This umami-rich barbecue sauce recipe was developed in partnership with Ajinomoto Co. Inc.
After studying a variety of barbecue sauce recipes out there, I noticed they all followed a similar breakdown: a good amount of vinegar or other acid, some sweetness, a little spice, salt and pepper, and maybe some extra doodads like onion and thyme. But the most abundant (and perhaps important) component? Umami, that savory, rich taste that lights up your taste buds.
Using the formula given below and the method in this recipe, you can make a barbecue sauce with whatever you’ve got—within reason. (Your knowledge of what goes good together should also guide you.)
- 10 parts umami: combination of ketchup, Worcestershire, chicken or beef broth, bacon, garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, miso paste, tomato paste
- 6 parts vinegar (or other acid, like bourbon)
- 3 parts sweet: brown sugar, white sugar, honey, agave, fruit, molasses
- 1 part spice: hot sauce, paprika, cumin, ground chile, dry mustard, or a mix
- A little salt and pepper
- Bonus points: aromatics like thyme, onion, and carrot; mayonnaise if you’re making white barbecue sauce; liquid smoke; chocolate
In the recipe below, I played up umami with ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, bacon, and soy sauce. Peach juice and apple cider vinegar provide the acid while molasses, brown sugar, and bourbon round out the sweetness. Paprika adds some gentle heat and thyme is an herby bonus. The finished sauce is great on anything that could use some savory umami heat—think ribs, bbq chicken, or even pork loin.
We've partnered with Ajinomoto Co. Inc. to bring you a series of recipes, stories, and videos that celebrate the fifth taste: umami. This rich, savory essence can be played up in almost any dish by adding a dash of MSG, a seasoning that's pure umami flavor. —Ali Slagle
Watch This Recipe
Peach, Bacon & Bourbon BBQ Sauce
cooked bacon lardons (from about 3 strips bacon)
In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together all the ingredients. Simmer until the mixture has thickened to a sauce, about 35 to 45 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt, acid, spice, sugar, and umami as you wish.