Cherry BBQ Sauce Recipe

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This cherry BBQ sauce recipe is made with real cherries--LOTS of real cherries--and has such an incredible, rich flavor.  Cherry barbecue sauce is fabulous with chicken and pork, and is my favorite BBQ sauce for summer grilling.

Open canning jar with cherry BBQ sauce, on a wooden table, with fresh cherries and a spoon full of cherry barbecue sauce on the table beside the jar.

My cherry BBQ sauce is inspired by an amazing version from American Spoon Foods.  I bought a jar of it when I was visiting family in Michigan, and I've been hooked ever since.  It's amazing!  But unfortunately, it's hard to find outside of Michigan.  And it's impossible to get now that we live in the UK.  So I decided to make my own version of this amazing, summery BBQ sauce, and I'm delighted to say that I nailed it.  This is spoon-licking good homemade bbq sauce full of incredible cherry flavor!  

Cherry BBQ Sauce in a canning jar on a wooden table, with fresh cherries scattered around the jar.

My cherry BBQ sauce recipe made just shy of 5 cups of the condiment.  I'll be going through the recipe step by step here, but if you'd like a free, printable, one page version of the recipe, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Ingredients for Cherry BBQ Sauce recipe on a white marble surface.

Cherry Barbecue Sauce Recipe Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh sweet cherries, halved and pitted
  • 2 cups dried, sweetened tart cherries
  • 2 cups apple cider (or apple juice)
  • 1/2 cup concentrated cherry juice
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons worcester sauce
  • 4 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons brown mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon chilli paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 5 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 5 Tablespoons water

Sweet cherries, halved, pitted, and in a large saucepan on a white marble surface.

How to Make Cherry BBQ Sauce

Start by halving and pitting 4 cups of sweet cherries (measured after the cherries had been cut and pitted).  That's about one and a half pounds of cherries.  You can use a cherry pitter if you have one, but I've never bothered, and just use a paring knife and my hands to remove the pits.  Cherry pitters are nice tools, but I've never bothered to make space in my gadget drawer for one because I don't need one very often.  It's not hard to remove cherry pits with a small knife and my hands.

You can use dark sweet cherries or lighter varieties like bing cherries or rainier cherries.  Whatever is good and in season and available is perfect for this recipe.  If it's a delicious cherry, it will make a flavorful barbecue sauce.  You can also use frozen cherries instead of fresh cherries in this recipe.

I haven't tried the recipe using only sour cherry varieties, but I definitely will whenever I can get my hands on some!  (Very difficult to find here in the UK, sadly.). This is a sweet sauce, but it's not overly sweet.

Ingredients for Cherry barbecue Sauce simmering in a saucepan.

Add all the ingredients EXCEPT the cornstarch and water at the end of the list to a large saucepan.  Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.

This isn't a spicy barbecue sauce at all, but if you wanted to add a little heat, a Tablespoon of ancho chili powder is fabulous in this homemade barbecue sauce.  Ancho chili powder adds a deep, fruity note and mild to medium heat that is the perfect combination with the sweet cherry flavor.  If you prefer even more heat, you could use cayenne pepper, chipotle chili powder, or chipotle peppers.

Cherry barbecue sauce ingredients being run through a food mill on a white marble surface.

Run the ingredients through a food mill to pulverize the fruit and remove the skins.  This tool really is brilliant for this job!  Absolutely worth the space in the cupboard.  

If you have a really nice blender like a Blendtec (my most beloved, favorite blender of all time), I imagine you could just blend it all up, too.  If you're going to blend it, let the mixture cool before blending it.  The steam can build up pressure and make the lid pop off, creating a heck of a mess in your kitchen.  (I learned that one the hard way making a curry a few years ago.). A good food processor would work, too.  I like a smooth sauce, but if you don't mind a little extra texture, you could use an immersion blender and have fewer dishes to wash!

Freshly made Cherry BBQ Sauce in a large pyrex measuring cup.

This is what the gorgeous cherry BBQ sauce looks like after running it through the food mill.  You could use it just as it is, but I like my BBQ sauce to be a little thicker.  The easy remedy?  Cornstarch.

Pan of Cherry BBQ Sauce and bowl with cornstarch and water to thicken the cherry barbecue sauce, on a white marble surface.

How to Thicken Cherry BBQ Sauce with Cornstarch:

Use 1 Tablespoon of water and 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch per cup of liquid.

Put the cherry BBQ sauce back in the saucepan.  Mix the cornstarch and water (the last two items on the ingredient list) in a bowl to make a liquid you can add to the BBQ sauce without getting lumps of cornstarch.

Cornstarch slurry added to Cherry BBQ Sauce to thicken it on the stovetop.

Add the cornstarch and water mixture to the cherry BBQ sauce.  Bring to a simmer, and cook for two minutes.

Spoon dipped in Cherry BBQ Sauce, dripping the sauce into a jar full of the cherry barbecue sauce.  Fresh cherries and another jar of the sauce surround it on a wooden table.

The cornstarch thickens the cherry BBQ sauce to the perfect consistency for basting on whatever you're grilling.

Cherry barbecue sauce on three baked chicken breasts on parchment paper.

How to Use Cherry BBQ Sauce:

  • I brushed my cherry BBQ sauce on chicken breasts and baked them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.  Then we made an amazing summer salad with greens, goat cheese, and this delicious cherry BBQ chicken.  
  • Cherry barbecue sauce is also spectacular on grilled pork tenderloin, or on a pulled pork sandwich.
  • Make finger licking good bbq ribs glazed with this homemade sauce!
  • Mix with some sour cream for an amazing dip for chicken fingers or vegetables.  It also makes a great dipping sauce on its own.
  • Make a vegan version of this recipe by eliminating the worcester sauce, and toss with shredded jackfruit for an amazing vegan cherry BBQ sandwich.

One open and one closed jar of Cherry BBQ Sauce on a wooden table, surrounded by fresh cherries.

Happy summer grilling!

Free, Printable, One Page Cherry BBQ Sauce Recipe

Want a one page, printable version of this cherry barbecue sauce recipe?  Click on the image below to print the PDF directly or download to your device.  This recipe makes approximately 5 cups of sauce.

Navigational image leading reader to printable, one page Cherry BBQ Sauce Recipe.

Other Cherry Recipes You Might Like:

Navigational image leading reader to recipe for homemade cherry pie.

Navigational image leading reader to recipe for chocolate cherry muffins.

Other BBQ Recipes You Might Like:

Navigational image leading reader to recipe for Instant Pot Carolina style pulled pork BBQ.

Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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