Dr Pepper Barbecue Sauce

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Barbecue sauce made with Dr. Pepper soda, onion, tomatoes, orange juice, vinegar, honey, and cayenne. Great with pork ribs or brisket.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Please welcome Hank Shaw as he continues on his tour of barbecue sauce recipes with this Dr Pepper BBQ sauce. ~Elise

Cooking with cola or root beer is common, so we figured why not cook with Dr Pepper?

Using soda as the base for a barbecue sauce does two things right off the bat: You get sugar and you get acid. You can literally make a glaze out of nothing more than soda. We went a little further with this recipe, making it a full-on BBQ sauce.

If you don’t like Dr Pepper, you can substitute another dark soda; I’d recommend root beer. And you don’t technically need to put the sauce in the blender, but it does make a smoother sauce that goes on meats better.

What to use this sauce with? We first did it with slow-cooked pork country ribs, but you could also use it on regular ribs, pork shoulder, ham, beef ribs, or brisket. I bet it would be good on chicken, too, although we haven’t tried it.

You do need to cook this sauce down to get the full flavor, so give yourself some time. Once it’s done, you can store the sauce in the fridge for at least a week.

Dr Pepper Barbecue Sauce Recipe

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  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2-3 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups Dr Pepper
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes, about 15 ounces
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • Salt to taste

Method

1 Heat the vegetable oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.

2 When the onions are just beginning to brown, add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Simmer for 30 minutes.

3 Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor and purée it until it is smooth. (Note that if you are using a blender, either work in batches, filling the blender no more than a third of the way at a time with the hot sauce, or slowly add the sauce while the blender is running on low speed.)

4 Put the sauce into a saucepan, bring to a simmer and continue to simmer, uncovered, for 1-2 hours.

The sauce will store for several weeks in the fridge.

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Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

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Showing 4 of 22 Comments

  • Sarah

    Does this barbecue sauce work good on ribs

  • Shane

    Great flavor! Added two cloves of fresh garlic, bay leaves instead of salt I used onion salt and a roux for thickening. Thanks for a great start.

  • Darby "The Dessert Diva"

    Hmmmm…Root Beer sounds just interesting enough. I wonder what dry soda would taste like? Maybe Juniper?

  • TexasDeb

    Southerners have a long history of developing delicious recipes using soft drinks. Only yesterday I tried out an addictive recipe for apple dumplings that calls for a 12 ounce can of Mountain Dew.

    That said, many of us are concerned about the problems with HFCS currently used as the sweetener in most commercial soft drinks. Hank, do you think there’d be any downside to using the sugar sweetened variety of Dr. Pepper in this recipe?

    If not, the sugar-sweetened “Throwback” version of Dr. Pepper is out for a limited run but could be worth stockpiling if you have the storage space! And if you can’t find the throwback products locally, Dublin Dr. Peppers, always/only sweetened with cane sugar, are available online.

  • Courtney

    Elise,

    Speaking of root beer.
    Twice I have used root beer to base my roasted turkey in. Plus the normal stuff, like onion, sage and whatever sounded good.

    A mixture of root beer and apple cider or rice vinegar is great marinade for chops, and chicken breast too!

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