Blueberry Whiskey Barbecue Sauce

I was compensated by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas for my time in developing this recipe and post. All opinions are my own.

Homemade Blueberry Whiskey Barbecue Sauce recipe. Spicy, tangy, sweet, delicious! -

Colorado’s weather continues its manic tug of war to see when spring will finally arrive.  Between you and me, I have my money on spring.  Our last snow storm a few weeks ago was cozy, but anything other than threatening.  I applauded the effort but ignored it knowing it would melt within 48 hours.

The sun was out full throttle last weekend and the need to grill was in the air.  My lifelong desire to master grilling kicked into high gear last year when I took a three-day intensive hands-on grilling course with grilling luminary Steven Raichlen, author of the Barbecue Bible (and many more books) and who also currently stars the in PBS series Project Smoke.  I grilled every day last summer and realized I’m never happier than when I smell like a campfire from head to toe.

Homemade Blueberry Whiskey Barbecue Sauce recipe. Spicy, tangy, sweet, delicious! -

In this spirit I kicked off this grilling season by smoking a whole turkey, grilling shish kabobs and making a barbecue sauce that’s been dancing in my head since last summer:  Blueberry Whiskey Barbecue Sauce.  Who wouldn’t love a sauce that’s spicy, tangy, loaded with antioxidants and some whiskey to boot?

The sauce turned out fantastic!  It has the strong tang I love in a BBQ sauce, mixed with the sweetness from the blueberries and some brown sugar, as well as the whiskey.  The whiskey is added to deglaze the pan so the alcohol really burns off leaving its sweet flavor that’s perfect with this sauce.

Homemade Blueberry Whiskey Barbecue Sauce recipe. Spicy, tangy, sweet, delicious! -

I also added a secret ingredient not usually found in barbecue sauce but that I’ve been loving in my kitchen recently: Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract from Nielsen-Massey.  It is a full bodied vanilla that’s creamy and mellow in flavor but delivers a pure vanilla flavor great both for sweet and savory dishes.  If you thought all vanilla extract is created equal, it’s not.  One taste of this and you’ll agree. I also love that their products are certified gluten-free, certified Kosher, allergen-free and GMO-free (and there is an expanding line of certified organic products too).

I’ve used Nielsen-Massey vanilla for years and it’s probably what is in your pantry right now too.  To learn more about why Nielsen-Massey is the vanilla to choose and follow Nielsen-Massey on Instagram for more great recipe ideas too!

Homemade Blueberry Whiskey Barbecue Sauce recipe. Spicy, tangy, sweet, delicious! -

The barbecue sauce may be used on produce or meats when grilling, to finish the meat or as you’d use a tasty barbecue sauce not actually on the grill.  To give it a test run I whipped up a rack of St. Louis style ribs.  Normally ribs should be cooked for 3-4 hours, low and slow, but I used a quicker version inspired by Julia Child.  The ribs are salt and peppered, slathered with the Blueberry Whiskey Barbecue Sauce and placed in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes on each side.  After another coating of the sauce, are then finished on a medium temperature grill (350 degrees), charcoal or gas, for about 15 minutes.  They should be turned frequently and I grill mine with the lid on/closed.  Watch for any flare ups but with the ribs having cooked first in the oven most of the fat will have rendered.

Homemade Blueberry Whiskey Barbecue Sauce recipe. Spicy, tangy, sweet, delicious! -

Blueberry Whiskey Barbecue Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: Makes 3 cups


  • 1 tablespoon Canola Oil
  • ½ large Red Onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 large Garlic Cloves, peeled and diced
  • 1 large Jalapeno Chile Pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
  • ½ cup Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey or Bourbon Whiskey
  • ½ cup Ketchup, homemade or purchased
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Hot Smoked Paprika
  • ¼ Dark Brown Sugar
  • 3 cups fresh Blueberries (frozen, thawed blueberries may be substituted)
  • 1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract


  1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the canola oil. Warm until ripples are visible on the oil’s surface then add the onion. Sauté until the onion is softened and the color has lightened (about 3-4 minutes).
  2. Add the garlic and jalapeno. Sauté for 2 minutes.
  3. Carefully pour in the whiskey (it will splatter) and stir quickly to deglaze the pan. Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the vanilla extract. Stir to fully combine.
  4. Lower the heat to medium or medium-low to allow a low simmer of the sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes, periodically pressing on the blueberries with the back of a heavy cooking spoon or potato masher to smash them.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to sit 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract. Process in batches through a blender or using an immersion (stick) blender, puree the sauce until smooth. Allow to cool slightly then place in a glass jar with lid and refrigerate until fully chilled. May be used for up to two weeks if kept sealed in the refrigerator.

Homemade Blueberry Whiskey Barbecue Sauce recipe. Spicy, tangy, sweet, delicious! -


  1. says

    As usual spectacular images of ah-mazingly delicious food! I love the idea of blueberries in barbecue sauce and I was going to suggest bourbon before reading your recipe…… great minds think alike!

  2. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says

    Now that the nice weather is here, we will be grilling all the time. I can’t wait to try this.

  3. Catherine S says

    Those ribs look good and that sauce sounds yummy. I will have to make this BBQ sauce next time me grill.

  4. says

    I’m so thrilled that it’s finally warm enough to grill! I’ll have to step up my game and make some of this delicious homemade bbq sauce instead of going with the store bought kind!

  5. Pam says

    There’s nothing like homemade barbecue sauce. Grilling season is here and we go through a LOT of barbecue sauce!

  6. Jeanine says

    Oh my goodness. This looks and sounds beyond amazing. This is so amazing for BBQ season, I cannot wait to get our new grill and be able to use this. Can’t wait to make it.

  7. says

    My husband has made numerous types of barbecue sauce, yet blueberries are one ingredient he has never incorporated. I can not wait to share your recipe with him!

    • says

      I hope he’ll like it! I love the traditional core flavors in BBQ sauces and this still has those too. The blueberries give it some sweetness, another layer of flavor and of course that divine color!

  8. Ann Bacciaglia says

    I love grilling season. This sauce recipe looks so delicious i am excited to give it a try. Blueberry Whiskey Barbecue Sauce might become a new family favorite.

  9. says

    I do love a good homemade bbq sauce. I am intrigued by the addition of the vanilla. I bet it really gives the sauce a homey feel. I can’t wait to try this!

  10. Crystal says

    Mmm that sounds so awesome. I am so thrilled the weather is warming up & grilling season is back. Love the fruit combine with the girl.

  11. says

    What a delicious-sounding BBQ sauce. We’re getting the BBQ ready for warm weather use. The blueberries and real vanilla in the sauce will make a yummy start.

    • says

      I was out in the rain and snow tonight making another batch of these ribs and I think the grill might smell even a bit better in the cold weather! I too am stoked about the grill season returning.

  12. Audra says

    I found a recipe on Pinterest and made it as Father’s Day gifts ! I added an extra jalapeño because we love all things spicy. This stuff is awesome! I’ll be making a double batch next time. Thank you!

    • says

      Audra your comment makes me so happy, thank you for leaving it! What an ingenious idea to make this for Father’s Day! I too love spicy sauces but know not everyone does so I’m glad you added more jalapeno to get it to your heat preference!

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