If you grew up in the Midwest like I did, or maybe just in the States, it stands to reason you might be familiar with Grape Jelly Barbecue Sauce. It’s the base sauce for all those classic barbecue type meatballs that are served out of slow cookers at so many parties, potlucks, and get-togethers. They’re just about ubiquitous, and like many simple recipes are either loved or reviled.
I think with any recipe that becomes an American standard, and does so because it is so well-loved can start to seem a little tired as the decades pass, and a recipe like this that’s so easy can be viewed as being a little bit every day; unsophisticated maybe? “Based” as the kids say these days. A few simple little upgrades, though, take that sauce and make it something that’s stand-out delish! Or “Extra,” you will. If you love those meatballs, you’re gonna love this sauce and if you’re on the fence? Well keep an open mind and give this a try.
About Grape Jelly Barbecue Sauce, Updated:
I’ve always had a few top-secret Ninja ways with the Grape Jelly Barbecue Sauce, and if you want to take a peek, I have a few of these ingredients in my Top Secret Super Stealth Arsenal of Ingredients. The key ones that come into play in this super easy sauce are dried mustard powder, vinegar, and a little liquid smoke. And I’m not shy at all with that mustard powder! It’s transformative. This year, I added a touch of Chipotle powder instead of my standard cayenne, and I think it took this little sauce over the top. You can use whichever you have handy; it’s not about the heat, it’s about adding a little touch of backbone to the flavors.
Part of what makes this taste so good is than instead of using ketchup like some of these barbecue sauces do, I use Heinz chili sauce. That’s what I was told to use the first time I tasted Barbecue meatballs and asked for the recipe, probably way back in the early 1980s and that’s what I’ve stuck with ever since. That chili sauce already has a whole lot of flavory notes so there’s not a lot needed to add to the recipe. My little touches just help the whole works not be quite so sweet and they add a little complexity. While I always use the Heinz chili sauce, I don’t always use grape jelly. This is fantastic made with cherry preserves or blackberry jam. Maybe even better! If you have several different jams or jelly in the fridge, you can always combine them in this recipe.
I think you’re gonna love this sauce, and it’s going to make you look like a hero not just when you make barbecue meatballs or if you use it to baste something like my Instant Pot Barbecue Drumsticks. Make sure to set aside some when you serve! When you serve this sauce, people are seriously gonna sit up and take notice! You could never go wrong with using this sauce anywhere else you want a good, thick, slightly sweet sauce. Maybe you’ll want to top a meatloaf? Barbecue chicken? Add to any type of pulled pork sandwich? Actually, it kind of reminds me of the flavors in my Slower Cooker Pulled Pork or Brisket.
Making Grape Jelly Barbecue Sauce, Updated:
Grape Jelly Barbecue Sauce, Updated is super simple to make and takes very little time to simmer away and meld all the flavors together. It has the texture and complexity of something that might come off the back burner at a barbecue joint with none of the time investment, tons of ingredients, or hassle. I love that because it’s like a cheat! Hardly any work, but you still get all the kudos!
If you do decide to use another jam or jelly other than the grape originally called for in the recipe, I’d recommend not using anything too chunky; it’s kind fo distracting while you’re eating! I’ve found that these days unless you’re going for a specialty jam or preserves, there’s rarely any actual chunks in them, anyway. Just be aware.
This recipe will be significantly thicker after it’s cooled and can get very thick in the fridge. Just feel free to thin it out with a little warm water; there won’t be enough additional water needed to affect the flavor. If you are barbecuing inside in the oven or in the Instant Pot, you might try adding in a tablespoon or two of whatever juices you have in the bottom of the pan to the sauce. It never hurts to add a little extra sumpin’ sumpin’ in the flavor department!
Of course when you make this recipe if you have special little touches of your own you like to add to your barbecue sauces, feel free to use this as a base and doctor it up! I’d actually LOVE to hear about them. Maybe you add Worcestershire or Molasses? Or maybe you have your own top-secret super Ninja ways?
Saving Money on Grape Jelly Barbecue Sauce, Updated:
I just don’t eat a lot of jams, jellies or preserves, so I’m always looking for ways to use up the partial jars that are in my fridge. like I mentioned above, a recipe like this is a fantastic way to combine – this is so forgiving and so good that it really hardly matters what you put in. I do tend to stick towards the darker end of the jam/jelly spectrum. I think the deeper flavors play off the chili sauce.
When the kids were young, I think we always had jelly in the house. look for it on special and stock up. It’s a great item to apply a coupon to if you’re a couponer. Don’t discount the off brands; I sometimes think they’re actually better than some of the name brands.
I use chili sauce in a couple of recipes but it’s not a kitchen or pantry “standard” and I don’t usually see it on sale that often. Where I do tend to see it is in the discount cart that’s sometimes in the back of the store. The standard “best if used by” date doesn’t really seem to apply. The worst that can happen is that the sugars in a bottle might caramelize a little bit inside the jar after several years but I doubt you’ll find at the store – even the discount bin chili sauce won’t be THAT old! If that does happen to a bottle in your pantry, it will be just a touch darker than usual. It’s still perfectly fine. You may also find chili sauce on sale in those store specials where if you buy so many items of a certain brand, you’ll get so much off at the checkout.Print
Grape Jelly Barbecue Sauce, Updated
There’s a reason this oddity of a recipe, Grape Jelly Barbecue Sauce has stood the test of time…it’s super easy & insanely delicious! Add a few “modern ingredients” and it’s even better!
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes plus time to cool
- Yield: about 2 cups 1x
- Category: Condiments
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American Barbecue
- 1 bottle Heinz chili sauce
- 1 small jar (10 to 11 ounces) of grape jelly or equivalent (see note)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider or white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
In a medium-sized saucepan over low heat, combine the Heinz Chili Sauce and the jelly. Thoroughly warm and once the jelly is melted, add the vinegar. Frugal tip: pour the vinegar first into the empty chili sauce jar and shake to encourage the rest of the sauce left in the bottle to come out.
While stirring, add the mustard powder, chipotle powder, and black pepper. Heat through and simmer three to four minutes or until close to desired thickness. Remove from heat, add liquid smoke and remove to another container to cool; it will thicken as it does.
Optional: If you’re cooking any barbecue to go along with this sauce, add a tablespoon or two of the cooking liquid/drippings to this sauce. It will add a little complexity.
For a variation, try another jelly; Cherry jelly or preserves are wonderful; just don’t use anything too chunky.
Keywords: Condiments, Barbecue, Barbecue Sauce