Coffee and Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce

Coffee adds a deep, rich note to traditional barbecue sauce. Brew up some strong coffee and try this coffee and brown sugar barbecue sauce for your next batch of short ribs or barbecued chicken wings. Keep in mind that different coffees have different flavors, and you can make subtle changes to this recipe by using different coffee beans. Try it with a Sumatran or Ethiopian coffee to bring in an earthy, sweet molasses flavor without the molasses.

Coffee and Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh garlic
  • 1 large chopped onion (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark molasses
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 6 large tomatoes, peeled, chopped and seeded or
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup freshly brewed strong coffee


  • Medium saucepan
  • Paring knife
  • Slotted spoon or strainer
  • Bowl of ice water
  • Food mill or food processor
  • Heavy large saucepan
  • Wooden spoon or spatula

Preparing the Tomatoes

You can skip this part if you’re using a can of crushed tomatoes. I love the taste of fresh tomatoes from my garden in this recipe, though — and it’s a great way to use up tomatoes that aren’t pretty enough for salads or to give away.

  1. In the medium saucepan, heat 1 1/2 quarts of water to boiling.
  2. Remove the core from the top of each tomato and slice a small, shallow X in the each bottom.
  3. Gently lower the tomatoes into the boiling water. I like to use a strainer basket for this and do two or three at a time. That gives them enough room to heat uniformly and still allows me to get them in and out quickly so the insides don’t start cooking.
  4. Leave them in the boiling water 15 to 25 seconds, until the skins just start to wrinkle.
  5. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and immediately dump them into the bowl of ice water.
  6. From there, it’s a simple matter to slip the skins off and scoop out as many of the seeds as you can.
  7. Chop the tomatoes or put them through a food processor or food mill.

Preparing the Barbecue Sauce

  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and the garlic and saute until the onions are translucent and soft, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula — about 7 minutes.
  3. Add the brown sugar and spices.
  4. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not bring it to a boil or allow the mixure to start to bubble.
  5. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth and the coffee.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  7. Reduce the heat under the sauce and let it simmer uncovered until the sauce is thickened, about 35 minutes. Stir frequently to keep it from sticking.
  8. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make ahead and chill for up to a week in the refrigerator, or use it immediately for pork, chicken or beef, or as a sauce for rice or polenta.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.