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Whenever I have a large fruit harvest – be it peaches, Meyer lemons, figs, blackberries, or any other fruit – I always try to make some things that are savory as well as sweet. I definitely have a sweet tooth, but it’s all about balance, isn’t it?
Some of my go-to savory recipes are Fermented Sugar Rush Peach Pepper and Mango Hot Sauce and Sticky Orange Marmalade Chicken Stir Fry. But this versatile Blackberry Gochujang Barbecue Sauce has become a new favorite.
The blackberry flavor is subtle, but there. Cooking the blackberries with the other ingredients adds a fruitiness to the background of the sauce, but it’s not overly pronounced. This barbecue sauce has a balance of sweetness, fruitiness, tang, richness, and spice that makes it perfect for just about any barbecue recipe. And it tastes even better once it’s caramelized onto meat!
Growing Blackberry Bushes
My blackberry bushes are very prolific and always give me more berries than my family and I can eat fresh. I grow Apache and Navaho blackberries, both of which provide large, sweet berries throughout the summer. When my harvest comes in, I typically make jam, pie, scones or muffins, and a batch of barbecue sauce.
Blackberries are one of the easiest fruits you can grow, in my opinion. As long as you have a lot of sun and some space (although there are dwarf blackberry varieties!), you can grow blackberries. They take minimal care and attention once they are established, and they’ll give you a great harvest for years.
Learn how easy it is to prune blackberries here – The Ultimate Guide to Pruning Blackberries (with Photos)
There are blackberry varieties for every climate and taste. Check out The Best Blackberry Varieties for Cold Climates or The Best-Tasting Thornless Blackberries (9 Top Picks) to help you choose the right bushes for your growing situation.
I have tons of other blackberry resources on The Fruit Grove, including how to fertilize, troubleshooting pest problems, and tips for growing bigger and sweeter berries. Here are some highlights:
Freezing Blackberry Puree
I recommend using some of your fresh blackberry harvest to make a simple blackberry puree that you can then freeze for later use. I’ve included instructions for making a cooked blackberry puree in the recipe below, but here is the procedure for freezing fresh puree:
Blend any amount of fresh blackberries in a blender or food processor until as smooth as possible. Strain out the seeds and pulp through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard the seeds and pulp. Pour the puree into ice cube trays and freeze completely. Place the frozen cubes in a freezer-safe bag or container and keep in the freezer for up to six months.
Learn more about freezing and defrosting blackberries here: Freezing Blackberries: The Best Ways to Do It and How to Thaw Blackberries/Raspberries for the Best Texture
Use your frozen blackberry puree for just about anything – defrost it and use as a sauce for ice cream or yogurt. Swirl it into my Salted Honey and Blackberry No-Churn Ice Cream. Use the puree in baked goods or add frozen cubes into smoothies. Or…make some barbecue sauce!
If you haven’t already, make the blackberry puree by cooking the berries with some water until they are soft and have released a lot of liquid. Blend using an immersion blender (or regular blender) until smooth. Strain and discard the seeds, and set aside the smooth puree.
Sauté some onions and garlic in a small amount of oil until translucent and fragrant. Add in the strained blackberry puree, along with the molasses, brown sugar, tomato sauce, vinegar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and salt.
Simmer the mixture over medium-low heat until it has thickened and all of the flavors have come together. Stir occasionally as it simmers to prevent burning or sticking.
Add in 1 or 2 tablespoons of gochujang until it is spicy enough for your liking. Puree the sauce with an immersion blender (or regular blender) until it is completely smooth. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Ideas for Using Blackberry Gochujang Barbecue Sauce
My favorite way to use this barbecue sauce is on my Easy Blackberry Barbecue Sticky Chicken Thighs. I’ve included instructions with the barbecue sauce recipe below. Pair the barbecue chicken with this Harvest Salad with Green Apples and Meyer Lemon-Tahini Dressing for a simple and delicious weeknight meal.
This sauce would also be delicious as the base for a barbecue chicken pizza, as a sauce for your favorite rib recipe, or as a dip for chicken nuggets. Have fun experimenting!
Blackberry Gochujang Barbecue Sauce
- Blender, food processor, or immersion blender
- Medium-mesh sieve
- 4 cups blackberries about 20 ounces
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons avocado oil or other neutral oil
- ½ white or yellow onion chopped
- 4-6 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1-2 tablespoons Gochujang
To make the barbecue sauce:
- Place the blackberries and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the blackberries have softened. Use an immersion blender to puree the blackberry mixture (or, carefully pour into a blender or food processor and pulse until pureed). Pour the blackberry puree through a medium-mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Discard the seeds and pulp, and set the seedless puree aside.
- Rinse out the saucepan and place back on the stove. Add in the oil and heat over medium heat. Add in the chopped onion and sauté until softened and translucent. Add the minced garlic and sauté for about a minute, or until fragrant.
- Pour the strained berry liquid back into the pot, and add all of the other ingredients except for the gochujang (molasses, brown sugar, tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and salt). Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to cook for about 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened and can coat the back of a spoon.
- Add in 1 to 2 tablespoons of gochujang, depending on the level of spice you like. Use an immersion blender (or regular blender/food processor) to puree the sauce until completely smooth. Strain again if you want an extremely smooth sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Transfer the sauce to a jar or bottle. Keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Freeze for up to 3 months.
To make Easy Blackberry Barbecue Sticky Chicken Thighs:
- Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Season 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
- Lay the seasoned chicken thighs in the baking dish in a single layer with a little space between. Roast in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.
- Remove the chicken thighs from the oven. Brush on a layer of Blackberry Gochujang Barbecue Sauce and bake for another 10 minutes, until the sauce is caramelized and the chicken is golden brown. Do a second layer of barbecue sauce if you like it really sticky!
- Make and freeze blackberry puree in advance to make this recipe even easier.
- Depending on how sweet or tart your berries are, you may need to add a little more brown sugar/molasses or vinegar. Adjust to your taste!