3 Easy Barbecue Sauce Variations to Amp up Your Weekend Grilling

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Clockwise from top: Korean kimchi barbecue sauce, Buffalo barbecue sauce, and coffee-ginger barbecue sauce. Daniel Gritzer

When it comes to barbecue sauce, we've got you covered here at Serious Eats. We're well stocked with regional recipes, from Memphis- and Kansas City-style sauces to both Carolinas and Alabama, along with quite a few others. And yet you can never have too many barbecue sauce recipes at your disposal. With that in mind, I'm sharing three incredibly simple ones that you can whip up in minutes, each with its own distinct flavor profile.

If you look at the recipes, you'll notice that each of my three sauces starts with a somewhat similar base: namely, they all call for a good dose of ketchup along with a splash of Worcestershire sauce for depth and complexity. From there, each has its own particular angle—one is infused with Korean flavors, another is dark and moody with coffee and ginger, and the third borrows heavily from the hot-tart sauce served with Buffalo chicken wings. I then turn to other ingredients for balance, sometimes adding sweetness in the form of molasses or, say, slipping in a bit of spice here or there. Overall I kept them easy, but still with enough personality to make them stand out at your next cookout.

Korean Kimchi Barbecue Sauce

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Not to be confused with any of the traditional sauces or marinades used in Korean barbecue, this is a sauce that combines Korean ingredients like kimchi and gochujang (Korean chili paste) with my go-to ketchup base. To make it, I start by blending kimchi and its juices with raw onion, plenty of garlic, and ginger into a puree.

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Then I stir that into the ketchup along with rice vinegar, molasses, gochujang, and Worcestershire and simmer them together for several minutes to tame some of those raw garlic and onion flavors while also allowing everything to blend together. It'd be great on grilled chicken or pork, slathered on a sandwich or burger, or even served with poached or grilled shrimp, a la cocktail sauce.

Coffee-Ginger Barbecue Sauce

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In this sauce, I spiked my ketchup base with a half cup of strong coffee, which adds bitter bass notes but also some acidity (especially if you use a lighter roast, like I did). To that I added freshly grated ginger, its spicy, sharp flavors contrasting nicely with that dark coffee undercurrent. A little dark chocolate and molasses add sweetness while still playing to the swarthy coffee character, and just a hint of smoked paprika builds an extra layer of aromatic mystery. This would be great on all sorts of things, but I see it working particularly well with smoky pork shoulder and beef brisket.

Interestingly, I found that this sauce didn't need any additional acid in the form of vinegar, presumably because the coffee, chocolate, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce all contributed enough on their own. That said, you may have slightly different results depending on the exact roast of coffee and brand of chocolate you use (mine was Madecasse 70%), so taste and adjust with apple cider vinegar or other vinegar as needed.

Buffalo Barbecue Sauce

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Why relegate Buffalo sauce to chicken wings? Here, I've borrowed those flavors—namely, Frank's Red Hot Sauce and butter—and worked them into a slightly thicker ketchup base. I add just a pinch of celery salt as a subtle reminder of the carrot and celery sticks typically served with Buffalo wings, along with a splash of cider vinegar, which helps keep the sauce more firmly in the tart zone where it belongs. Not totally unlike Lexington Dip, this is a slightly thinner, vinegary sauce that's meant as more of a topping than a glaze. Toss it with shredded smoked chicken or pulled pork, you won't be sorry.

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