DIY Food

How to Make All-Natural Barbecue Sauce, from Scratch

June  3, 2014

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Fire up the smoker -- Phoebe Lapine of Feed Me Phoebe is sharing a wholesome barbecue sauce for ribs, chicken, and everything in between.

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My friend Tom recently made the distinction between primary and secondary condiments. I laughed at him at the time, imagining the color wheel from my third grade art class with the holy trinity of mayo, mustard, and ketchup and all the sauce gradations in between. But he does have a point. 

Out of all the secondary condiments -- those condiments constructed from other condiments -- I'd argue that barbecue sauce needs the most streamlining. It's made up of two primary condiments (ketchup and mustard), but it also contains a whole host of other products with long ingredient lists -- all of which would probably benefit from their own small batch-ification. 

More: Primary or not, these 11 burger condiments are always first in our hearts. 

For my simplified take on homemade BBQ sauce, I used honey as the main sweetener. To cut down on the other primary condiments, I used tomato paste instead of ketchup and just a smidge of Dijon and Worcestershire sauce (omit the latter if you’re a vegetarian). 

This is a rich, tomato-based recipe like they do it down in Texas, so I kicked it up with some dried Chipotle chiles. You can substitute canned chipotles in adobo if you can’t find them dried, but if you’re going through the trouble of making a condiment from scratch, it’s worth leaving that extra can on the shelf and tracking down the real deal. 

The resulting sauce is smoky, tangy, fiery, with just enough sweetness to balance out the other flavors. It’s perfect as a glaze for pork tenderloin and ribs (and even tofu!), or as an extra condiment for your burgers, should you feel so inclined. 

Smoky Chipotle-Honey BBQ Sauce

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 to 2 dried chipotle chili peppers (depending on how spicy you want your sauce)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces tomato paste
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (optional)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sea salt
teaspoon smoked paprika

Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Place the peppers in a shallow bowl, then pour over enough boiling water to cover them. Cover the bowl with a plate to lock in the steam. Allow the peppers to sit until they're supple and rehydrated, about 20 minutes. Remove the peppers and reserve the soaking liquid.


Cut the stems off the peppers and remove the seeds and ribs with your fingers; discard them. Roughly chop the peppers and set them aside. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Sauté the onion over medium-high heat until it's soft and just beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. 

Stir in the tomato paste, diced peppers, and 1/2 cup of the reserved soaking liquid. Cook over medium heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer 5 minutes more, or until the sauce is the texture of ketchup.

Transfer your sauce to a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt as necessary. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge, and use it liberally on pulled pork, chicken fingers, or ribs; it will last for up to a month.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Phoebe Lapine

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Phoebe is a writer, gluten-free chef, culinary instructor, award-winning blogger, and author of The Wellness Project. You can find her healthy comfort food and gluten-free finds on


boulangere June 21, 2015
I love your generous hand with garlic and lemon. I'm a mustard person, so I tend to go a bit heavier there, and honey trumps molasses any day.
JovanLA May 7, 2015
can i use chipotle in abodo sauce?
Sean L. March 5, 2015
haha sorry wrong thread! was looking at so many.
Sean L. March 5, 2015
Since when is a bottle of ketchup all natural?
BlueNile T. January 6, 2015
Another thought would be to smoke your own chilies?; using a smoker and cold smoke them for 8 to 16 hours
Christi June 6, 2014
Hi! I would love to try this recipe but we don't have chipotle peppers in South-Africa! Would you just use normal chilly as a substitute? I don't want to loose the smokey taste! Thanx
JohnSkye July 27, 2014
well ... chipotles are SMOKED jalpenos ... so not using them would definitely reduce the smokey taste (since then only the smoked paprika in the recipe is "smokey" ... I guess you could increase that a bit) ... see if you can find some other smokey "condiment" or pepper, smoke some jalapenos yourself ... or liquid smoke as last resort???!!!