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Fiery Homemade BBQ Sauce

Say goodbye to the summer grilling season and turn up the heat with this habanero-infused sauce.

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If you think Chef Jeannette is kidding about the “fiery” in the title of this recipe, let me alert you: she’s not. This is hot stuff, largely thanks to the intense flavor and spice of the habanero pepper, one of the strongest types of chili pepper. (Chili peppers are themselves a member of the Capsicum genus, which means they’re filled with capsaicin, the pain-killing, metabolism-boosting ingredient that makes them so fiery as well as so good for you!)

The thing about making your own BBQ sauce is that you control what goes in there—no artificial ingredients, much less sugar than the store-bought kind, and no high-fructose corn syrup, which most commercial BBQ sauces are loaded with. There’s nothing here but top-quality, high-flavor, fresh ingredients. And seriously folks, this sauce, in Chef Jeannette’s words, is kickin’. So use caution. Only the brave need apply! —Dr. Jonny

Featured ingredient: Blackstrap Molasses

I’m often asked if there are any sweeteners that are actually good for you. One that always comes to mind (and that’s featured in this Fiery BBQ Sauce) is blackstrap molasses.

Molasses is a byproduct of sugar refining that contains all the nutrients from the raw sugarcane plant. Since the roots of sugarcane grow very deep, they are able to receive a pretty broad range of minerals and trace elements that are usually lacking in the topsoil. During the refining process, sugarcane plants are boiled to a syrup from which the crystals are extracted. Then they’re boiled two more times, both of which produce molasses. Each successive boiling produces a molasses with less sugar. Blackstrap molasses comes from the third (and final) boiling and has the least amount of sugar of the three boils—but more of the vitamins, minerals, and trace elements found naturally in the sugarcane plant.

Blackstrap molasses is very dark and has a robust, somewhat bitter flavor. It’s used in a variety of dishes as a sweetener and coloring agent. It’s also widely accepted as a “health food.” It can be used in any number of recipes and is particularly suitable for gingersnaps, soy-based sauces, licorice, canned baked beans, and—homemade BBQ sauces!

Blackstrap molasses is a very good source of iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and an excellent source of manganese and copper. It also contains a small amount of the cancer-fighting mineral selenium. There are all sorts of claims about the health benefits of taking blackstrap molasses as a nutritional supplement, some of which are far-fetched. But where there’s that much smoke, there’s probably a fire somewhere, and there’s no doubt that this sweet staple is packed with health-promoting nutrients.

To my taste buds, blackstrap molasses is wonderfully delicious and rich, and a nutrient-dense sweetener that I feel good about recommending for most people. Best bet: Look for unsulfured blackstrap molasses from organic sugar.

Notes from The Clean Food Coach

The slow cooker method really helps develop the flavors of this BBQ sauce, but if you don’t have a small one, you can prepare this recipe on the stovetop. After the garlic has cooked, sprinkle the Sucanat evenly over the onion mixture to melt it. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, lower heat to medium, and cook for about 15 minutes until it thickens and gets a little glossy. Watch liquid level while simmering and stir in a little more broth or water if it gets too thick. Cool and purée until smooth.


Fiery Homemade BBQ Sauce recipe

Makes about 2 cups (6 servings)


  • 1 Tbs. coconut oil 
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 habanero pepper, seeded and finely chopped (or more, to taste) 
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth (or water)
  • ½ cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup Sucanat (or packed brown sugar or monk fruit, for a no-added-sugar option)
  • 3 Tbs. dark rum
  • 2 Tbs. blackstrap molasses
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce 
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme


  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, and cook about 4 minutes, until starting to soften. Add garlic, and cook 30 seconds.
  2. Remove from heat and transfer contents to a small slow cooker (1-1½ quarts). Stir in remaining ingredients from habanero through thyme, and mix well.
  3. Cover, and cook on high 1½–2 hours until mixture comes to a simmer. Remove insert, stir well, recover, and let sit about 1 hour. Purée cooled sauce until smooth (an immersion blender works well for this). Transfer to storage container and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrition Information

  • Calories 130
  • Carbohydrate Content 23 g
  • Cholesterol Content 0 mg
  • Fat Content 2.5 g
  • Fiber Content 1 g
  • Protein Content 2 g
  • Saturated Fat Content 2 g
  • Sodium Content 690 mg
  • Sugar Content 16 g