Sweet & Smoky Barbecue Sauce

Thick red sauce in which the tanginess of tart apples, tomatoes and vinegar are balanced with sweet honey, and flavoured with smoky paprika and warm spices.

Barbecue Sauce (made with honey)

As well as always keeping a jar of pesto in the fridge on standby to dollop on eggs, vegetables, fish or chicken when I need a quick and easy meal, my other ‘fast food’ friend in the fridge is barbecue sauce. It’s great for spicing up an otherwise plain meal of meat and vegetables, or for rejuvenating the leftovers from a roast dinner the next day.

The sweet smokiness pairs particularly well with pork or chicken. Here are some mealtime suggestions:

  • breakfast: fry a sliced onion and some chopped bacon in a pan over a medium heat for 8 minutes, stir in a dollop of barbecue sauce and cook for a further 2 minutes, or until warmed through.
  • lunch: use as a salad dressing with cold chicken or bacon.
  • dinner: rub sauce into ribs and leave to marinade in the fridge for 4 hours. Place ribs in an ovenproof dish, cover with a sheet of tin foil, and cook for 2 1/2 hours on 150°C/300°F, basting twice after every hour.

The sauce can be kept in a sealed jar in the fridge for several weeks. To stop the sauce from spoiling, you will need to sterilise your jar (and lid) before use to kill any bacteria. There are 3 methods you can use:

  1. run jar through a rinse cycle in your dishwasher, without detergent
  2. cover jar completely with water in a large pan and boil for 20 minutes
  3. wash jar in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly, then place on a sheet of baking paper on an oven shelf to dry on 140°C/210°F for 20 minutes (if you are sterilising more than 1 jar, make sure they are not touching)
cooking time
Sweet & Smoky Barbecue Sauce


  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 red onion (120g), peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 stick celery (65g), chopped
  • 4 tomatoes (450g), roughly chopped
  • 1 large cooking apple (250g), peeled, cored and chopped (I used a Bramley)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons (35g) honey
  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  1. Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes, until translucent but not brown. Add the garlic and celery and fry for another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, apple and bay leaves. Stir well to combine and cook for another 5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the lemon juice, and stir well to combine. Bring to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
  3. Tip into a food processor and blitz until smooth.
  4. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Pour into a sterilised jar, leave to cool, and store in the fridge.

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