Recipe Spotlight

Instant Espresso Powder Instantly Makes Barbecue Sauce Better

Add something new to your 'cue.

Published July 15, 2021.

In the midst of summer, there’s nothing like some great smoked meat complemented by your favorite barbecue sauce. You can make the sauce yourself or use your favorite bottled version—but what about when you want something different?

The test cooks at Cook’s Country developed a set of barbecue sauce recipes a few years ago that included variations for bourbon barbecue sauce and hoisin and ginger barbecue sauce. But, since I’m a big coffee fan, the one that really intrigued me was the version that used espresso powder.

This Easy Espresso Barbecue Sauce recipe involves blooming 2 tablespoons of instant espresso powder in 1 tablespoon of hot water. The blooming process really helps open up the espresso powder and bring out its flavors once you add it to the sauce.

Sign up for the Cook's Country Dinner Tonight newsletter

10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

The flavor profile of the sauce is, in one word, delicious. The espresso powder balances out the typical sweetness that comes with barbecue sauce and introduces some bitter notes. It makes the sauce deeper, richer, and significantly more savory.

But could I get away with adding some of the espresso powder to my favorite bottled sauce when I didn’t have all the ingredients to make the full recipe? 

I followed the same steps of blooming the espresso powder, added some of it to a saucepan with the bottled sauce, and heated it up to let the flavors meld. It toned down the sweetness and added some dimension. It’s a great backup, but it’s definitely worth making the recipe from scratch.

Easy Espresso Barbecue Sauce

Serves 6 to 8 (Makes 2½ cups)
Total Time: 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes cooling

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup grated onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ cups ketchup
¼ cup molasses
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce

This recipe was developed using Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce. Grate the onion on the large holes of a box grater.

1. Combine espresso powder and hot water in small bowl; let sit for 3 minutes. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic powder, chili powder, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Stir in ketchup, molasses, Worcestershire, vinegar, mustard, hot sauce, and espresso mixture and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook until flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely before serving. (Cooled sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

These grilling recipes are among our all-time favorites. Start a free trial to access them plus all our other rigorously tested, reliable recipes and reviews.

This is a members' feature.