Dairy Free, Dinner, Fall, Gluten Free, Meat, Side, Summer

Memphis BBQ Sauce

Here we find what most of us understand to be bbq sauce. Thick, dark, tomato based, sweet, and tangy. This is by far the most popular of the many varieties of bbq sauce around the country. This sauce owes its pedigree to Memphis' location along the Mississippi River. As a port city, Memphis residents could easily obtain ingredients from the wide ranging south and east coast of America. Molasses was the most important introduction here, brought up from the gulf coast along Caribbean trade routes. Here we find the nexus of tomato, vinegar, molasses, and pepper, a wonderfully thick sauce that is as much an attention hog as the pig itself at any BBQ joint. Of the three we’ve investigated so far, this is the first to be cooked. Simmered for merely 10-15 minutes, the resulting reduction of sugar and tomato is addictive. 

  • Oil/Butter for frying
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Mustard Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon Celery Seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 1/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Black Strap Molasses 
  • 1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 24 ounces Strained Tomato Puree
  • A few shakes of hot sauce
  • Salt to taste
  1. Fry onion and garlic in oil or butter until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add black pepper, mustard, paprika, celery seed, cumin, and cayenne and continue to fry in the pan for a few minutes, until all the spices are fragrant.
  3. Stir in tomato paste and cook another 5 minutes, until dark and thick.
  4. Add brown sugar and molasses, cook until bubbling and the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Add the cider vinegar, tomato puree, and hot sauce. Stir to combine and cook for about 30 minutes, or until it reaches your desired thickness.
  6. Salt to taste.
  7. Add sauce to blender or use an immersion blender to make it smooth. Or leave it chunky with onions and garlic all around!