The only BBQ sauce recipe you’ll ever need
There are a few ‘signature dishes’ I am proud to call my own, and this BBQ sauce recipe is most certainly one of them. I most commonly serve it with BBQ (both grilled and smoked) but it can also be used as a a marinade, mop, wet baste etc.
Ask for BBQ sauce in Australia, and you’ll likely be given a horrid, thick, processed dark brown sauce. Only recently have people been learning that proper BBQ sauce is a rich and smokey tomato based sauce prepared from scratch.
Stateside, the types of BBQ sauce as as diverse as the ‘cue varieties themselves. Some are more vinegar based, some are painfully sweet, and Alabama even boasts a white BBQ sauce with a mayonnaise base (barf).
Rather unpredictably, I prefer the Texas style of BBQ sauce, a tomato based sauce with a tangy rich finish. My sauce starts off sweet, leads into a rich tomato flavor and finishes with a smokey spice at the end. It’s really hard to screw up, and there’s lots of room for customisation. Truth be told, I rarely measure any of the ingredients, preferring to just throw ‘em in and taste as I go.
Most of anything you add can be fixed, just remember this rule: salt will cancel out too much sweetness, and sugar will counteract too much sour or spice heat. So just keep adding sparingly until you get it right.
I recommend that once you get a knack for the base sauce, you re-work it to make it your own. Substitute the brown sugar for honey, or even maple syrup. Add in some garlic powder, or sauté crushed garlic and fresh chile peppers to start the whole sauce off. Experiment with celery seed, sage, lime instead of lemon. Try adding some liquid smoke (but be warned some people consider this blasphemous). Want it a little more tomato-ey? Chuck in a can of crushed tomatoes, or double the tomato paste. Want it smoky-er? Try adding finely chopped bacon. Really, there are so many variations you can try, and each additional ingredient only serves to lend the sauce a deeper complexity of flavor.
Recipe after the pics!
Jess Pryles' BBQ Sauce
A beautifully complex tomato based BBQ sauce. I rarely measure my ingredients, so the amounts below are a rough guide. Trust me, it’ll still work.
- 1 700gram/24oz jar of passata, or smooth/plain tomato sauce (not ketchup)
- 1 small can chipotle peppers in adobo
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar (again, if you only have white vinegar, you can substitute it. It’s a very forgiving recipe!)
- 0.5 cup white vinegar
- 1 large onion
- 1 juice of a lemon or lime
- 2-4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon chipotle powder (can sub with cayenne, but then be cautious with the portion)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 8 good dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons mustard powder
- 4-6 dashes Louisiana hot sauce (much more flavourful than Tabasco) 2 tablespoons achiote sauce (this may be hard for some to find, it’s certainly not essential, I like it because it lends and interesting flavor and bright colour to the sauce)
- salt and white pepper to taste
Start by mincing the onion and chipotle peppers (which come whole in the can) in a small blender. You can use a stick blender if you have one. Make sure you get this mix pretty fine, any chunks will end up visible in your finished sauce.
Put a large saucepan on a stove with a bit of cooking/olive/canola oil in the bottom, and cook off the onion paste mix for a few minutes on medium heat.
Add all the other ingredients, starting with the passata which will stop the paste from burning. Stir ingredients and taste, adjusting as necessary.
Add salt and pepper.
The sauce will be a bright red hue to start. Reduce to a low simmer, and allow to simmer for a minimum of 30 mins. You can simmer for over an hour if you want, the simmering thickens the sauce and intensifies the flavours. Taste as you go, you can always adjust again at this late stage, just allow the additions to have some simmer time.
The sauce is best made a day or two in advance, and will last for ages in your fridge. Best served at room temp, but you can warm it if you wanna.
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Kinda sweet, a little savory and sorta spicy, pepper jelly is a great all round condiment to keep in the fridge.