Sweet, smoky and tangy, with the added kick of bourbon cooked right in, this bourbon and honey BBQ sauce will be your new favorite condiment (includes a non-alcohol version).
With so many of the store bought barbecue sauces containing high fructose corn syrup, it can be tricky to find a healthier option that actually tastes delicious.
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.
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).
Paprika- this recipe calls for two varieties of paprika: sweet paprika and smoked paprika; and calls for less of the smoked paprika.
Apple cider vinegar- is preferred, but in a pinch you can use white vinegar.
Molasses- use regular, full flavor molasses.
Soy sauce- can be substituted with Worcestershire sauce as well.
How to make it
In a medium sized sauce pan, heat the oil and add the minced onion and shallot (photo 1). Sauté until the shallot and onion become 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 remaining ingredients (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.
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.
Moderately priced, full bodied bourbons like Jim Beam and Maker's Mark are good bourbons to cook with.
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, 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 or Dr. Pepper soda.
If you tried this Bourbon Honey BBQ Sauce, leave a rating using the recipe card below!
Bourbon Honey BBQ Sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil or other oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic crushed, minced
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- ¼ tsp allspice optional
- 6 oz tomato paste
- ½ cup molasses
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp black pepper swap with ⅛ tsp 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.