Multi-purpose bourbon sauce recipe you can use with chicken wings, pork ribs, grilled steak, salmon and more.
- Go straight to the Recipe Card or
- Read on for relevant tips and step-by-step video + pictures (2 mins)
About This Recipe
Flavor-wise this bourbon sauce works really well with a variety of proteins and even with grilled veggies and grilled fruit such as pineapple or peaches. It is rich, yet balanced with the unmistakable flavors of bourbon at the forefront dissolving into a medley of sweet, sour, umami and salty. There is no alcohol burn to distract the palate – practically all of it is cooked off while the tasty concoction simmers.
After you’ve made it once you will have a good idea about how to tweak it to suit your own taste preferences – from adding heat by way of cayenne or pepper to weaving in the flavors of honey or maple syrup. In short – our base recipe is friendly to culinary interpretation. On average it yields just over a cup of flavor loaded sauce with the silky consistency and the sheen of a glaze.
You Will Need
- Butter, onion and garlic. Always use unsalted butter to sauté the two aromatics in. The caramelized sugars of both onion and garlic create a strong flavor base.
- Bourbon. Use genuine bourbon whiskey which will impart its unique sweetness to the sauce.
- Brown sugar. Dark brown sugar lends more complexity to the sauce. To build up on that you can customize the recipe by adding maple syrup or honey, but try it as written first.
- Soy sauce and Worcestershire. We recommend low sodium soy sauce if you have it on hand. Feel free to increase the quantity of Worcestershire if you know you generally like more acidity.
What makes Bourbon Bourbon? In order for a whiskey to be classified as bourbon it needs to meet strict criteria. First and foremost it must be distilled from a grain mixture of at least 51% corn. It must be aged in brand new charred oak barrels and not have any additives such as color agents.
We always grate the onion when making this sauce because its flavor seems to get better integrated this way (the sauce is strained at end). Alternatively you can chop the onion very, very fine (which amounts to a bit more work we happily avoid).
- Mix. Don’t fret over dissolving the brown sugar into the bourbon, soy sauce and Worcestershire. It will melt once the sauce begins to simmer.
- Make the base. Allow adequate time for the grated onion and minced garlic to infuse the butter, cooking over low heat.
- Simmer and strain. Once the sauce has thickened use a fine mesh sieve to strain it. Press the mixture with the back of a spoon to force it through. See under the Recipe Card for what to do with the richly flavored onion and garlic solids, you do not have to discard them.
TIP: To convert this sauce into a Bourbon BBQ sauce add 3/4 cup of ketchup to the pan at the time you add the bourbon mixture. Stir well and reduce the sauce to your desired consistency. Use a hand held blender in the end to create a smooth mixture.
Ways to Enjoy Bourbon Sauce
- Drizzle. This sauce successfully elevates the flavors of grilled steak, pork chops, fish or shrimp. We also like it over steamed soy beans instead of the plain soy reduction we use.
- Toss. Gently toss baked chicken wings or grilled shrimp in bourbon sauce to evenly coat them all over.
- Brush. Use as a glaze for pan seared salmon, skillet pork chops, thinly sliced ahi tuna, baked pork ribs and more.
- Marinate. To use as a marinade simply add a bit more acidity to the bourbon sauce (ideally by way of more Worcestershire, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, sherry vinegar or balsamic). Also add a tablespoon or so of neutral cooking oil. These additions will thin it out a bit and get it closer to the ingredient ratio for marinades.
TIP: To make bourbon chicken first cut chicken thighs or breast into bite sized pieces. Toss in corn starch, pan-fry until crispy and drain over paper towels. Make the bourbon sauce as per the instructions above and add the crispy chicken bites to the pan at the stage where you let the sauce simmer to reduce and become sticky. Stir around to make sure each piece of chicken is nicely coated in sauce. Enjoy!
How Long Does It Keep For?
If you have a leftover quantity or are simply interested in making a double batch to have on hand, you can store the bourbon sauce refrigerated in an air tight container or small jar. It will save well for at least a month. Bring it to room temperature before using (the butter will solidify in the fridge) or warm it up over low heat in a sauce pan.
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- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 medium onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup bourbon whiskey
- 1/4 cup soy sauce (low sodium recommended)
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Grate the onion on the fine side of a box grated. Mince the garlic. Set aside.
- Whisk together the brown sugar, bourbon, soy sauce and Worcestershire.
- In a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat melt the butter, add the grated onion and minced garlic, stir and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the bourbon mixture and stir to combine. Simmer until the sauce reduces by about a third or to your desired consistency. Strain through a fine sieve and allow to cool down a bit. See below on what you can do with the paste collected in the sieve.
Bourbon BBQ Sauce
To turn this shiny, sticky sauce into a fuller-body barbecue style sauce all you need to do is add 3/4 cup of good quality ketchup sauce to the pan at the same time you add the bourbon and brown sugar mixture. Stir and allow the concoction to reduce over low heat to your desired consistency. Then blend to desired smoothness.
Bourbon Compound Butter
See right below for step-by-step demonstration on how to make compound butter with the flavorful solids that remain after you strain the bourbon sauce.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 78Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 331mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 0gSugar: 12gProtein: 1g
Servings number to calculate nutritional information is a guideline and depends on your personal preferences.
Bourbon Sauce Compound Butter
Once you have strained the bourbon sauce save the thick tasty paste and add it to a stick of room temperature unsalted butter. Combine the two well (fork or mixer) and store wrapped in wax paper, refrigerated. This compound butter is delicious over a grilled steak or a baked potato.