Years ago, I made an effort to stop eating high fructose corn syrup. It is shocking how many products not only contain it, but contain it in high amounts. For the most part, it was easy to find substitutes; however, when my favorite BBQ sauce not only contained high fructose corn syrup but had it listed as the FIRST ingredient, I knew I’d have to work to find its replacement. Going high fructose corn syrup free meant making more condiments at home and after finding this delicious, healthy barbecue sauce really kicked off my love for making things in jars.
Ina Garten has a bbq sauce recipe in her cookbook Foolproof—it's also on the Food Network’s website—that hits all the flavor notes I was looking for: sweet, rich, tangy, and a touch of heat. The recipe calls for a huge list of ingredients but it’s easy… once the onions are ready, just toss one ingredient in the pot after the next. You don’t even really need to be prepped. No need to mise en place here.
The recipe is relaxed and versatile. You can, and should, play with it to make it your own. Ina’s recipe calls for hoisin sauce, which often contains sesame paste. I have a myriad of food allergies and the big, bad, voodoo daddy of them all is sesame seeds. So whenever I see things like hoisin, hummus, or mole listed, I have to avoid it or get creative. And if Ina’s involved, you know I’m going to try my best to get creative.
When we made this the first time we had a beautiful problem of too many raspberries (gifted to us by our former neighbor who does, among other things, recipe development). So we pureed enough raspberries to replace the hoisin and gave the sauce a go. It was spoon-licking good in the pot, which translated to finger-licking good on everything we put it on.
As we often don't have enough raspberries on hand, we tried it with strawberries and loved the results. The berries offer a hint of themselves, but don’t really overpower the rest of the heavy-hitters in the sauce. Try adding more berries if you want a more pronounced fruit flavor. We love this over bbq chicken thighs or oven roasted ribs.
Barbecue Sauce (Makes 1 1/2 quarts)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 cup (10 - 12 ounces) tomato paste (if you have the 6 ounce cans, just toss them both in)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Dijon mustard (smooth variety)
1/2 cup soy sauce or tamari (tamari is gluten free)
1 cup (8 ounces) pureed strawberries (toss a cup or two into the blender with a bit of water)
2 tablespoons chili powder (adjust to your heat preference)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (adjust to your heat preference)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat
Add the onions and cook for 10 - 15 minutes or until onions are translucent.
Add garlic and cook for another couple minutes, until garlic begins to soften.
Add the rest of the ingredients: tomato paste, vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, soy sauce, strawberry puree, chili powder, cumin, and pepper flakes.
Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer uncovered for 45 - 60 minutes.
Taste and adjust heat, sweetness, or salt.
Use now or store the cooled sauce in the fridge for several weeks.
This freezes well so if you want to save a bit of summer for later, be sure to stock some away.