This change-of-pace homemade BBQ sauce combines the tartness of cranberries with smokey, savory chipotle peppers and spices, mixed with just enough sugar to make this a sweet and savory delight! Sweet Daddy D’s Cranberry BBQ Sauce is perfect for the Holidays or year-round on pork, chicken, turkey, seafood and so much more.
This post is not sponsored, but you will find affiliate links on this page. The price you pay as a consumer does not change, but I may make a small commission based on your purchase.
[Publisher Note: I originally created this recipe in July 2018. I really liked the flavor but felt it was too heavy and little more work than I wanted. So, as I do sometimes, I reimaged the recipe, reduced some of the ingredient quantities, and simplified the process. This revised recipe is just as or more delicious, the texture is better and the process is much simpler than my original version. If you tried the original and loved it, let me know and I will send you a copy of that recipe version.]
This is Not Your Usual BBQ Sauce
Why enjoy BBQ only in the summer? This homemade BBQ Sauce is perfect for roasted or grilled pork tenderloin, salmon, chicken, and too many other dishes to list, it will also knock your socks off on a Holiday Double-Smoked Ham or a Smoked Turkey. Cranberries and chipotle peppers give this sauce a unique flavor profile that sets it appart. Brush it on your favorite food or use it as a glaze in the last few minutes of your cook. This sauce will elevate your favorite pork, chicken, or seafood recipes.
Sign up for my email notifications of new recipes and posts right HERE.
Here’s What You Need
- You can use bacon grease you saved from other recipes, or start with fresh slices of bacon. If you are looking for a substitute for the bacon, try butter, olive oil, or vegetable oil.
- Use sweet onions for this. Yellow onions, Vidallia onions, and shallots are perfect or use any other sweet onion.
- Fresh or frozen whole cranberries are recommended. You don't have to defrost frozen cranberries. Use 1 can (approxialty 15 ounces) of cranberry sauce or jelly if you can't find whole cranberries but read the label to see what other ingredients it contains. You may need to cut back on the brown sugar, but make those adjustmenst when you taste for seasonings.
- Substitute chicken stock, vegetable stock, cranberry juice or water for the beef stock.
- Substitiue about 2 teaspoons of granulated garlic for the fresh garlic, if needed.
Here is some of the equipment I used to prepare this recipe:
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The price you pay as a consumer does not change, but I may make a small commission based on your purchase. These items from Amazon will help you with this recipe:
Dutch Oven, Cast-Iron Dutch Oven, Chef’s Knife, Cutting Board, Prep Bowls (Cambro), Prep Bowls (Glass), Measuring Cups-Glass, Measuring Cups-Metal, Measuring Spoons, Small Food Processor, Large Food Processors, Kitchen Strainer, Blender, Immersion Blender, Food Mill.
Here's What You Do
First...you have a beer. Prepare the ingredients and prepare the cook! Pour a cold brew, have some wine or chant your mantra...whatever puts you in the right frame of mind. Now you're ready to read the recipe from top to bottom and make sure you have everything you need and you know what you will do with each ingredient and the equipment. Complete your mise en place so your ingredients are prepared and the recipe is ready to assemble.
Mise En Place
- If you will use bacon, chop it into 1-inch pieces and set it aside. If using bacon grease, measure the right amount into a small prep bowl.
- Chop the onion, garlic, and chipotle pepper somewhat fine and place them in separate prep bowls.
- Measure the cranberries and set them aside-it's not really necessary to defrost frozen cranberries.
- Zest the lemon and squeeze the juice out of one half.
- Combine the chili powder, sweet smoked paprika, and cumin along with the lemon zest all in one small prep bowl.
- Place the brown sugar in another bowl.
- Measure the apple cider vinegar into a ramekin and set it aside, then measure the beef stock into a measuring cup.
- Now you’re ready to go...have a swig or two of beer.
Tip: In the original version of this recipe I process the onions and garlic prior to sauteeing, but that is unnecessary. The onions, garlic, and chipotle peppers do not need to be very fine, but we will cook this rather quickly so we don't want the pieces too large. We will run everything through a blender in a later step, so they don't need to be very fine either.
Build the Foundation
What happens in this step? We will build the first foundation of flavor by sauteing the veggies in bacon fat before adding the aromatics and spices that the flavor foundation.
Use a heavy bottom dutch oven over medium-high heat to melt the bacon grease or fry the bacon pieces until they are getting crispy and have rendered out all their grease.
Remove the bacon pieces, if necessary, but leave the bacon grease. Throw in the onions and stir them constantly until they begin to clear. Don't let them brown. This should take about 5 minutes.
Toss in the garlic and stir that around for a couple of minutes until the aroma is wonderful.
Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and lemon zest to the onions and garlic and stir very well. Let these roast (bloom) for a few minutes before we add wet ingredients. By doing so, we really coax out those flavors.
The cranberries and the chipotle pepper can go into the pot at the same time. Add a pinch of kosher salt and let these simmer. The cranberries will start to give up their juice and pop open a bit. As they get softer, smash them with your spoon or a potato masher.
Add the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar to the simmering cranberries and stir regularly to combine all the ingredients.
Bring all that back to a simmer, cover the pot and let it keep going for another 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently so the sugar doesn't burn.
Time for processing
What happens in this step? We want to build a thick paste that combines all the flavors. This will later be thinned with beef stock until you have the thickness and consistency you desire.
Turn the fire off and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Pour the cranberry mixture into a blender and puree or liquify. Next, pour the blended mixture into a kitchen strainer and push through with a spatula. The result should be a thick paste.
Transform it into a sauce
What happens in this step? Now that we have a paste that will serve as a foundation, we will add liquid to make it as thick or as thin as we want. The result will be a smooth sauce with no lumps or chunks of ingredients.
Return the paste to the Dutch oven, making sure to catch all the goodness that is sticking to the underside of the strainer. Turn the heat to low.
Start by adding about 1 cup of beef stock. Use a whisk to create a smooth consistency. Add more stock until you have the thickness you desire. You can go over two cups if that's what it takes.
Once you have the consistency you want, bring the sauce to a high simmer. Continue to whisk the sauce to eliminate any lumps. After about 5 minutes on a high simmer, turn the heat down very low, cover the pot and let it simmer very low for about 15 minutes, stirring or whisking frequently.
Tip: If you end up making it too thin, just simmer it with the lid off until it thickens...no worries.
Remove the sauce from the heat and give it a taste. Add more salt and more spices and brown sugar if you think they’re needed. Let it sit there and meditate about what it means to be such a tasty sauce for about 10 minutes, then it's ready to go
Hints and Tips (FAQs)
If you can't find frozen or fresh cranberries, you can use canned cranberry sauce or jelly. I’ve done that many times and it’s good. Use a 15 ounce can but remember there are other ingredients like sugar in the canned sauce, so you should consider the amount of brown sugar you use
Cranberries are a Superfood with disease-fighting antioxidants (read about the health benefits right here).
It can be if you like it spicy but it doesn’t have to be if you don’t. The ingredients that potentially add spice are chili powder, cumin, and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Adjust these ingredients to match your desired level of heat. I used about ¼ ounce of chipotle pepper in adobo sauce-that was 1 pepper. There’s not much heat there, so if you want it hotter, just add more.
Cranberries are pretty tart, plus this recipe uses lemon juice and zest as well as apple cider vinegar. This tartness is countered with light brown sugar. Adjust these ingredients to reach your desired level of tartness.
The final consistency of the sauce will depend upon the amount of liquid you add. You may use more than two cups of stock to get the consistency you like....that's OK!
To make this vegetarian, substitute olive oil or vegetable oil for the bacon grease and vegetable stock or broth, cranberry juice or water for the beef stock
The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks or frozen for about 3 months. The sauce should be kept in an airtight container. A mason jar is perfect for keeping extra sauce in the fridge. If you freeze the sauce, consider separating it into 2 to 4 serving size containers so you won’t have to defrost the entire amount. Defrost in the fridge overnight before using.
Here are some of Sweet Daddy D's favorites that would be great with some Cranberry BBQ Sauce!
Sweet Daddy D has some other great sauces:
If you make this recipe:
- Tell us about it in the Comments section below
- LEAVE A RATING ON THE RECIPE-worthy of 5-Stars?
- Questions or Comments? that’s the place!
- SIGN UP FOR OUR EMAIL UPDATES so you don't miss anything!
- Post a picture and share it with your friends on our Social Media:
Cranberry BBQ Sauce
Here's What You Need
- 3 tablespoons bacon fat
- 1 cup yellow onion finely chopped (see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons garlic finely chopped
- 12 ounces cranberries fresh or frozen. This is about 3 cups (see Notes)
- 1 ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of ½ Lemon
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce finely chopped (about ¼ ounce)
- 2 cups beef stock or broth see Notes
- Kosher salt to taste
Here's What You Do
- Melt the bacon grease in a cast-iron Dutch oven over medium-high heat. If using bacon, slice into 1" pieces and fry until the fat has rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan, but leave the bacon grease, and add the onions.
- Reduce heat to medium and saute the onions, stirring almost constantly, until clear. About 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and stir until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
- Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin and lemon zest. Stir to combine all the ingredients and simmer together for about 2 minutes.
- Add the chopped chipotle pepper, cranberries, and a pinch of salt. Stir completely to mix all ingredients.
- Add the vinegar, lemon juice, and brown sugar. Stir well for a couple of minutes, until all the ingredients are combined.
- Lower the heat to a simmer and cover for about 15 minutes while the cranberries break down. Stir occasionally.
- Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes.
- Pour the cranberry mixture into a blender and blend on high until pureed. The sauce will have a thick, paste-like consistency at this point. (see Notes)
- Press the cranberry paste through a kitchen strainer. Remember to scrape off the bottom of the strainer and return the processed cranberry sauce to the Dutch oven. (see Notes)
- Place the dutch oven over medium-high heat and mix in the beef stock, starting with about 1 cup. Stir or whisk to blend together, adding more stock until you reach your desired consistency. Bring the sauce to a high simmer for 5 minutes.
- Reduce to a low simmer, cover and allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more beef stock to thin out the sauce, if desired. (If you need it to thicken, just simmer without the cover)
- Turn heat off and allow to sit for about 10 minutes.