Sweet & Spicy Chipotle Barbecue Sauce – Just Like Store-Bought, Only Not At All

Homemade Sweet and Spicy Chipotle Barbecue Sauce - so much better than store bought!

Barbecue sauce is a bit of a touchy subject. Almost like religion, or politics, depending on where you are everyone has a different idea of what “barbecue” means. Everyone thinks they’re barbecue sauce is “the one true” barbecue sauce. I wouldn’t be surprised if wars have been fought over it.

There are a myriad of different styles of barbecue sauce across the US, most of them named for the region they were developed or popularized – Texas Barbecue, Kansas City Barbecue, Memphis Barbecue, East Carolina Barbecue – but the two main categories (if I might be so blasphemous as to lump them into categories), are the vinegar-based sauces which are used to marinade or mop the meat while cooking, and the sweet tomato based sauces which tend to sit on top, more like a condiment.

Like many mid-westerners, I grew up knowing only the big store-bought bottles of ketchuppy barbecue sauce, which are some kind of mass-market rendition of a Kansas City tradition. This is probably the most popular style of sauce around, and because it is what I grew up with, it is my one true definition of barbecue. Don’t get me wrong, Texas and Carolina do some of the best barbecue there is… but it isn’t what I think of when someone says “barbecue”.

Let’s not fight.

The advantage, in my opinion, to this style of sauce is that it extends beyond grilling and smoking meats, and finds itself on the shelf with the rest of the condiments, able to enhance most anything it’s added to – think pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, grilled vegetables, a dip for french fries, or chips, or used as an ingredient in soup, or chili, or pasta sauce…

The downside to to this style of sauce, however, is that the bottles and jars found in the stores are typically made with corn syrup, preservatives, and sometimes other additives. Thankfully, we can skip by all the unwanted ingredients by making our own, exactly the way we like it.

Homemade Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce - better than store bought!

Recipe Notes: Feel free to adjust the level of heat and sweet in this sauce to your own liking – if you prefer an especially spicy barbecue sauce, add a second chipotle pepper, or a dash of cayenne. If you want it less spicy, leave out the hot pepper all together, or use just a spoonful of the adobo sauce the peppers come in. If you like your sauce a little sweeter, increase the amount of honey or brown sugar to taste, or make the sauce unique by adding a dollop of fruit preserves – cherry is nice, as well as raspberry or apricot!

Sweet & Spicy Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cups — recipe can easily be doubled

1/2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP olive oil
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 TBSP unsulfered molasses
1-2 Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (depending on how hot you like it – I find one to be plenty!)
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp. chili powder
Splash of bourbon or whiskey, optional

1.   In a large pan over medium heat, saute the onions, garlic, and olive oil until soft and golden.
2.   Reduce heat to low and add all the other ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes to give the flavors a chance to get all cozy together.
3.  Pour everything into a food processor and blend until smooth. Note: cover the top of the food processor with a dish towel, and pulse one or two times before blending to avoid splattering. If you want the sauce extra-smooth, press it through a fine mesh sieve with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula.
4.   Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a few weeks. Lather on everything. Enjoy.

Like this sauce? Check out my recipe for Barbecue Bacon Cheeseburgers, here!

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27 Responses to Sweet & Spicy Chipotle Barbecue Sauce – Just Like Store-Bought, Only Not At All

  1. Eileen June 5, 2013 at 1:57 am #

    Homemade barbecue sauce is the bomb. I usually just make the standard Joy of Cooking recipe, but this sounds like a great alternative! I love the pineapple juice especially.

    • Willow Arlen June 5, 2013 at 4:50 am #

      Heheh, I agree! I haven’t tried the Joy of Cooking recipe, but I just looked it up and it sounds awesome. I’ll have to give it a try, just as soon as my obsession with this one is over!

  2. Javelin Warrior June 5, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    Love the use of pineapple juice in this sauce! And I’m with you – get rid of the corn syrup and preservatives. I actually attempted yesterday to draw a parallel between religion and bbq sauce fanaticism, but I gave up after a couple tries and wrote what you read instead ;) Excellent post…

    • Willow Arlen June 5, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

      Thanks! I was a little hesitant to bring religion and politics into it, but I couldn’t resist. I am actually really intrigued by the crystallized ginger and maple syrup in your sauce – two of my favorite things! – I’ll have to give it a try once I run out of my leftovers from this batch. :)

  3. Lizzy (Good Things) June 6, 2013 at 1:34 am #

    A friend who recently moved to the States told me that almost everything has corn syrup in it, and I’m noticing it in some products here too. I like the sound of the flavour combination you have used. Delicious!

    • Willow Arlen June 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

      Oh, corn syrup isn’t even the half of it. You have no idea how much stuff gets added to food over here. Most of it is stuff that’s been banned by other countries for causing health problems, too, and we’re over here going “why are we all so unhealthy?”. When given the chance to make something from scratch, I am all for it!

  4. movita beaucoup June 6, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    Want. Now.

    Afraid to turn on propane barbecue.

    Will wait for 2.0 to come home.

    • Willow Arlen June 6, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

      Haha – at least you have a grill. It’s on my wish list, because it gets so hot in the house I can’t cook in the summer, but somehow I still don’t have one… and yes, I made barbecue sauce without a barbecue. It’s sad, I know.

  5. Foodie Stuntman June 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    I concur with all your points. I love barbecue sauce made from scratch because, as you specigy, it’s not only healthier, but you can also customize it to complement whatever protein you’re using.

    • Willow Arlen June 7, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

      Exactly – if you’re cooking meat to go with the sauce, you could even add some of the drippings to the sauce to add a depth of flavor. :)

  6. shannon weber June 7, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    girl, TWINS: do you know that sitting in my fridge are two huge mason jars of homemade tomato-based, chipotle barbecue sauce?? There is. I actually had to read through your ingredient list to make sure we didn’t just make the exact same one; i’ll tell you, it’s close. and because of that, i know i would love yours. very appropriate to say that it’s just like store-bought, but not at all. because it’s wonderful and i could eat it on anything, and i don’t even FEEL that way about barbecue sauce.

    • Willow Arlen June 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

      Haha — you and me, sistah! I am exactly the same way… I want to put this stuff on *everything*, and I don’t usually care for barbecue sauce that much. I definitely want to try some of the things in your sauce next time, too… it sounds so good!

  7. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes June 11, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    I am so making this- I love the tomato base thick and slightly sweet/spicy BBQ sauce- that is what I think of too when people refer to BBQ, that and Baked Beans (what can I say I am a New Eng lander and no BBQ would be complete without Boston baked beans!

    • Willow Arlen June 11, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

      Ooh, baked beans sound good! I hope you like the sauce. ;)

  8. Carole June 13, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    Willow, I just love your styling of the pics! Thanks for linking up to the BBQ! Cheers

    • Willow Arlen June 16, 2013 at 12:35 am #

      Thanks, Carole! Happy to be a part of the BBQ round-up. :)

  9. Brenda Jones October 7, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    Willow, just found your site, looking forward to trying this and many other recipes from here.

  10. Anonymous December 14, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    do you think this recipe is safe to can?

  11. Rusty July 25, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    We raise beef, pork, turkey, if the coyoteis don’t eat them all, and chickens, oh and bill our goat. We sell most of them to a large customer base here in our small town. I love BBQ and with some of the ranch raised pork that will be low smoked for as long as it takes and this sauce. I think it will be out of the park awesome, call the medics now because I will need to visit the e.r. And maybe a shrink to bring me back type of awesomeness!
    We are going to do some farm to fork events at the ranch too and this will make the list. I’m going to whip some up today.
    Thanks. Rlm Ranch.

  12. Lila May 22, 2015 at 3:40 pm #

    I made this last week and it’s DELICIOUS!! It’s gone and I’m just about to make my second batch (a double one this time!) Wonderful recipe. So easy. Thanks!

    • Willow Arlen June 4, 2015 at 10:27 am #

      I’m so glad you like it! Thanks for taking the time to let me know!

  13. Sherry July 9, 2015 at 10:00 am #

    This sauce is AMAZING! I used it on ribs last week. Everyone loved it. Going to throw some chicken in the crockpot and cover it with this bbq sauce. Never need another barbecue recipe ever!

    • Willow Arlen July 9, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

      I’m so glad you liked it! Thanks for taking the time to comment, hearing this made my day!

  14. Adrian Tamez January 3, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

    what can i substitute the pineapple juice with?

    • Willow Arlen January 3, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

      Hi Adrian! You can sub the pineapple juice with a TBSP or so of apple cider vinegar plus water. So, add a small splash of vinegar to a 1/4 cup measure, then fill with water. Hope that helps!


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