Bourbon-Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Last weekend, we celebrated our lovely friend Claire’s birthday by camping out all day on her gorgeous terrace in El Gòtic and slow-cooking a ridiculous amount of pork to perfection (more about that in another post).

Power nap.
Power nap.

It was a tough day.

Brian worked his magic on the grill, and I made a simple coleslaw and this bourbon-chipotle BBQ sauce, which I have to say, turned out mighty fine. I love BBQ sauce, but I find a lot of the bottled stuff too sweet and lacking in real flavor (also, it’s strangely not a thing here in Spain).

I like a BBQ sauce with a little kick to it, and my old friends bourbon and chipotle give this recipe a moderate level of spice with a hint of smoky sweetness.

tomatoes for BBQ sauce
End-of-the-season tomatoes

I’ve made a variation of this recipe before with canned tomatoes, and it turned out well – but go for the fresh version if you’ve got ’em. It takes additional time to cook them down, but it’s not a lot more hands-on work, and I think it’s worth it.

Pulled pork with BBQ sauce
Pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and bourbon-chipotle BBQ sauce. Yes.

Bourbon-Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Yield: 2 squeeze bottles

Bourbon-Chipotle BBQ Sauce


  • 5 lbs. fresh tomatoes, cores and seeds removed and roughly chopped (or about 70 oz. canned whole peeled tomatoes)
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup + 1 T. dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, deseeded and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 T. cocoa powder
  • Olive oil


  1. First, make the ketchup-like base. Heat a little olive oil in a large pot, and add tomatoes, celery, onion, garlic, chipotle, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, vinegar, Worcestershire and brown sugar. Cook uncovered for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours until the tomatoes have reduced and become thick and saucy. (Use fresh tomatoes if available; if you use canned tomatoes, you can reduce the cook time to about 30-45 minutes.)
  2. Purée with an immersion blender or in a regular blender. Push the mixture through a strainer once or twice, and discard solids.
  3. Add bourbon, molasses and cocoa powder to the tomato mixture and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning as needed.

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