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Roasted Cherry BBQ Sauce

A couple of weeks ago, the fine folks over at OXO sent me an email with the following subject line: “10-lb Cherry Challenge!”

“Ok,” I thought, “surely to Pete that doesn’t mean they are actually wanting to send me 10 pounds of cherries…”

Actually, that’s exactly what they wanted to do.

For the challenge, OXO partnered up with Northwest Cherry Growers to see just how creative some of us food bloggers could get with a boatload of cherries.

Cherries galore!

Luckily, we were also sent a couple of cherry pitters, a nesting bowl and colander set, and a food scale to help make quick(er) work of dealing with 10 pounds of cherries.

So what does one do when one receives 10 pounds of fruit in the mail? You sit your butt down in front of The Bachelorette season finale (what a drama-fest, by the way) and get to pitting. You also cover everything you own in old towels because, in spite of the nice little splatter guard on your cherry pitter, you’re still likely to get cherry juice all over the dang place. And then the next day, you get to cookin’.

Sauce splatters

The first thing I thought of when I knew I would need to get creative in the kitchen was cherry barbecue sauce. (I blame grill-master Boyfriend for this. He’s got broad shoulders, he can take it.) To take it just one step further, I roasted the cherries before adding them to the sauce. Remember those Roasted Strawberry Muffins? We’re going for the same effect here with our roasted cherries – bringing out some more of their sweet flavor, and adding a bit of a caramelized edge to them before marrying them with tomato sauce, sautéed onion, brown sugar, molasses, and a whole host of other flavorful ingredients. The result is a sauce that is tangy with a rich sweetness from the roasted cherries and just a little touch of heat – and since you’re making this yourself, you can boost the heat as much as you like here.

This recipe makes about 4 cups of sauce, which is plenty for packaging up in small jars and giving away…or store it in one large jar and hoard it all for yourself. Put it on chicken, pork…or be like me and eat it straight from the pot with a spoon. Heaven knows I’m not going to tell on you.

Roasted Cherry BBQ Sauce

PS: Those of you good at math will notice this only used 1 lb of cherries, which still left me with 9 lbs remaining. Stay tuned to see what else I did with those suckers!

Roasted Cherry Barbecue Sauce

5 from 3 votes
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  • 1 pound fresh sweet cherries pitted and halved (~2 cups halved cherries)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 large red onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 8- ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup unfiltered apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the cherries on the prepared baking sheet, cut-side up. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  • Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add the cherries and remaining ingredients to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.
  • Remove from heat and blend using an immersion blender until smooth (or allow to cool slightly and blend in a regular blender, but always be very careful when blending hot liquids!). At this point, assess the thickness of your sauce. If you would like it to be a bit thicker, return to the heat and simmer for another 10-20 minutes until your desired thickness. Taste and add more salt or crushed red pepper as needed/desired.
  • Allow to cool; pour into jars and store in the refrigerator.


Add more crushed red pepper flakes to increase the heat to suit your tastes.
Approximately 4 cups of sauce

While I received the aforementioned products from OXO for this post, I was in no other way compensated for participating in the challenge.


  1. What a great idea, thanks! Will give this a try with our local abundance of Michigan cherries! Since you have SO many to use: think about making (and freezing!) a big batch of Russian pirozhki. Sour cherries are a traditional filling for “desert” pirozhki, as is sweetened curd/cottage cheese. Wonderful fresh, and what a lucky reward months from now to pull from the freezer and just bake!

  2. So I definitely just had to look up what happened on the season finale because I stopped watching from severe boredom about 6 episodes ago (SO. MUCH. DRAMA.).

    But onto more important things, like this sauce… I want it. I want it all. Just gimme a spoon and I’m good.

  3. I have cherry pitter envy! I pitted about 5 pounds of cherries yesterday…with just my fingers. The bonus: they were sour cherries, which are much smaller, so there are even more to handle. That’s okay, though. The cherry pie was more than worth the effort!

    This sauce looks incredible, too. I pinned the recipe. Next time I make seitan, I’m making this sauce and hitting the grill!

  4. EVERYTHING in my house was stained a pretty red color after pitting cherries for what seemed like forever. haha 🙂

    Cherry BBQ sauce…I think I love you.

  5. Hot diggity damn, girly! Now you have a bounty of delicious sauce to use for when Alex is grilling up a storm! I love homemade bbq sauce and I’m drooling over yours! 🙂

  6. 5 stars
    So I made this and had to share this with you. I am a Hotel and Restaurant Management major and I made this to go with a grilled pork tenderloin I had to make for class. My professor told me I needed to make the barbecue sauce instead of buy it in a jar and I’M SO GLAD I MADE THIS RECIPE!!! Everyone went CRAZY for this sauce!! All of the pork (12 portions) was gone in about 30 minutes and everyone was raving about the sauce. I made a lot so I brought some home and had my dad try it because he loves anything and everything related to barbecue. Since he tried it he has not only been begging me for the recipe but also had a spoonful of just the sauce because he loved it so much. He makes barbecue slow smoked ribs during the summer and everyone raves about his cooking all the time and is super eager to try them with this sauce. I needed to share this with you. You are sitting on gold with this recipe! IF YOU HAVEN’T MADE IT YOU NEED TO!!!!

  7. I am so excited to try making this. Some friends and I picked cherries last weekend–between the three couples, we ended up with 100 lbs of cherries !!!! And we didn’t weigh those until AFTER we had pitted them all! It took all day and you can imagine the cherry juice we had everywhere, especially because all of the kids had to take turns with the pitter. So, we have quite the “cherry challenge” going now and are googling cherry recipes like crazy! Thanks for this one!

    1. I know, it was such a bummer this year! You could definitely give it a try with frozen sweet cherries if you find them, though! If you do, let me know how it works for you.

  8. Harvested 70 (yes, SEVENTY) pound of cherries this past weekend (with my husband & two young boys), so I will now be spending the next couple hours searching your site for all your cherry recipes! This will be the first one we try! We have already given MANY away, dehydrated plenty, frozen a couple gallon bags worth & eaten our weight in cherries. Yet there are still 3 grocery sacks in the fridge to be dealt with!! I’m thinking cherry balsamic glaze/sauce (canned), jam, & this bbq sauce!

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