Texas Barbecue Sauce

Holy smokes, Batman. Where has Texas-style barbecue sauce been all my life?

Overhead image of a white bowl of homemade Texas-style barbecue sauce on a beige wood surface, printed with orange and white text at the midpoint and bottom of the frame.

Oh wait, it’s been in Texas. Meanwhile, I’ve been showering shreds of pulled pork with a peppery-vinegar blend here in North Carolina.

Whoops.

Actually, not whoops. I take that back. I think that every type of barbecue sauce has its place in the world. I’m loyal to my tangy vinegar mixture poured over pork and slaw, but if we’re working with a fried chicken sandwich, it’s white ‘Bama sauce or bust, baby!

Finger-licking rack of ribs? Kansas City-style all day long.

In North Carolina, barbecue is no joke. But when I make it in my own kitchen, I don’t take it too seriously.

I tinker. I taste. It’s all in good fun.

A spoon pours a dollop of red homemade barbecue sauce back into a white bowl, on a white surface.

The main components of this Texas-based sauce are tanginess, sweetness, and spice, with tomato as the backbone. Folks use everything from tomato puree to ketchup to get that rich, acidic flavor.

I find that classic ketchup provides thickness and tomato paste gives a complex layer of concentrated flavor. There’s no rule that says I can’t use both.

While you could easily grab dried seasonings from your spice cabinet, using fresh garlic and onions in your starting lineup offers some brighter notes. Everything is pureed in the end, so don’t worry about how you will achieve that silky smoothness.

I’ve got you covered.

Vertical closely cropped image of a white bowl of red barbecue sauce with a spoon in the bowl, on a red and white checkered cloth with fringe.

This recipe relies on a few other prominent ingredients, like tangy Worcestershire and dark brown sugar that hums with molasses, but the chipotle is the spice girl of the bunch.

Let’s be serious. If a chipotle in adobo had actually been a member of The Spice Girls, she would have been kicked out of the band for being a total diva.

Overhead vertical image of a white bowl of red Texas-style barbecue sauce on a folded red and white cloth with fringe, on top of a brown wood surface.

Let’s take a moment to discuss the wonders of chipotles.

Chipotles are dried, smoked jalapenos – which means that they ain’t playin’ around. The adobo they like to swim in is a slightly sweet, tangy red sauce. Crack open a can of these naughty nuggets, and you’ve got one intense combo.

For this recipe, I suggest using half of one chipotle (if you don’t want to blow your roof off). If you’re a fan of a little steam coming out your ears, by all means, drop in the whole thing.

For something truly mild that yields a final product with less fiery heat, just use the liquid from the jar, and skip the actual reconstituted pepper altogether.

Overhead closely cropped horizontal image of a white bowl filled with a red, homemade, tomato-based puree made with chipotles and onion, with two cloves of garlic on a beige wood surface.

I’m addicted to drowning grilled wings in this smoky sauce, but have found that there are nearly infinite possibilities for it. I drizzle it inside quesadillas with pulled chicken and pineapples, use it as a base for pungent baked beans, and have even been known to sneak it into a late-night grilled cheese.

Don’t even get me started on how much I love slathering it over burgers.

They say that everything is bigger in Texas, but after enjoying several coffee-rubbed cheeseburgers doused in this sauce, my pants certainly were not.

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Overhead closely cropped horizontal image of a white bowl of red homemade barbecue sauce, with two cloves of garlic on a beige wood surface.

Texas Barbecue Sauce


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: approx. 1 3/4 cups

Description

Searching for a saucy addition to your backyard barbecue? Thick, sweet, and super smoky, this Texas-style sauce is good on everything.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 canned chipotle chili pepper in adobo, or more to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the butter over low heat. Add the onions and garlic, and season with the salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato paste, whisk to combine, and cook for 1 minute. Add the vinegar and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the brown sugar, Worcestershire, ketchup, and the chipotle. Stir well to combine and reduce the heat to low.
  3. Using an immersion blender (or transferring the sauce to a countertop blender), pulse until smooth. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes or preferably for 1 hour, which will make the flavors even richer. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
  4. Cool slightly, and refrigerate until ready to use. You can store the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-7 days.

  • Category: Barbecue Sauce
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Sauces and Spreads

Keywords: barbecue sauce, Texas-style barbecue, grilling, chipotle

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Chop and Saute the Onions and Garlic

Chop the onions and garlic.

Overhead horizontal image of chopped white onion and minced garlic in a nonstick frying pan.

In a large saucepan, heat the butter over low heat. Add the onions and garlic, and season them with the salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 3-5 minutes.

Step 2 – Add the Remaining Ingredients

Add the tomato paste, whisk to combine, and cook for 1 minute.

Closeup horizontal image of a wire whisk stirring sauteed chopped onion coated in a red sauce, in a nonstick frying pan.

Add the vinegar and scrape any browned bits from the bottom to deglaze the pan. This is what’s known as the fond, and it will add flavor to the finished product.

A wire whisk stirs a tomato-based mixture in a nonstick pan, on a beige wood background.

Add the brown sugar, Worcestershire, ketchup, and the chipotle. For a much milder version, just use 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce and omit the pepper. Stir well to combine and reduce the heat to low.

Step 3 – Puree

An immersion blender purees a red sauce in a nonstick cooking pot, on a speckled gray surface.

Using an immersion blender, pulse until smooth. Or, blend in batches using a countertop blender.

Step 4 – Simmer and Thicken

Simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes. If you have the time, continue to simmer for 1 hour, to concentrate the puree and make the flavors even richer.

Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.

Closely cropped overhead horizontal image of a pan of red sauce, on a beige surface with the blade of a chef's knife to the left.

Cool slightly, and refrigerate until ready to use. Keep the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-7 days.

Time to Get a Little Sauced

If you thought awesomesauce was a made-up word, you haven’t given Texas barbecue sauce a go.

Double up to make an XL batch and bring this sweet, smoky concoction to your next picnic or backyard party. You’ll be the belle of the barbecue ball.

Overhead horizontal image of a white bowl of red barbecue sauce, on top of a folded checkered red and white cloth, on a brown wood surface.

Need other ideas for where to stick this sticky sauce? These grill recipes make a great match:

If you could only choose one type of barbecue sauce to enjoy for the rest of your life, what would it be? Thick and sweet? Thin and spicy? Vinegary and peppery? Share your saucy preferences in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on March 28, 2011. Last updated: May 20, 2019 at 17:45 pm.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

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