Tart and tangy, with just a little bit of sweet and smoky complexity, this rhubarb BBQ sauce is a unique and unexpected twist that is perfect for grilling season!  Delicious on grilled chicken, pork, ribs, and burgers, this barbecue sauce is a savory switch-up on an ingredient that is most often found baked into pies!

Tart and tangy, with just a little bit of sweet and smoky complexity, this rhubarb BBQ sauce is a unique and unexpected twist that is perfect for grilling season!  Delicious on grilled chicken, pork, ribs, and burgers, this barbecue sauce is a savory switch-up on an ingredient that is most often found baked into pies!

Rhubarb BBQ Sauce Grilled Chicken

Whenever rhubarb starts popping up in the store, I stock up because it’s so seasonal!  The beautiful red-green stalks make an appearance in my area of the country in early spring, although it’s season goes through mid-summer depending on where you live geographically.

And if you are lucky enough, you might even have access to a rhubarb plant, which tend to be super hardy and come back year after year so all you have to do is cut off the crown of toxic leaves (yes, rhubarb leaves are poisonous, but the stalks are totally safe and delicious to eat).

Rhubarb freezes well so I always buy lots, then chop it up at home and freeze it in large freezer size bags for use during the off season.  You can sometimes find this work done for you in the freezer aisle, too, if your grocery store doesn’t have fresh rhubarb in stock.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to rhubarb, my mind immediately jumps to desserts.  Like the quintessential strawberry rhubarb pie.  But also tasty little strawberry rhubarb crumb bars or thick and cinnamony strawberry rhubarb coffee cake.  Then there is rhubarb jam, rhubarb muffins, and more.  But I don’t see it used in savory dishes as often.

The reason for this is that rhubarb is so tart on its own that it basically requires some sugar to make it edible unless you seriously love pucker-inducing levels of tartness.

But if you think about it’s tart and sour tendencies and compare it to lemons, rhubarb can actually go well with fish and meat dishes also.

For my first foray into the world of savory rhubarb recipes, I decided to attempt a homemade barbecue sauce.

An image of a jar of homemade rhubarb barbecue sauce with stalks of rhubarb around it.An image of a jar of homemade rhubarb BBQ sauce with rhubarb stalks around it.

Now, I’ll admit that I usually buy my barbecue sauce, but this homemade version was so easy to make that it left me wondering why I haven’t tried making it at home before now!  Aside from softening the onions, all it takes is to simmer the rest of the ingredients in a pot, then puree in a blender until your sauce is a consistency you like.

An image of a saucepan on the stovetop with chopped rhubarb, onion, brown sugar, molasses and other ingredients for homemade rhubarb bbq sauce.

If you like your sauce a little more sweet side, add a little extra sugar.  If you want it spicy, up the amount of hot sauce or chipotle powder.  You can blend it super smooth or leave it with just a touch more texture.  I love how this seriously straightforward rhubarb bbq sauce recipe is totally customizable depending on your preferences.

An image of a plate of grilled bbq chicken quarters with rhubarb bbq sauce.

Grilled Bone-In Chicken

We always look forward to grilling season and bone-in chicken legs and quarters are one of my favorite cuts of meat on the grill, especially when cooked properly.  Not only are they cheaper than boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but they tend to do better on the grill because the bones and skin help keep the meat moist and juicy instead of drying out.

A baking sheet with raw chicken quarters on it, ready for grilling on a gas grill.

This technique works for bone-in chicken breasts as well as legs, thighs, and quarters, although the cooking times may need to be adjusted depending on the cut or size of the meat.  Here is how we grill bone-in chicken leg and thigh quarters on a gas grill:

  1. Heat up the grill.  Whether you are cooking with gas or charcoal briquettes, you will want the grill hot before you put your meat on it.  Turn all the burners on medium-high, if using a gas grill, and close the lid.  Or get your charcoal going if you are taking that route.
  2. Season the chicken with a little salt (since we are going to slather with bbq sauce later on, no need to get crazy with additional seasoning here) and gather the tools you will need like tongs to flip chicken with, a clean tray for when the chicken is done, and a basting brush for brushing on the BBQ sauce.
  3. When the grill has reached 400-450 degrees inside (most grills have notoriously unreliable temperature gauges on the outside so I just stick an oven thermometer in there right on the grill grates), turn off one burner and brush that side of the grill with a little vegetable oil.  Then set your chicken pieces on there skin side down and shut the lid.  This is grilling over indirect heat since your chicken pieces won’t actually be over the flames at this point.
  4. Cook the chicken for about 7-10 minutes on the first side (10-15 minutes if cooking bone-in chicken breasts) before flipping, closing the lid again, and cooking for another 7-10 minutes.  Time will vary depending on just how how your grill is and the size of your chicken pieces.
  5. Flip the chicken again and move to the area of the grill that is directly over the flames (the direct heat area).  Grill just until the skin is well browned and crisp, about 3-5 minutes.  When the chicken is getting close to 165 degrees for breasts or 180 degrees for legs and thighs when tested with an instant read meat thermometer, it is almost done and you can brush on the barbecue sauce.  During this last portion of grilling when the meat is over direct heat, be careful to stay close to the grill and watch for any flare-ups.  You can always move the meat back to the indirect heat side of the grill if it needs more time to cook through.
  6. Serve with extra rhubarb bbq sauce on the side.

An image of an instant read meat thermometer at 180 degrees F for barbecue chicken legs and thighs on the grill, with grilled vegetables on the side.An image of a grilled chicken leg and thigh covered in homemade rhubarb bbq sauce with grilled vegetables and steak fries on the side.

More Savory Rhubarb Recipes:

Roast Chicken with Rhubarb Butter and Asparagus

Noodles with Kale and Spicy Rhubarb Sauce

Pork Chops with Rhubarb Cherry Sauce

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce with Grilled Chicken
Yield: 6 people

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce with Grilled Chicken

Tart and tangy, with just a little bit of sweet and smoky complexity, this rhubarb BBQ sauce is a unique and unexpected twist that is perfect for grilling season!  Delicious on grilled chicken, but equally tasty on pork, ribs, and burgers, this barbecue sauce is a savory switch-up on an ingredient that is most often found baked into pies!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup rhubarb, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Grilled Bone-In Chicken

  • 6 large chicken pieces, bone-in, skin-on
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

Sauce

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan of medium heat.  Add the onions and sautè for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. 
  2. Add in all of the remaining ingredients and stir until combined.  When the sauce starts bubbling, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb is tender. 
  3. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Be careful if the sauce is still hot as it can create pressure with the lid on.  I just cover the top of my blender with a towel while I blend the hot sauce.  The sauce will be thicken as it cools, but may be thinned with water to reach your desired consistency.
  4. Store in the refrigerator and use to baste chicken,pork chops or tenderloin, ribs, or other meat on the grill, or use it with pulled pork or in any recipe that calls for BBQ sauce.

Grilled Chicken

  1. Heat up the grill to medium-high with a closed lid until it reaches 400 degrees F.  Season the chicken with salt.
  2. When the grill is hot, turn off one burner and brush that side of the grill with vegetable oil.  Set the chicken pieces on that side of the grill (indirect heat) skin side down and shut the lid. 
  3. Cook for  7-10 minutes on the first side before flipping, closing the lid again, and cooking for another 7-10 minutes. 
  4. Flip the chicken again and move to the area of the grill that is directly over the flames (the direct heat area). Grill just until the skin is well browned and crisp, about 3-5 minutes.  
  5. Flip the chicken and brush with rhubarb bbq sauce, then finish cooking until the chicken reaches165 degrees for breasts or 180 degrees for legs and thighs when tested with an instant read meat thermometer.
  6. Serve with extra rhubarb bbq sauce on the side.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 177 Sodium: 377mg Carbohydrates: 38g Sugar: 34g Protein: 1g