This bourbon blueberry BBQ sauce will soon be your go-to recipe. The sweetness of the blueberries, the smokiness of the bourbon and the heat from the peppers come together to make this barbecue sauce out of this world. Bourbon BBQ sauce with the sweetness of blueberries pairs well with any kind of pork, especially ribs. It also goes really well with chicken thighs.
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.
Blueberries and bourbon, like my blueberry bourbon jam recipe, are a match made in heaven.
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Why you should make this recipe
- Quick & Easy – Ready from start to finish in about 45 minutes.
- Versatile – Any kind of pork is a perfect match, but I’ve also paired chicken thighs with it and it is delicious.
- Make ahead – You can make this homemade blueberry BBQ sauce a day or two ahead of time.
Blueberry BBQ sauce recipe
Making blueberry barbeque sauce from scratch is not at all difficult. The most difficult part of the entire operation is waiting for it to cook down so it can be blended and consumed.
This easy homemade BBQ sauce, just like my bourbon BBQ sauce, is unlike anything you’ll find in the aisles of the grocery store. For that reason, I like to give this to friends and neighbors as a hostess gift. Homemade gifts are always special and this sauce definitely qualifies.
This blueberry bourbon barbecue sauce uses common ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen.
- Blueberries – I used fresh blueberries, but you can use frozen if they are out of season.
- Ketchup – Gives it the familiar BBQ sauce taste.
- Brown sugar – A little sweetness balances the flavors.
- Apple cider vinegar – Acidity helps to give it a little tang.
- Bourbon – The alcohol will mostly cook off, leaving a smoky sweetness behind.
- Onion and garlic – These aromatics give the blueberry BBQ sauce great flavor.
- Jalapeño pepper – I used a whole pepper, but you can adjust to your preferences.
- Salt and pepper – Everything needs to be seasoned, so these ingredients are a freebie.
- Crushed red pepper – A little extra spice, it is optional if you prefer less heat.
- Neutral oil – I use grapeseed, but canola is also a good option.
- Bay leaf – Adds a subtle flavor in the background, it won’t be overwhelming.
This is the immersion blender that I own and LOVE. It works great on everything I've thrown at it and the design keeps it from sticking to the bottom of the container. It comes apart easily for cleanup and storage.
How to make blueberry BBQ sauce
This recipe is incredibly easy. It’s the wait that is not.
First, heat a bit of canola or grapeseed oil in a medium pot, then add the onions and garlic. Let them sweat a few minutes until fragrant and starting to turn translucent.
Next, add in the remainder of the ingredients and let the BBQ sauce cook down for roughly 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point, it should start looking thick and syrupy.
Remove the bay leaves and using an immersion blender (or regular blender), carefully blend until smooth.
I have a couple of friends who are not experienced cooks, by their own admission, and they’ve made this blueberry BBQ sauce at least 4 times.
It is something different than the usual store-bought sauce and it barely requires more than an occasional stir. If you are a beginner cook or you just want something delicious and unique that will not take the entire afternoon, this is the recipe for you.
I love this homemade blueberry barbecue sauce for ribs, but I’ve also put it on chicken thighs and a pork tenderloin and it was delicious.
Fattier meats tend to pair well with it, but a chicken breast or even chicken wings would be a fantastic pairing for this sauce.
Blueberry BBQ sauce FAQ’s
Yes! Frozen blueberries need to be thawed and drained before adding to the sauce.
They will make your sauce watery if they aren’t drained. Not the end of the world, but the sauce will require more time to cook down until it reaches that thick and syrupy stage before blending.
If properly stored, in an airtight container in the fridge, this blueberry bourbon barbecue sauce will last up to 2 weeks.
Yep! Store it in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Variations and substitutions
- If you prefer less heat, omit the jalapeño pepper, or use half instead of a whole pepper.
- Need an alcohol-free version? Substitute bourbon with apple juice.
For a berry-flavored variation, swap half of the blueberries with blackberries, strawberries or raspberries.
You can also swap out ketchup for canned tomatoes, but you’ll need to adjust the vinegar and sugar to your tastes, because ketchup is already seasoned and tinned tomatoes are not.
How to safely blend hot liquids
Working in restaurant kitchens for many years, I have plenty of experience with this. When steam is created from hot foods, it creates pressure. That pressure can build inside the blender, causing the lid to pop off and hot liquid to spill.
When blending hot liquids in a blender, do not fill the blender all the way up. The liquid needs room to expand.
The other helpful tip is to remove the clear blender cap in the middle of the lid, then place a clean, folded, thick kitchen towel over the hole before blending (I recommend using a dark towel for this in case it gets stained and folding a few times so you have several layers protecting your hand).
The towel covers the hole, but it allows the steam to escape, so you don’t get splashed and burned. Place your hand on top of the towel to hold in place, then turn the blender on low to get it started. When the blueberry bourbon BBQ sauce has started moving, increase the speed. Decrease the speed when the sauce is blended to your liking before shutting off to avoid splashes.
Here are a few options that will pair well with grilled meat and this sauce. This would make an easy and tasty summer menu!
- Grilled steak – Swap out the gremolata sauce for this one.
- Grilled lamb loin chops – Try this sauce on lamb too!
- Cajun grilled potato wedges – A quick and easy side dish.
- Strawberry Arnold Palmers – The most delicious blend of strawberries, tea and lemonade.
- Blueberry lemonade – Made from blueberries, sugar, lemons and water.
Helpful tools and equipment
- Vitamix blender – This is the same one I own. It isn’t inexpensive, but it’s worth every penny. It is the blender I used to make this sauce.
- Dutch Oven – A heavy-bottomed pot works perfectly for so many things, including making BBQ sauce.
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- 1 lb. fresh blueberries, any bad/moldy fruit discarded // 450g
- 1 cup ketchup // 235g
- 1/2 cup brown sugar // 100g
- 1/2 - 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar // 120 - 180mL
- 1/2 cup bourbon // 120mL
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeño, diced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal, see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil such as grapeseed or canola
- 2 small or 1 large bay leaf
- Heat oil over medium / medium low heat and sauté onions and garlic until translucent and fragrant, about 8 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients to a large, heavy-bottomed pot (like a Dutch oven) and cook down for approximately 30 minutes, until thickened and syrupy.
- Remove bay leaves and let cool slightly.
- Carefully transfer to a blender and purée until smooth. (Or use an immersion blender) *See note
- Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up two weeks.
- I happen to love vinegar, so I used 3/4 cup. If you are not a fan of the strong flavor, use 1/2 cup.
- If you use Morton's kosher salt, cut the amount by almost half. For fine sea salt or table salt, cut the amount by half.
- When blending hot liquids in a blender - The way I do this is to remove the clear blender cap in the middle of the lid, then place a clean, folded kitchen towel over the hole (I recommend using a dark towel for this in case it gets stained). The towel covers the hole so you won't get splashed, but it also allows steam to escape. Place your hand on top of the towel to hold in place, then turn the blender on low to get it started. When the sauce has started moving, increase the speed. Decrease the speed when the sauce is blended to your liking before shutting off to avoid splashes.
Serving Size:2 tbsps.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 74Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 172mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 1gSugar: 11gProtein: 0g
Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.
Thanks for stopping by! Have a delicious day 🙂
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Originally published 6/12/17.