Mean, Meaner, Meanest Barbecue Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

An adjustable sauce that lets you be as sweet or mean as you like.



Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Equipmentfood processor

Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, hot & spicy, savory, sweet, tangy, tart

Type of Dishbarbecue sauce


  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 largeyellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions (green onions), sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 fresh ripe large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, seeded, cored, and diced
  • 1 large sweet yellow pepper, seeded, cored, and diced
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (meaner)
  • 2 fresh cayenne peppers or small hot red chiles, seeded and minced (meanest)
  • 1 can (35 ounces) tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Heat half the oil in a large saucepan or a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, scallions, garlic, fresh tomatoes, and red and yellow peppers. For a meaner sauce, add the jalapeño peppers; for the meanest sauce, add both the jalapeño and cayenne peppers. Sauté for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and purée in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Return to the saucepan.

  2. Process the canned tomatoes with their liquid, the sugar, and remaining oil in the food processor until smooth. Add to the saucepan. Stir in the chili powder, oregano, cloves, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer uncovered over low heat for 45 minutes.


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