Apple season is coming into full swing, so it is the perfect time to make this apple bourbon BBQ sauce recipe. This easy fruit-based BBQ sauce is loaded with apple flavor – from fresh grated apple and apple cider to apple cider vinegar for a bit of tanginess. Try it on chicken, burgers or use this sauce to make apple bourbon pulled pork.
I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.
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Apple bourbon BBQ sauce recipe
This might actually be the best BBQ sauce I’ve ever made. The fresh apples and apple cider lend fruitiness to this sauce, but the addition of bourbon gives it a depth of flavor that can’t be substituted.
Bourbon gives this BBQ sauce recipe just a hint of smokiness. You guys, this sauce is serious business.
With another red, white and blue holiday around the corner, this BBQ sauce is going to be slathered on grilled chicken, burgers and ribs.
One of the best things about this apple bourbon BBQ sauce is the ingredient list. You probably won’t even need to make a trip to the store.
Keep reading for variations and substitutions, just in case you don’t have everything.
How to make it
First, start with sautéing the onions and garlic. I use avocado or grapeseed oil, as they are neutral flavors. Use whatever oil you have, or you could use butter – a tablespoon or so is all you need.
After a few minutes, the onions will start to soften and you can add the remaining ingredients to the pot.
Let it simmer for 45 – 60 minutes, until it is reduced a bit and thickened. Remove the bay leaf from the pot.
Use a blender to purée the BBQ sauce until is is smooth. At this point, you can continue to cook it down a bit more, if you want a very thick sauce.
Or, remove from the heat if you are happy with the consistency. Remember that it will thicken slightly as it cools.
Cool to room temperature before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Apple bourbon BBQ sauce Q&A
A few helpful tip and answers to frequently asked questions.
Generally, it will last at least a month, if stored in an airtight container.
Yes! Make sure it is completely cooled before you freeze it. (Never freeze hot food)
No. I let this sauce simmer for an hour, which removed about 75% of the alcohol. So, most of it cooks off, but not all of it.
Yes 🙂 If you do not want to use bourbon in this recipe, you can add extra apple cider (not vinegar) or apple juice.
The best kind is the one you have. That being said, don’t use a very expensive bottle here. Use one that you would drink on its own.
Variations and substitutions
- To make this sauce without the bourbon, omit it and replace with apple cider.
- Substitute 1/2 cup applesauce for fresh grated apple, if you’re in a pinch.
- Lastly, if apple cider is unavailable, use pure apple juice as a substitute.
This apple bourbon BBQ sauce pairs well with chicken and pork, but you can try it on anything. Toss cooked chicken wings in this sauce for game day, or add it to pulled pork.
Dress up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store with a bit of BBQ sauce for an easy weeknight dinner.
Helpful tools and equipment
- Immersion blender – This is the immersion blender that I own and used in this recipe. It is by far the best one I’ve used at home.
- Swing top bottles – Store your BBQ sauce in these cute glass bottles. They are also perfect for homemade gifts.
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- 1 tbsp. neutral oil, such as avocado or grapeseed
- 1 small red onion, diced, about 3/4 cup
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and grated *see note
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg)
- 1 1/4 cups apple cider
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 1 tsp. kosher salt (Diamond Crystal) - or, to taste
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 - 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional
- In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat.
- Add diced onion and garlic. Sauté for 5 - 6 minutes, until onions begin to soften.
- Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
- Simmer over medium - medium/low heat for 45 - 60 minutes, tasting as it cooks. Adjust seasoning, if needed.
- Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf from pot and discard.
- Purée with a(n) (immersion) blender until smooth. Cool to room temperature before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Use whatever apple you prefer. It doesn't need to be exact - use what is available to you locally.
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Serving Size:1/8 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 85Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 175mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 1gSugar: 10gProtein: 1g
Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.
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