Sweet, tangy, smokey, and just a little bit spicy, chipotle bbq sauce is perfect to serve up with chicken, slathered on ribs, poured over pulled pork, and as a marinade for just about anything. The best part is that it only takes a few minutes on the stovetop to thicken up!

Spoonful of chipotle BBQ sauce from a glass jar, with a napkin on a white background.

About this Chipotle BBQ Sauce Recipe

Made with easy to find ingredients like ketchup, spices and pantry staples, this chipotle BBQ sauce is too good to keep to myself!

It has a little bit of spice and smokiness from the chipotles in adobo sauce, balanced beautifully with the bright acidity of the cider vinegar and that signature sweetness from the brown sugar & honey.

It’s worth making your own sauces & dressings at home because you can adjust the flavors to your palette, and can control the quality of ingredients including the added sugar.

Plus I think it’s a fun way to recreate your favorite restaurant-style sauces, especially when it’s a special chipotle-flavored sauce like this one that you don’t commonly find available in the grocery store.

The best part is that this sauce only takes 5 minutes to thicken up and comes together on the stovetop – no blender or food processor required!

Pot with a spoon, filled with chipotle BBQ sauce on a white background.

Process & Tips

The beauty of this chipotle BBQ sauce is that it comes together easily in one pan on the stovetop.

Since we’re using ketchup as the base we can skip the need for a blender or food processor – making this recipe easier, faster, and involving much less clean up than many other barbecue sauce recipes out there.

And the canned chipotles in adobo sauce are such a great shortcut for adding tons of flavor without having to smoke your own chilis.

I love that they already come pre-seasoned for you in a tasty mix of pureed tomatoes, vinegar, garlic and spices.

All you need to do is give them a quick mince, add them to sauce pan with a few other ingredients, bring it to a boil and simmer for a few minutes until nice & thickened!

PS – This sauce keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days, so it’s the perfect make-ahead sauce to meal prep on busy weeks. Helps you add lots of flavor to your dishes all week long without a lot of extra effort on your part!

Glass jar filled with chipotle bbq sauce with a blue napkin on a white background.

How to Customize this Sauce

The flavor profile of barbecue sauce is such a personal preference, so I recommend customizing this recipe to your liking. 

For example, if you prefer a tangier sauce, add more vinegar, and for a sweeter option add more brown sugar. 

Molasses will work in place of some or all of the sugar, and additional chipotle can be added for a spicier sauce. 

This sauce is moderately spicy. If you want more spice, add more chipotle, if you want it less spicy, add less chipotle.

Ways to Use It

This sauce is perfect served with chicken, slathered on ribs, poured over pulled pork, or as a marinade for just about anything.

Use it to make chipotle BBQ sauce wings, dress up pulled chicken, or just as a finishing sauce to dress up any already-cooked chicken (like plain chicken breasts, chicken thighs or even leftover rotisserie chicken).

My favorite way to use it is as a sauce to make slow cooker chicken and then use all that delicious tender chicken to make BBQ Chicken Bowls with creamy cabbage slaw and this easy potato salad – so easy but so delicious!

Want to use this naturally sweetened barbeque sauce as a marinade instead? I’ve added full instructions for how to use this with chicken breasts and chicken thighs for you in the recipe card below!

A black crockpot filled with chicken breasts coated in bbq sauce, on a white background.

Ingredients & Modifications

Ketchup: The ketchup provides the thick, rich tomato-base for this BBQ sauce and adds a little bit of sweetness.

Cider vinegar: The natural acidity of the vinegar provides the perfect counterbalance to the sweetness of the ketchup, brown sugar and honey.

Brown sugar: To me, a good BBQ sauce is all about the balance between the tangy and sweet ingredients – so the brown sugar (together with the honey) really helps to balance out the natural acidity of the cider vinegar and tomato ketchup. Molasses will also work in place of some or all of the sugar.

Honey: The honey not only adds some natural sweetness but also helps to thicken the sauce. Maple syrup works as a vegan option, though the sauce will be thinner than if using honey.

Chipotle in adobo: Look for canned chipotles in adobo sauce near the salsa, hot sauce and tortillas at the grocery store (or you can find them easily online). This sauce is moderately spicy. If you want more spice, add more chipotle, if you want it less spicy, add less chipotle.

Smoked paprika: The smoked paprika adds (you guessed it!) some nice smokey flavor to the sauce without the need to actually smoke any peppers or include ingredients like liquid smoke.

Freshly cracked black pepper: Skip the pepper if you’re sensitive to heat, or add more for a spicier kick.

Kosher salt: Look for kosher salt with the regular iodized salt at the grocery store (it has a subtler flavor). Use less iodized salt if that’s what you have on hand.

How to Store & Freeze Leftover BBQ Sauce

Store covered, tightly sealed and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

To use, simply remove from the refrigerator, allow to come to room temperature, and enjoy!

Spoonful of chipotle BBQ sauce from a glass jar, with a napkin on a white background.
5 stars (1 rating)

Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Sweet, tangy, smokey, and just a little bit spicy, chipotle bbq sauce is perfect to serve up with chicken, slathered on ribs, poured over pulled pork, and as a marinade for just about anything. The best part is that it only takes a few minutes on the stovetop to thicken up!

Ingredients

  • cup ketchup
  • cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced chipotle in adobo
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Equipment

Instructions 

Sauce Instructions

  • Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook on low for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat and taste, adjust seasoning as desired.
  • Allow to cool at room temperature, then use immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to 5 days.

Chicken Marinade Instructions

  • Allow the sauce to cool completely.
  • To a zip-top bag or shallow baking dish add 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts along with ¾ cups sauce and toss to coat.
  • Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours.
  • Uncover and discard the marinade. Shake any excess marinade off the chicken.
  • Then grill over medium heat, flipping halfway through. Cook until the chicken thighs register 185F to 190F degrees or chicken breasts register 165F.
  • Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes, tented with foil. When ready to serve, slice against the grain and serve with remaining sauce.

Notes

This recipe yields about 1 cup of BBQ sauce (or about 6 servings).
For a vegan version, use maple syrup in place of honey (note that the sauce may be thinner than with honey).
For more ingredients & modifications, see the full blog post above.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 112kcal, Carbohydrates: 29g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 697mg, Potassium: 113mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 27g, Vitamin A: 551IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 15mg, Iron: 1mg
Nutrition disclaimer
Did you make this recipe?If you do, be sure to share it on Instagram and tag me at @realfoodwholelife so I can see!

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