Getting Saucy: Honey Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Honey Chipotle BBQ SauceI may be a city girl through and through, but I still like to reconnect with my inner outdoorswoman every so often by grilling up a big chunk of meat over an open flame on a warm summer day. There’s a satisfaction in cooking on the grill that I don’t get from cooking on a stove or in the oven, like I’ve somehow bent an elemental force to my will just for the sake of making dinner.

That said, a big chunk of meat on its own isn’t all that tasty, unless we’re talking about a particularly fine piece of grass-fed steak.  For everything else, a good barbecue sauce is critical – one that transforms that hunk of meat into something more by adding another layer of heat and spice and smoke, and that caramelizes to form lovely crusty sticky bits.

Honey Chipotle BBQ SauceWhen it comes to barbecue sauces, I still have a soft spot for the bottled sauces of my childhood, the thick, sweet tomato-based kind that would get slathered onto an economy pack of chicken leg quarters at almost every pool party and barbecue of the summer.  The kind that goes with creamy macaroni salad and finely shredded pastel-green coleslaw from plastic tubs, with handfuls of salty chips, cold briny pickle spears and freshly buttered corn on the cob.

It’s not to say that the yellow mustard-based sauces of South Carolina or the watery chile-and-vinegar sauces of North Carolina don’t get my tastebuds excited, but they just don’t have a dozen years of fond childhood memories to back them up. No… what I crave on my barbecue is a thick, brushable sauce that gets your fingers sticky, with a flavour that’s equal parts tangy, smoky, spicy and sweet…. and this Honey Chipotle variation certainly fits the bill.  It’s got all the things I love about those bottled barbecue sauces I still remember so fondly, but it’s even better.

Honey Chipotle BBQ SauceI’ve had a small Mason jar of this sauce in my fridge all summer, and it’s gone on just about everything. It’s absolutely gorgeous brushed onto grilled chicken, grilled pork chops or smoked baby back ribs during those last few minutes of grilling (just make sure to put them on indirect heat once they’ve been sauced). It’s been poured on pulled pork sandwiches and slathered in burgers. Even once barbecue season is done, I’ll be reliving the memories by brushing it on meatloaf, swapping it for tomato sauce to make a BBQ chicken pizza, and dunking homemade chicken fingers in it. This sauce can do no wrong, in my books.

Simply put, it’s good just about everywhere you’d have put a bottled sauce once upon a time… except maybe that simply perfect hunk of grass-fed steak.  That, my friends, needs nothing more than a dash of salt and pepper to achieve perfection.


Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce
Smoky, spicy, sweet and tangy, this thick barbecue sauce will put any commercial bottled sauce to shame - try it brushed on ribs or chicken, poured onto pulled pork sandwiches, or spread on a hamburger bun. Makes around 1½ cups of sauce, but can easily be doubled or tripled for bigger batches.
Recipe type: Condiment
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ tbsp unsulfured molasses
  • 3-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp dry mustard powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil for 8-10 minutes, or until onions are very soft and lightly golden. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes to blend the flavours.
  2. Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree the mixture until very smooth. If the sauce is too thick or chunky, add a little water (a tablespoon or two at a time), until the desired consistency has been reached.



  1. MrSauce says


    Made this the other night for pork chops. I have to say, it needs a change. What change would I recommend?

    Double the recipe! It’s DELICIOUS!


    • Isabelle says

      Ha! Love it. :) (Incidentally, I just made a double batch of this sauce last night to pour over pulled pork sandwiches this weekend. Can’t wait!)

  2. Kita says

    I do love the flavors of all kinds of sauces. I wont lie, but I am with on on this one. Nothing tops a thick sauce that just makes a mess. I can’t wait to try this one – it sounds lip smackin good. :D

  3. Tiffany says

    Isabelle, I couldn’t agree more… bbq sauce should be thick, sticky, and in the red family! I tried to like vinegar-based sauces, but they just cannot compare to lovely ketchup based sauces like this one! It looks fantastic!

  4. Russell van Kraayenburg says

    I agree 100% with the satisfaction you can get from grilling over an open flame. I love it. There is nothing like it. I also know my brother will love this sauce. He loves all things chipotle and he loves honey too. I am definitely going to make this for him. I have a feeling I will like this too. I love trying new sauces.

  5. Jennifer says

    I made this tonight and basted it in grilled chicken! So delicious! People added it to their food by the spoonful! Tomorrow I’m USO g the leftovers overs on shrimp and scallops over grits! A keeper!!

    • Isabelle says

      So glad you enjoyed the sauce, Jennifer! I haven’t tried it on seafood yet, but it sounds like it would be lovely with shrimp and scallops. Wish I could be at your house tonight for dinnertime. :)

  6. Megan says

    My housemate would love this… I reckon I’ll have to surprise him with it. I have to do something with the spare jars I have lying about !x

  7. Vijitha says

    Slurp! The sauce reminds me of Indian chaatpaata (sweet and spicy) chutneys. I love a mild sweet touch to my barbequed meat. The sauce sounds like a perfect companion for the meat.

  8. Kimmy @ Lighter and Local says

    Oh yum… I love a little sweet and spicy. There this bar that Dave and I love to go to in St. Croix. They make one hell of a honey hot sauce with scotch bonnets… this sauce is right up my alley.

  9. Kimberley says

    Totally with you on the grilling! So excited to try this recipe because – marinades and sauces are sort of the missing link in my grilling aspirations.

  10. Rochelle says

    Mmmm, crusty stick bits are my favorite! I so want to try this recipe, but I’ll have to settle for piri piri peppers instead of chipotle unfortunately.

  11. RavieNomNoms says

    Oh my, I bet that is super smokey and delicious! I am such a huge fan of chipotle…one of my favorite things, so I am pretty confident that I could probably just eat a whole jar of this with a spoon. hehe

  12. Anne@frommysweetheart says

    Isabelle! I am so happy to have found a recipe for a thick, rich, tomato based sauce. This is the sauce of my childhood too! I love the combination of sweet and heat! : )

  13. Lindsey@Lindselicious says

    Oh I am grilling tomorrow! I might have to whip some of this up the honey chipotle flavor sounds super good.

  14. Kelsey @ K&K Test Kitchen says

    Wow! This BBQ sauce sounds divine. I’ve only made BBQ sauce from scratch once (so sad), but your version is definitely inspiring me make some to enjoy before the summer is over!

  15. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts says

    Love homemade BBQ sauce! This recipe sounds perfectly sweet and spicy!

  16. Natalie says

    I love the idea of the chipotle in this sauce, but then I love the idea of chipotle in everything! I’m just wracking my brains for something to put it on (being veggie). I’ve got it – Mexican bean burger, sorted!!

  17. Sandra says

    We’ve been using Bullseye since forever. I’m so ready to make a change and I think I’ve found my new BBQ sauce recipe.

  18. Alan Cooke says

    Always love to find new BBQ sauce recipes to try. Being from S.C., I’m a BBQ fanatic and also love cooking on the grill!

  19. Curt says

    I completely agree with you about the satisfaction of cooking on the grill. Even smoking foods. Once in a while I cheat and quickly open the smoker and smell the smoke. Mmmmmmm!

    This is an awesome recipe. I may have to wimp out a bit though and leave out some of the Chipotle peppers.

    • Isabelle says

      I’m with you there, Curt. Nothing quite like that puff of smoke when you open the smoker!
      As for the sauce, I know it sounds like a lot of chipotles, but it’s a surprisingly mild sauce even with four whole peppers, because the sweetness really cuts through the heat (I’d say it rates a “medium” on the Buffalo wings scale, at most).
      I’d say 2 chiles is the absolute minimum, or else you’ll lose that lovely smoky flavour from the chipotle.

  20. Melissa@EyesBigger says

    That sounds finger licking delicious! I have that same affinity for the store bought bottled sauces of my childhood :)

  21. Amanda says

    This looks amazing!!!! I don’t like ketchup and it’s high-fructose corn syrup-yness, do you think I could use 3/4 cup tomato paste?

    • Isabelle says

      Hmmmm… good question. I’d probably go with 1/2 cup tomato puree and 1/4 cup tomato paste – I worry that tomato paste alone would be too sweet, and there’s very little acidity in this sauce outside of what comes from the ketchup (not to mention lots of sweeteners).
      It might also be necessary to add another tbsp or two of apple cider vinegar to bring everything into balance, depending on how tangy you like your sauce… but that’s easy enough to adjust once everything’s been blended.
      Oooooor… just use a fancy-pants organic ketchup that’s HFCS-free. :)

Crumb Divider