Sweet, smoky and tangy, with the added kick of bourbon cooked right in, this honey and Bourbon BBQ sauce will be your new favorite condiment.
With so many of the store bought barbecue sauces containing high fructose corn syrup, it can be hard to find a delicious barbecue sauce.
This bourbon honey barbecue sauce has the perfect balance of tanginess, sweet and savory and the addition of bourbon gives it an extra edge and depth of flavor that will have everyone craving more.
Although you probably already have everything you need in your kitchen to make this barbecue sauce now, every ingredient is very accessible and easy to find at any grocery store.
You don't need a costly bourbon either! A moderately priced bourbon, like Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon is perfect.
Why Make Your Own BBQ Sauce
Making your own homemade bbq sauce has lots of advantages. It's fresher and tastier than store-bought sauces, gives you more control over the ingredients and flavor profiles, plus it's more cost effective. Plus, you can create your own unique blends to really get creative with your summer grilling.
Here are a few of the best reasons why you should make your own bourbon barbecue sauce:
- Create your own unique flavors and combinations
- Full control over sweetness, spiciness, and other flavor characteristics
- Fresher taste than pre-made store-bought sauces
- Save money compared to buying bottled or canned versions
- Customize for any dietary needs or restrictions (e.g., vegan, gluten free, no added sugar)
- A fun project for the whole family to enjoy!
Get all the info on these ingredients needed for this bourbon bbq sauce recipe at the bottom of the post.
- olive oil or other cooking oil
- cloves garlic crushed
- onion powder
- smoked paprika
- sweet paprika
- allspice, optional
- tomato paste
- molasses - I suggest using the regular, full flavor molasses variety
- brown sugar
- apple cider vinegar- if in a pinch, you can use white vinegar, but keep in mind that apple cider vinegar is what is prefered
- soy sauce - if in a pinch, you can swap this out for Worcestershire sauce
- black pepper- swap with ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper for spicier BBQ sauce
- bourbon- a moderately priced bourbon such as Jim Beam is a good choice, although you could substitute another southern whisky such as Jack Daniel's whiskey (technically, not a bourbon).
How to Make Bourbon BBQ Sauce
Get more info on these instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
In a medium sized sauce pan, heat the oil and add the minced onion and shallot (photo 1). Sauté until the shallot and onion becomes fragrant and translucent. Add spices and tomato paste and sauté for a couple more minutes (photos 2 and 3) to toast the spices and bring out the flavors. Pour in the bourbon (photo 4) and stir, scraping up everything off the bottom of the pan.
Reduce the heat and add the molasses, honey, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and pepper (photo 5). Simmer the sauce for 25-35 minutes, until reduced and thickened (photo 6).
If you want the sauce extra smooth, without the pieces of garlic and shallot (albeit they cook down to almost undetectable), use an immersion blender in the pot to give it a quick puree. This will eliminate every tiny bit for an completely smooth barbecue sauce, which is perfect for using on flatbreads or pizzas, and as a dipping sauce.
On the other hand, leaving the bits in sauce without pureeing, makes this sauce great for grilling with. The little bits get into every nook and cranny of say, chicken drumsticks and get a delicious char.
The homemade bourbon bbq sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If you’d like to extend the shelf life, you can also freeze it.
Pour the sauce into a freezer-safe container and label with the date before freezing. Properly stored, homemade bourbon bbq sauce will last for up to 3 months in the freezer. For best results, thaw overnight in the fridge before using.
After simmering for about 20 minutes, roughly 60% of the alcohol is evaporated. After 30 minutes, only about 30% remains. It would take roughly 2 hours to remove almost all of the alcohol.
If you want, simmer it on low for up to 2 hours to remove all traces of it.
Moderately priced, full bodied bourbons like Jim Beam and Maker's Mark are good bourbons to cook with.
You can also try more premium bourbons like Bulleit, Elijah Craig or Woodford Reserve for a little extra flavor.
This bbq sauce will have a slight smoky flavor due to the smoked paprika. If you want to add more smoky flavors, try adding liquid smoke. If you want an even smokier flavor, try cooking the sauce over a wood fire instead of on the stovetop. You can also use smoked bacon fat in place of regular oil in the recipe for added flavor.
For even more of a smoky flavor, choose a kind of bourbon with a higher rye content.
This bourbon honey BBQ sauce is a great addition to many dishes. You can use it on grilled, smoked, or baked ribs (beef ribs or pork ribs), chicken wings, chicken tenders, chicken thighs, fish, and vegetables. It's also great for marinating steak and adding extra flavor to burgers. Even pizza gets a sweet and smoky boost when you add some of this barbecue sauce! If you're feeling really adventurous, try it as a salad or pasta dressing. However you decide to use this tangy sauce, your friends and family will be sure to love the amazing flavors!
Tips and tricks
- The longer you simmer the sauce, the more alcohol evaporates out of it. The full 35 minute simmer leaves negligible amounts of alcohol; and if you plan to grill with it, that will destroy practically all of it.
- If you prefer a less sweet, more tangy barbecue sauce, omit the brown sugar but keep the honey- it is a honey BBQ sauce after all 😉
- For a spicy kick to your homemade barbecue sauce, add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
- Store bourbon honey BBQ sauce in a closed container or jar with a lid in the fridge for up to one month.
- To make Honey BBQ Sauce (without bourbon), replace the bourbon with water, cola, apple juice, or Dr. Pepper soda.
This simple Bourbon BBQ sauce has become a favorite bbq recipe for our house. Making a homemade sauce is easy, typically has way more flavor, and is cheaper than any bottle of barbecue sauce from the store!
If you tried this Bourbon Honey BBQ Sauce, leave a rating using the recipe card below!
Bourbon Honey BBQ Sauce
- 2 tablespoon olive oil or other oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic crushed, minced
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- ¼ teaspoon allspice optional
- 6 oz tomato paste
- ½ cup molasses
- 2 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper swap with ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper for spicier BBQ sauce
- ½ cup bourbon
- In a small pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat.
- Add 2-3 cloves of minced garlic and 1 minced shallot and sauté until shallot becomes translucent.
- Add the onion powder (1 tsp), smoked paprika (½ tsp), sweet paprika (1 tsp), allspice (¼ tsp), and a 6 ounce can of tomato paste and sauté for about 2 minutes until spices darken in color and become fragrant.
- Pour in bourbon and stir to deglaze the bottom of the pan.
- Reduce heat to medium and add molasses (½ cup), honey (2 tbsp), apple cider vinegar (⅓ cup), soy sauce (1 tbsp) and salt (2 tsp) and pepper (⅛ tsp). Stir and cook on a low simmer for 25-35 minutes (or up to 2 hours on low to remove all traces of alcohol).
- If desired, use an immersion blender in the pot, or run through another blender for a few pulses until onion and garlic bits are no longer visible and sauce is smooth; but this is just optional so do according to your personal preference. The garlic and onion bits are great left as is, for a basting sauce on your favorite grill item!
- Store in a jar or container with a lid in the fridge for up to one month and use a dipping sauce, a grilling sauce, pizza sauce or anywhere you would use barbecue sauce.
- For a less sweet sauce, omit the brown sugar completely.
- Soy sauce can be substituted with Worcestershire.
- For a spicier kick, substitute the black pepper for cayenne pepper.
- Sauce must be simmered high enough that liquid evaporates (along with alcohol) and the sauce can thicken up.
- If the sauce isn't thickening, increase the heat incrementally until the liquid evaporates more quickly.