Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

Yes, yes, I know – who the hell makes barbecue sauce when it’s 85 degrees out?  I the hell do, thank you very much.  When you’ve had a seriously crazy couple of weeks, you worked last night until 1:00 am, and you still have 5 lbs of rhubarb wilting in the fridge, you make barbecue sauce when the sun shines.

Despite the fact that it’s about 95 degrees in my kitchen right now, this sauce was a delightful surprise.  Kind of like a plum sauce, kind of like a sweet-n-sour sauce, with the texture of a traditional, tomato-based barbecue sauce, the tartness of the rhubarb, the sweetness of the honey and the spiciness of the habanero combined to make this a wonderful experiment, and one I’m sure to repeat.  If you have your own rhubarb plants, or rhubarb is overflowing at the farmer’s market, this recipe can easily be doubled – the sauce is so tasty, I’m sure I’ll find many uses for it all year round.

Not what you’re looking for? See other tasty rhubarb recipes here.

Adapted from Victorian Barbecue Sauce in the Ball Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry & L. Devine.


Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce


  • 3 lbs rhubarb (about 9 cups), trimmed and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 medium red onion (size of a baseball), diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 cups raisins, chopped (about 3/4 lb)
  • 1 medium orange habañero pepper, seeded and minced (reserve seeds to adjust heat at the end)
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp sea salt


  1. If canning, prepare canner, jars and lids.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a medium stockpot.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Lower heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened, about 30-45 minutes (a splatter screen is highly recommended here). Once the fruit has softened enough to crush easily (about 20 minutes), blend the sauce with an immersion blender, or by transferring to a blender or food processor.
  3. When sauce has reached desired thickness (leave it a little thinner than you want, as it will thicken on cooling), taste and adjust seasonings (add any reserved chile seeds here to bump up the heat).
  4. Ladle hot sauce into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Allow to rest in the water bath for 5 minutes, then remove (keeping upright) and allow to cool completely before labeling and storing.

Yields about 3 pints of a thick sauce, about 4 pints for a thin sauce.


  1. The original recipe called for 8 cups rhubarb, 3 and 1/2 cups brown sugar, 1 and 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup onion and 1/2 cup white vinegar.  Since I added a bit more onion and the habanero peppers (non-acidic vegetables), I increased the fruit and vinegar in order to balance the pH. Please note: I am not a food scientist.  The Ball recipes are tested for safe canning pH, and generally they tell you not to make any changes.  I believe that this sauce is plenty acidic enough for safe home canning with the added fruit & vinegar, but if you are concerned, please consider making the original recipe, canning in a pressure canner, or storing in the refirgerator and using within 2 months.  If this is your first time canning, please educate yourself about home canning safely, food pH and botulism.
  2. The habanero adds a nice kick of spiciness on the finish, but this is not a very spicy sauce.  If you like it hot, include the seeds and perhaps add one more habanero (be careful of adding too much of a non-acidic vegetable if you are canning).  If you can’t handle the heat, you can omit the peppers entirely.


Canned, at room temperature, in the dark, for up to 1 year.  Refrigerated for up to 2 months.



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  1. hey there
    we were awarded with you today over on naturalweddingcompany blog, I have just been having a read your blog is lovely – I have 5lb rhubarb in my veggie plot so you have given me great inspiration (i only wish it was 85 degrees here!!!

  2. So far, I have only bake Rhubarb pies. I wanted to try other rhubarb recipes and this will be a good one to do. I think the sauce will be a nice gift to bring along to a friend’s house for dinner. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Just discovered you blog on Pinterest while looking for something to do with the load of rhubarb i have left in the freezer from last season…AWESOME! I just finished making a batch, and I will for sure be making it and canning it this season! Thank you for such an amazing recipe!

  10. Hi Hannah,

    Thanks much for the kind words! I am a wee bit obsessed with rhubarb, so make sure you check out the rhubarb section of the Preserves index: http://localkitchenblog.com/recipes/preserves/ Lots of good ideas.

    Unfortunately, the design for this label, in MS Word, at least, was really fiddly and kind of a pain to work with, which is why I abandoned it. There are, however, step-by-step instructions for another label design, that you can do yourself in Word, here: http://localkitchenblog.com/2010/10/14/labels-a-tutorial/

    All of the labels shown here http://localkitchenblog.com/labels/ were done in MS Word. So if you have time, and a little patience, you can come up with your own perfect labels!


    • awesome, thanks for the links too, Kaela! Looking forward to more rhubarb recipes…it’s starting to come up this spring already here in Ohio! Can’t wait, I just love the stuff but have only ever made sweets with it….i suppose the bbq is pretty sweet…but, it’s not a dessert, and i love that!
      I have some experience in PS, so i’m sure i could come up with a label, just loved yours! I”ll check out the tutorial! Thanks for sharing!


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  12. Mark Derengowski

    Just got finished making a double batch. I was short on raisins but had enough craisins (dried cranberries) to measure out enough. I also added some black pepper, paprika and whorchester sauce. Its finger lickin good.

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  14. Jim Harper

    I came to this website because I didn’t believe that there was enough liquid in it to bring to a boil. It is now ten minutes later and there is plenty of liquid from the rhubarb. I didn’t add any more vinegar. I also added some jalapenos, because I like a little kick too.

    Jim Harper

    • Hi Jim,

      Be careful about adding jalapenos, unless you intend to freeze, refrigerate or pressure-can the sauce: adding additional low-acid vegetables like jalapenos may adversely affect the safety for water-bath canning. If I were you, I might add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vinegar to be on the safe side, depending on how many you added.

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