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Recipe: Franklin Barbecue’s BBQ Sauce

Aaron Franklin’s homemade barbecue sauces go best with his iconic brisket and ribs

Wyatt McSpadden

Austin's Franklin Barbecue is the Mecca of Texas ‘cue. Fans rightfully make pilgrimages to the restaurant from around the country, waiting in line often for hours for a taste of pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s smoky, rich brisket with its perfect crust. Franklin’s book Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto, which came out in April, passionately and carefully explains how to smoke brisket over the course of its 213 pages, says Helen Rosner in her review.

For die-hard barbecue fans willing to work their way through the book to smoke brisket Franklin's way, we wish you well. But, July 4th isn't necessarily about that type of barbecue — at least not for most of us. It's about firing up the backyard grill and doing what we can to not burn the burgers or beer can chicken, a place where sauce can come in handy to cover up any charred (err, burned) spots from grill flare ups. It instantly adds sweetness, a tinge of acid, and a touch of spice. And for this we turn to Franklin.

At Franklin Barbecue, espresso sauce and a classic sauce come on the side for those who want to dunk their brisket or ribs into the dark potions for an extra hit of flavor. You can use them the same way, serving them alongside anything that comes off the grill (or cast iron skillet), or baste your grilled meat just a few minutes before it hops off the flame to add a caramelized coat (be careful to add it towards the end; sugars can burn on a grill). Try the espresso sauce on pork and beef and the classic sauce with just about any meat you might serve this season.

Aaron Franklin’s Espresso Barbecue Sauce Recipe

Makes about 2 cups


1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) freshly pulled espresso
Brisket drippings, for flavoring


Mix the ketchup, both vinegars, the soy sauce, garlic and onion powders, and sugar together in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, stir in the espresso, and then add the brisket drippings to taste. Let cool, then transfer to a jar, bottle, squeeze bottle, or however you want to store it. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Aaron Franklin’s Classic Barbecue Sauce Recipe

Makes about 3 cups


1 3/4 cups ketchup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 tablespoons plus 11/2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons plus 11/2 teaspoons
Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and warm gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally. There is no need to bring the mixture to a boil, as the idea is just to warm it enough to melt and integrate the ingredients. Once you have done that, remove from the heat and let cool. Transfer to a jar, bottle, squeeze bottle, or however you want to store it. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Franklin Barbecue

900 East 11th Street, , TX 78702 (512) 653-1187 Visit Website