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.
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.