Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

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Root Beer BBQ Sauce!

This entry is part 6 of 55 in the series Vegetarian
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Updated with Gluten-Free information:


I am one of those crazy people who loves grilling so much that I do it all year long. Yes, even when it is raining. Umbrella in hand, I’m out there checking to see if the food is done, LOL. I am always on the lookout for good BBQ sauce recipes because my husband is allergic to artifical smoke flavoring. This flavoring and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS – something I try to avoid) are found in nearly all bottled BBQ sauces. (Stubb’s brand of BBQ sauces are all gluten-free.)


I love the savory/sour/sweet combo of tomato-based sauces with fruit juices and sugar. Using sodas in sauces is an old tradition in the American South and the root beer in this recipe adds a wonderful flavor. It will have people scratching their heads trying to figure out what is in the sauce.


I found the original recipe on Epicurious.com. Have you found them yet? They feature the recipes from Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines. With Gourmet no longer being printed, this is the only way to get their recipes. Epicurious has videos on a huge variety of topics that can be invaluable to young cooks. Articles range from spa and graduation menus to restaurant and equipment guides. It is a wonderful place to get inspiration.


Yesterday’s recipe for Spicy Pulled Pork most likely yielded leftover meat which can be used in a lot of different ways. You can toss it with some of today’s sauce, put it on a hoagie roll (or gluten-free roll), and have a BBQ pork sandwich!


I would love to hear about your favorite BBQ sauce recipes. What style do you like? What are some unusual ingredients that you use? Happy Grilling!



Jane’s Tip:

Liquid smoke seasoning and smoked paprika are great ways to get the smoky flavor of the barbecue without lighting any charcoal. Chipotle powder (made from smoked, dried jalapeño peppers) adds spicy heat as well as smokiness.

To know when a liquid has reduced to a specific amount, before starting the recipe, measure the amount of water called for in your recipe (1-1/2 cups for this recipe) and pour into saucepan you will be using. Stick the handle of a wooden spoon in the water and mark the level with a pencil. Pour out the water and cook your sauce until its level is at or below the pencil line on the spoon handle.


Gluten-Free Notes:

I am updating this older post with points about where to watch out for gluten ingredients. Make sure you check all the labels and if in doubt, contact the manufacturer. Wright’s brand of liquid smoke is gluten-free. Penzy’s and McCormick brands of seasonings are gluten-free.



Root Beer Barbecue Sauce

© 2010, Jane Evans Bonacci, The Heritage Cook; Adapted from an Epicurious.com recipe

Yield: about 1-1/2 cups



1 cup root beer (gluten-free if needed; caramel coloring can cause reactions in some people)

1 cup organic ketchup (to avoid HFCS – gluten-free if needed)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup pineapple juice

2 tbsp bourbon, optional (caramel coloring can cause reactions; leave out for gluten-free)

3 tbsp soy sauce (gluten-free brand)

1-1/2 tbsp firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 tbsp mild-flavored/light molasses, not blackstrap (Grandma’s brand is gluten-free)

1 tsp liquid smoke seasoning, smoked paprika, or chipotle powder (Wright’s liquid smoke is gluten-free)

1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon peel

1 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 med onion, minced




Combine all ingredients in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced to about 1-1/2 cup (see note above), about 20 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Cool slightly.


Pour into a blender or food processor (or use an immersion blender), put the cover on with one corner up to release steam. If you don’t do this, it will explode all over your kitchen! Cover the lid with a kitchen towel, and hold with your hand (just in case …), blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.


Transfer to a container. Cover and refrigerate. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead; keep refrigerated.)


Series NavigationTwo BBQ Side Dishes You Will LoveAunt Jane’s Killer Marinara Italian Pasta Sauce

12 comments to Root Beer BBQ Sauce!

  • Erika

    I was wondering if u have any suggestions to make the sauce thicker? I used a similar receipe but did not put it in the blender. Thanks. Can’t wait to try it.

    • Jane Bonacci

      Hi Erika,

      The best way to make any sauce thicker is to cook it longer. Just be sure to keep the heat very low so it doesn’t burn!!

  • Chris

    Jane! Hi! Bambi and Jim sent your info to me! I love fish tacos but only get them when in Alabama or at Cheese burger in Paradise restaurants! Made with mango salsa! Do you have a good recipe and any fish (grilled) recipe would be terrific. I’m partial to non “fishy tasting” fish! Most importantly those wonderful sauces and glazes that restaurants have. I would love to create from scratch… Side dishes for fish would be totally awesome! Thanks so much. Hugs from a Happy Hoosier! Chris A

    • Hi Chris, Welcome to The Heritage Cook family! I do have some wonderful ideas for grilling fish. The easiest by far is using a bottled Italian salad dressing as a marinade (about 30 minutes in the refrigerator) and then grilling over medium heat. YUM! I love Halibut – a big meaty fish with a very mild flavor. Subscribe to the blog and then you’ll get an email when there is a new post. I’ll find a great main/side dish combo for you! In the meantime, check out my Creamy Parmesan Farro for a delicious side dish!

    • Also, Chris … look at the Salmon Provencal recipe on here. You can make the sauce in a skillet on the stove and grill the fish. I love the smokiness with the tomatoes!

    • Hi Chris – did you see the Fish Taco recipe I posted in your honor? Check it out and let me know what you think!

      Jane Bonacci
      The Heritage Cook

  • "Cousin Jim"

    Bambi has been telling me about your recipes so now “I’m in!” I think I will do this BBQ sauce soon. Good Job Janie!


  • Tes

    What an interesting recipe. I can’t wait to try it on lamb. Thanks for sharing.

  • […] 2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce (all Stubb’s sauces and rubs are gluten-free) or homemade (here is my favorite recipe) […]

  • […] can serve the steak and chicken as is or you can make my Root Beer BBQ sauce and brush on at the end of cooking. If you are using a sauce, cook nearly all the way through on […]