Chipotle Maple Barbecue Sauce

Every year I make Sara Foster’s  Fall-Off-the-Bone Baby Back Ribs, and they’re always a hit. But the weird thing is I always opted for bottled barbecue sauce. With so many bbq sauces out there, I reasoned, why the hell add more stress to my already stressed-out afternoon? (Can you tell I get stressed a lot when I cook?)

This year, though, I decided to put on my big boy pants and make her chipotle maple barbecue sauce from scratch–the sauce that she recommends for her ribs. It was a dump-and-stir recipe. Simple, easy, fast. The flavors were terrific—the slap of the vinegar, the smoky heat from the chipotle, and the sweetness of the brown sugar and maple syrup. Everything blended together quite well. There’s also a big wallop of tomato due to a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes. You can soften that, if you want, with a squirt or two of ketchup.

A few additions we made to this, which I think improved it mightily:  We added a big glug of bourbon to the sauce as well as about 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate. (Personally, I think a bit more bourbon wouldn’t have hurt—and I’m not even a bourbon lover!) Then I reduced by a little more than a quarter as I prefer a thicker sauce. It was excellent. The problem: I was cavalier and took a nap while the ribs cooked, so they were far more tender than they should have been. It gave new meaning to “falling-off-the-bone tender.” Next time, I’ll make sure to be all rested before I tackle Foster’s ribs. But cut me some slack: Those Fourth of July gin and tonics were calling my name all afternoon. Damn sirens.

A basting brush and jar of with chipotle maple barbecue sauce

Chipotle Maple Barbecue Sauce

This sauce has the complex sweetness of maple syrup and the smoky spice of chipotle peppers. If you don’t want to make barbecue sauce from scratch but you still want the smoky heat of the chipotle peppers, use a blender to puree 3 chipotle peppers in adobo with your favorite bottled sauce. This sauce works great on Fall-Off-the-Bone Baby Back Ribs.Sara Foster

LC Finger-Licking Flavor Note

This recipe yields quite a lot of finger-licking, spoon-slurping, eyeing-your-neighbor’s-plate flavor, it’s that good. And the only price to pay? A single pot to wash.

A basting brush with chipotle maple barbecue sauce

Chipotle Maple Barbecue Sauce

5 / 2 votes
This chipotle maple barbecue sauce is made by slowly simmering crushed tomatoes, maple syrup, brown sugar, chipotle peppers, white vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic cloves, and dry mustard. It’s perfect on ribs, chicken, and pork.
David Leite
Servings32 servings | 4 cups
Calories32 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time40 minutes


  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo, diced
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons Colman’s dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper


  • Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir to combine.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce is thick and reduced by about a quarter, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly. That's it. You're ready to slather it on anything at will.


Serving: 2 tablespoonsCalories: 32 kcalCarbohydrates: 7 gProtein: 1 gFat: 0.2 gSaturated Fat: 0.02 gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1 gSodium: 225 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 5 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2005 Sara Foster. Photos © 2005 David Leite. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

The Chipotle Maple Barbecue Sauce uses readily available ingredients and is very easy to make; can’t beat one pot! It has a nice sweet/savoury balance, with just the right amount of smokiness and kick. It’s reminiscent of sauces I’ve had at ribbing events. I used Keen’s dry mustard, which would be comparable to Cole’s. It took closer to an hour for the sauce to reduce by the amount outlined in the recipe.

As a vegetarian, I made the Chipotle Maple Barbecue Sauce sans ribs (and used a vegetarian Worcestershire sauce). I served it instead of ketchup with hash brown waffles at brunch this morning. I’m sure this would be great on the accompanying rib recipe, but it was terrific slathered on the potatoes, and equally terrific on a spoon. Two of my friends spontaneously, and separately, requested the recipe.

Foster notes you could alternatively blender-ize the chipotles or use a favorite bottled sauce, but with a sauce this quick and easy to make, why cut corners? This sauce will certainly wow your guests, as it did mine, and is easily your must-have sauce for summer.

Originally published July 11, 2020

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Whoa, all I need is chipotles and apple cider and this is a done deal. Next weekend will be a cooking marathon, can’t wait!

  2. 5 stars
    I have this book. In fact, it is on the coffee table right now. I was looking at it yesterday. I have made many things from it but not this sauce. Could be on the menu in a few days. This looks so good. I forgot about this recipe. Thanks a lot.

    1. Just curious, RisaG, did you ever try it? Am sending this recipe to a friend to use on brisket, made me wonder what you thought of it…

  3. 5 stars
    Sounds like a great recipe (can’t go wrong with maple and chipotles!) even though two tablespoons of dry mustard seems like quite a lot. 😮 It’s too bad I’ve never even seen chipotles in adobo sauce in Finland.

    1. You know, we thought the same thing about the amount of mustard before we made it, although as it turns out the mustard presence really isn’t that noticeable. It serves more to smooth out the other flavors than it does assert itself. And as for the availability of chipotles in adobo, that’s terrible…surely they could be ordered online? (Doesn’t work for a quick fix, but it does give you something to anticipate…)