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Barbecue Sauce

What’s a cookout without barbecue sauce?

Barbecue sauce comes in many styles; this one is “Kansas City style” based on a recipe from Serious Eats. It’s got a nice cooked flavor to it, while still packing a good kick. And the nice part about making your own barbecue sauce is you get to decide how much kick it has! To that end, “season to taste” at the end is crucial to making this turn out the way you like.

Suggested reading:

Makes 2 1/2 cups. Time to make: about 1 hour


  • 2 tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped (about 1 small onion)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground red (cayenne) pepper

In a medium-sized pot, melt butter or margarine over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until transparent and softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. It shouldn’t surprise you at all that this recipe calls for sauteing aromatic vegetables as its first step. Be careful with the garlic — it can go from uncooked to burned very quickly. If it starts to brown, it’s done.

Stir in the ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, chili powder, black pepper, and red pepper. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for thirty minutes, stirring often. The simmering will cook off some of the water and thicken it a bit, plus it will allow the flavors to mix and give the sauce more complexity.

Carefully pour the sauce into a blender and blend until smooth. Be very careful doing this! Don’t fill your blender more than half-full, because if it’s too full when it starts up it can shoot scalding-hot liquid everywhere — including at you. If necessary, blend it in batches rather than all at once and transfer to a separate bowl as you go; safety always comes first. Make sure the lid is firmly in place, cover it with a kitchen towel, and use your hand to hold the towel and lid in place while blending.

Season to taste. If you blended it in a single batch, then season to taste while it’s still in the blender; a quick pulse will quickly mix in any additional seasonings you add. If you want to make it spicier, add a bit of red pepper at a time and re-taste as you go along so that you don’t overshoot: it’s easy to make something spicy, but it’s difficult to make it less spicy.

Cool to room temperature, transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. It will last for at least a month in the refrigerator, and for several months in the freezer. It will, however, lose some of its “kick” as it ages.

Tips and suggestions:

  • You can completely customize this recipe by adjusting any or all of the amounts of the ingredients. More or less garlicky, tomato-ey (ketchup), sweet (brown sugar), tangy (vinegar and mustard), spicy (red pepper and chili powder).
  • You could also try adding a dash of salt or a tablespoon of beer to try to bring out some additional flavors.

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