Cider BBQ Sauce Recipe

by Nancy Zaffaro
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cider BBQ sauce

Capitol Cider’s Chef de Cuisine Sara Harvey shares this fabulous cider BBQ sauce recipe that’s perfect for summertime!

“This is a cider-based BBQ sauce that I tweaked slightly for home methods and amounts, but is very similar to what we use annually at the Seattle Cider Summit for our West-Coast Famous BBQ Chicken Thighs and Baked Beans. It’s a sticky sweet sauce that also goes well with pork chops and apricots and so much more,” Harvey says. “The sauce makes a great weekend recipe that you can start at lunch and have ready for dinner, and the yield is enough for a big BBQ party or for dinner and a good jar in the fridge.

“I dip everything in this at home: salt and vinegar potato chips, blistered snap peas from the garden, or even pieces of grilled pineapple are wonderful with some fresh cilantro and a little bit of this stuff.”

Thanks, Sara!

Recipe courtesy of Sara Harvey, Chef de Cuisine, Capitol Cider in Seattle.


  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil (Don’t waste your Extra Virgin stuff in a hot pan; use regular old olive oil. The smoke point is higher and the flavor is milder.)
  • 1 medium-sized sweet onion, small dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups prepared ketchup (Hunts—regular AND organic—is HFCS free and my go-to at home)
  • 2 cups hard apple cider (Strongbow or Blackthorne are both great English style ciders, but anything not too sweet [like Angry Orchard] or too dry [like a champagne style] will work well. If you have an open bottle in the fridge going stale, this is exactly what you have been waiting for!)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses (Blackstrap is my preference; it is the third stage of boiling sugar to get molasses and has a rich strong flavor, as well as great health benefits, including significant amounts of B6, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, and potassium)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, raw and unfiltered if available
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, plain or sweet is alright if that’s what you’ve got
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5ea dry Ancho, mullato, or other medium heat chilies

To Prepare:

 Sweat garlic & onions until soft in olive oil.

  1. Add hard cider, and reduce by ½.
  2. Add everything else and simmer over medium low heat for 1-2 hours.
  3. Blend, and then check for salt and acid. (I like stick blenders or Vita prep.)
  4. Re-season and cool down. Stores for a month or so in the fridge. Or freeze as a marinade; the texture will change slightly with freezing and thawing, but is fantastic on ribs or chicken thighs on the BBQ or in the broiler.
Sara Harvey (R) and some of the Capitol Cider team.

Sara Harvey (R) and some of the Capitol Cider team.

– Photos courtesy of Capitol Cider.

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