion powder and garlic powder into the sauce and continue to stir until the flavorings are fully dissolved in the sauce.
  6. Gently and incrementally spoon the chipotle chili powder into the sauce, tasting it periodically and adding only as much heat as you can handle. Remember, the heat of the chili powder will increase as the sauce cooks and ages, so it may be wise to under-season it.
  7. Continue to cook over a low flame for another twenty minutes, taking care not to let the sauce bubble.
  8. Pour the sauce into a quart-sized mason jar and place it in the refrigerator.
  9. Allow the flavors to marry for at least a day before you plan to serve the homemade barbecue sauce.

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What people are saying

  1. says

    This sounds awesome–if I were to ferment it (using either whey skimmed off my natural yogurt, or the liquid from a jar of Bubbies Kraut), how much “culture” should I try adding and how long on the countertop? A week? Wouldn’t fermentation help the duration you can keep this in the fridge for? I’m loving your ferment posts–I’m making ketchup and hot sauce as we speak.

  2. Cassie says

    How could I make this GAPS legal? I could subsitute the molasses for honey, but I don’t know what would happen to the consistency if I eliminated the sugar altogether.

  3. Christianna says

    I know this is an old post, but where do you add the cider vinegar? It’s not listed in the directions. Also, is it apple cider vinegar or something else?

    • Natasha says

      I noticed this today as well. I noticed the ingredients are listed in order as they use them… so I just added it after the tomato paste! I am assuming you figured something out, as your comment was from Fall 2013, lol

  4. Royce says

    The picture up top does not represent it. This is not black but fairly dark. The recipe calls for Onion minced plus powder, garlic minced plus powder. It’s very runny not thick at all. Evaporated cane juice is unrefined sugar put in more natural wording. The flavor is OK but this is not something I would consider a traditional BBQ sauce.

  5. Julie says

    This bbq sauce is excellent! We are smoking a brisket on Saturday and I can’t wait to serve this! Happy 4th of July

  6. nancy jacques says

    I love this BBQ sauce, although I am not a fan of the fish sauce – I skipped it, reduced the molasses to 1/2 cup as 1 cup was too molassesy for me and reduced the unrefined evaporated cane juice (sucanat) to 1/2 cup and the directions did not include when to add the vinegar. I added 1 cup of ACV (instead of 1/2 cup) to the jar of tomato paste after using it to measure the molasses. (Bonaventurae Tomato Paste in glass jars).

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