From the tangy pomegranate juice and apple cider vinegar to the sweet brown sugar and ketchup, this pomegranate bbq sauce really amplifies any dish you pair it with.
In less than 30 minutes, you'll have a delicious made-from-scratch bbq sauce ready to slather on your favorite grilled chicken, steak, seafood, ribs, and much more.
Just throw everything into a pot and let it reduce into a rich thick sauce, it's that easy!
📋 About the Recipe
If you're looking to up-level the incredibly sweet, preservative-packed, boring 'ole store bought BBQ sauce, you're in the right place. After trying this homemade pomegranate BBQ sauce, you will never go back to store bought again!
Not only is this sweet and tangy barbecue sauce incredibly quick and easy to make, but it uses simple ingredients, allowing you to cut out a lot of the “junk” that you typically find in commercialized sauces.
Without all the added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other additives, this sauce is not only delicious but it's better for you and healthy too.
By making barbecue sauce from scratch, you get to determine what goes in. If you don't like spice, you get to adjust the spice level. If you want to avoid sugar, or limit your intake, you get to decide how much you add. And if you are sensitive to certain ingredients, you get to choose whether or not to omit them.
The unique flavors in this sauce balance each other nicely, but are always open to experimentation. Follow this recipe as a basic guide and feel free to adjust to your own personal tastes.
In under 30 minutes, you'll develop the BEST sticky, sweet, and tangy sauce that pairs perfectly brushed onto ribs, baked into brisket, used as a dipping sauce for wings, caramelized onto chicken, or even spread onto pizza dough as the base for BBQ chicken pizza. The flavorful possibilities are truly endless!
A few notes about the ingredients:
- Pomegranate juice: I found pomegranate juice in the refrigerator section in the produce aisle of my grocery store. Make sure it is 100% juice, like Pom Wonderful. That means the ingredients on the bottle should only list “pomegranate juice” and not sugar, corn syrup, or anything else.
- Ketchup: To avoid unnecessary added ingredients, I opted for Heinz Simply Tomato Ketchup. You get the same great taste as their original recipe, but with the most basic ingredients, meaning no corn syrup or other junk. It is important to choose a quality ketchup, as this will be the base of your sauce, adding both flavor and thickness.
- Apple cider vinegar: Vinegar adds a nice tanginess. It helps to balance out the sweetness from the other ingredients, while packing a punch of flavor.
- Worcestershire sauce: I will always choose Lea and Perrins. Their worcestershire sauce has the most authentic flavor with the best ingredient list. This is important because it adds a unique spice profile to the sauce.
- Brown sugar: A touch of brown sugar creates a slightly sweet sauce. It also helps it become sticky and caramelized when cooked on top of your favorite protein.
- Garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, paprika, smoked paprika: Each of these spices adds flavor to the sauce. You can use all smoked paprika, instead of half smoked and half regular paprika, if you’d like an extra smoky BBQ sauce.
- Lime juice: A splash of fresh lime juice helps to finish off the sauce. It adds another fresh and tangy element to counteract the richness.
- Cayenne: Cayenne pepper is optional based on your spice preference. If you like a little spicy heat, add a dash or two of cayenne when the sauce is done reducing.
1. Add all of the ingredients, besides the lime juice and cayenne, in a saucepan or high sided skillet. The more surface area (the larger the pan or skillet), the faster the sauce will reduce.
2. Cook the sauce over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Reduce the heat to medium low and allow it to simmer until it thickens, about 20 to 25 minutes. Stir constantly so the sauce on the bottom doesn’t burn.
3. When the sauce is thick and can coat the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and add in the juice of half a lime. If using, add in a few dashes of cayenne and stir everything to combine.
4. Brush the sauce on your favorite protein, like these Fall Off the Bone BBQ Baby Back Ribs, and place sauce-side down on a BBQ grill to caramelize. Use any extra sauce for dipping or for additional recipes throughout the week.
5. Keep this sauce in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 7 days. Get creative and see how many different meals you can make with this one sauce!
⁉️ Substitutions and Alterations
Instead of pomegranate juice: If you're interested in other fruity barbecue sauce ideas, try substituting the pomegranate juice for mango nectar, blueberry juice, or pineapple juice. This will result in mango, blueberry, or pineapple bbq sauce instead of pomegranate.
(It is not recommended to combine the juices as that may create too many conflicting flavors.)
Instead of store-bought ketchup: I am a huge fan of homemade everything! However, for the sake of simplicity and time, I often take small shortcuts when I think I can get away with it, which is why this recipe calls for a quality store bought ketchup.
Though, if you'd prefer to make ketchup from scratch for this barbecue sauce, try this homemade ketchup recipe instead of using store bought.
Instead of brown sugar: For a refined sugar free version, you can add in maple syrup, honey, or date syrup instead. However, these natural sweeteners may be a bit sweeter than brown sugar, so I'd start off with a small amount then adjust to your taste.
❄️ How to Store Homemade BBQ Sauce
This pomegranate BBQ sauce can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about 7 days.
To freeze any extra sauce, allow it to come to room temperature before pouring it into a freezer safe, airtight container. You can freeze homemade bbq sauce up to 6 months. To defrost, stick it in your refrigerator overnight.
Store bought BBQ sauces are usually made with high fructose corn syrup, dyes, and preservatives. This BBQ sauce eliminates all of those junky ingredients. For this recipe, make sure to buy ketchup with as few unnecessary ingredients as possible. Heinz Simply Tomato Ketchup is a great option.
Additionally, making BBQ sauce from scratch allows you to decide what goes in. Many store bought versions include LOADS of sugar to help stabilize and make them taste better. Instead, opt for a homemade version, so you can adjust the sugar content based on your personal taste and health requirements.
Depending on where you're from, you may have a different opinion on the true form of BBQ sauce. Popular regional differences include:
Alabama: Alabama uses mayonnaise and horseradish as the base of their sauce. Because of this, it is a white sauce with a peppery bite.
North Carolina: Even different regions within North Carolina make their sauce differently. On the east side, the base is primarily vinegar with some salt and a little heat, while on the west side, they add in a bit of ketchup and brown sugar to help mellow out the vinegar tang.
South Carolina: South Carolina uses mustard as the base of their sauce. Because it does not have a tomato base, it has a yellow-orange hue with a tangy, spicy flavor.
Kansas City: Kansas City barbecue sauce offers more of a traditional take. It is thick, dark brown, sweet, and tangy. It often uses brown sugar or molasses for sweetness. This pomegranate BBQ sauce would most likely fall into this category.
Memphis: Memphis barbecue rarely uses a sauce. Instead, they rely heavily on spiced dry rubs. If they do incorporate a sauce, it resembles a thinner Kansas city version.
Since meats contribute their inherent gamey flavors, you need a sauce that’ll stand up and compliment whatever it is paired with. So, it's up to you to decide which one is best!
BBQ sauce has many different uses. Use it to top chicken, ribs, steak, or seafood and grill sauce-side down to slightly caramelize it. Make sure to cook it low and slow, so the sugars in the sauce don't burn. You want them to turn sticky and delicious.
You can also use it as a dipping sauce, as well as a topping on salads or nachos.
Some great recipe ideas:
- Fall Off the Bone BBQ Baby Back Ribs
- No Knead Sheet Pan Pizza Dough for BBQ Chicken Pizza
- Make Homemade Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls and use the leftover chicken and BBQ sauce for BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
- BBQ Chicken Nachos
- Drizzle on top of Balsamic Glazed Steak and Veggie Bowls
- Use as a dipping sauce for Air Fryer Garlic Parmesan Wings
- Use as a topping for Ground Chicken Meatloaf
💭 One More Tip
When choosing a saucepan or skillet to cook the sauce, keep in mind that the more surface area, the faster it will reduce. If the pot is too large, the sauce may reduce down too quickly and burn. But if the pan is too small, it may take a very long time.
The pot I used was 10 inches in diameter, which was just enough surface area for the sauce to reduce in under 30 minutes. Just remember to stir it periodically so it does not burn and scrape the thickened bits off the side of the pot to reincorporate back into the sauce.
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Tangy Pomegranate BBQ Sauce From Scratch
- Saucepan or high sided skillet
- 2 cups pomegranate juice 100% juice (see notes)
- 1 cup ketchup
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp ground mustard
- fresh lime juice from half a lime
- a few dashes of cayenne pepper optional, based on taste
- Whisk all of the ingredients, besides the lime juice and cayenne, together in a saucepan or high sided skillet. The more surface area (the larger the pan or skillet), the faster the sauce will reduce.
- Cook the sauce over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Reduce the heat to medium low and allow it to simmer until it thickens, about 20 to 25 minutes. Stir constantly so the sauce on the bottom doesn’t burn.
- When the sauce is thick and can coat the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and add in the juice of half a lime. If using, add in a few dashes of cayenne and stir everything to combine.
- Brush the sauce on your favorite protein, like these Fall Off the Bone BBQ Baby Back Ribs, and place sauce-side down on a BBQ grill to caramelize. Use any extra sauce for dipping or for additional recipes throughout the week.
- Keep this sauce in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 7 days. Get creative and see how many different meals you can make with this one sauce!
- Make sure the pomegranate juice is 100% juice. That means the ingredients on the bottle should only list “pomegranate juice” and not sugar, corn syrup, or anything else. I like to use the Pom Wonderful brand and I found it in the refrigerated section in the produce aisle of my grocery store.
- You can use all smoked paprika instead of combining it with regular paprika if you’d like an extra smoky BBQ sauce.
- The cayenne is optional based on your spice preference. If you like a little spicy heat, add a dash or two of cayenne pepper when the sauce is done reducing.
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