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“Daddy” Bruce’s Barbecue Sauce

“Daddy” Bruce’s Barbecue Sauce 20.000

Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

May 17, 2021

“Daddy” Bruce Randolph Sr. remains a legend in Denver more than 25 years after his death in 1994, not just for his barbecue but for his humanitarian work. The secret to his ‘cue was his sauce, a recipe that Randolph credited to his beloved grandmother, a freed slave who raised him. Described as a cross between an “eastern North Carolina sauce and a Deep South barbecue sauce,” this thin, vinegar-heavy condiment reflects Randolph’s roots in the South. The sauce’s tangy qualities could divide Denverites who were not raised on a tradition of vinegary barbecue. But as Randolph once told a journalist, it’s the sauce that makes the difference, not the wood smoke.

The sauce should be stored in a glass container, such as a Mason jar, and should be shaken well before applying to finished barbecue.

Total time: 20 mins

Make Ahead: The sauce is best if made several days before serving.

Storage Notes: The sauce can be refrigerated in a glass container with a tightfitting lid for up to two months.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 20 servings; makes 5 cups; about 1/4 cup per serving

  • 2 cups apple cider or white vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely grated or minced
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely ground black pepper

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In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the vinegar, ketchup, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, hot sauce, garlic, salt and pepper until combined. Increase the heat to medium high and cook, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and transfer to a lidded jar.

Use right away or refrigerate until needed. Shake well before serving.

Recipe Source

Adapted from “Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue” by Adrian Miller (The University of North Carolina Press, 2021).

Tested by Ann Maloney.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per 1/4-cup serving: 58

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 0g 0%

Saturated Fat: 0g 0%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 829mg 35%

Total Carbohydrates: 15g 5%

Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%

Sugar: 14g

Protein: 0g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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