It’s always more fun to DIY. Every week on Food52, we’ll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
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.
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
1/2 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.
Photos by Phoebe Lapine
This article originally appeared on Food52.com: How to Make All-Natural Barbecue Sauce, From Scratch