Chicken Drumsticks with Easy Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe – In just 15 minutes of simmering, you’ll have an irresistible smoky, tangy, and sweet homemade BBQ sauce – made without ketchup, only canned tomato sauce, a little brown sugar, molasses, and spices – to slather on skinless chicken drumsticks! Serve them as an appetizer, game day snack, or entree.
This post is sponsored by Tuttorosso Tomatoes.
When Daniel and I got back together late last May, we decided to bring date nights into our lives. And if it sounds unbearably obvious to date the person you’re in a relationship with, I hear you. Before I committed to them, I was caught somewhere between thinking date nights were like that beautiful Snapchat filter that evens out your skin and makes your eyes bigger, and something couples who have more formal relationships did.
Maybe because I was so stars-in-my-eyes happy to be with this guy again, I didn’t have it in me to take a second for granted. Older and wiser, or something. But the decision to commit to dating him was something I remembered from my friend Ashley Rodriguez, writer the blog Not Without Salt, who I met in person last March in Seattle while shooting the photos for my cookbook. Ashley has a crack-your-heart-open love with her husband Gabe and a beautiful philosophy on dating the one you’re with—largely by cooking together at home. She wrote a cookbook, Date Night In, on the very subject, and there’s love on every page.
So for a year now, Daniel and I have kept this ritual date night. Every Friday or Saturday (and hey, sometimes it’s a weeknight), we’ll decide on going out or staying in and cooking together. Lately, we’re in a real cooking phase and I’d call this our BBQ moment because everything, and I mean everything—from the roasted chicken I made on Monday night to black beans to our favorite meatloaf to these chicken drumsticks is getting glazed in BBQ sauce or some type of smoky rub. But this is our way: We find something we love (like homemade BBQ sauce) and eat it (or guzzle it) nonstop until we can’t any longer (because we’ve drowned). Another reason I know Daniel’s my person.
And so, our latest BBQ love:
Chicken Drumsticks with Homemade BBQ Sauce
Tender BBQ chicken is a special kind of comfort food. There’s just nothing like that smoky sweet flavor, and the way it caramelizes and crisps on the outside of the chicken as it cooks. When it comes to the chicken part of the barbecue chicken equation, I like using drumsticks because they’re more tender than white meat, more fun to pick up and eat, and if you’re ever thinking of serving these as an appetizer or snack, a smaller portion is always nice. But the chicken isn’t the clincher here; the sauce is.
If you had asked me about homemade BBQ sauce a week ago, I would have told you the same thing that most others would, Who has the time? It seemed too fussy. But that was before I realized how easy homemade BBQ sauce can really be. Turns out, it doesn’t require a million ingredients (that are never in your cabinet) and it also doesn’t need hours of simmering. Homemade BBQ sauce can be quick.
The other good news is that you can make it without ketchup being such a large part of the base of the recipe. And I say that with no disrespect to ketchup, or even recipes using ketchup (self-proclaimed ketchup lover here); I just wanted something that was tomato-based, but not already doctored-up with sugar and other flavors. Here’s what worked instead: a can of Tuttorosso tomato sauce, because it’s rich and sweet as is. And to thicken it slightly while bringing out even more of that concentrated tomato flavor, I added 1 tablespoon Tuttorosso tomato paste.
To that, I stirred in molasses, a signature of BBQ sauces, and brown sugar, for sweetness, a little cider vinegar, spicy brown mustard, and soy sauce for acidity, and chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne, for flavor and a kick of heat. To give it that woodsy, smokehouse flavor, I added a splash of liquid smoke–a very necessary ingredient if you don’t have it.
In just 15 minutes of simmering, I had an irresistible smoky, tangy, and sweet homemade BBQ sauce to slather on my skinless chicken drumsticks (you can buy them skinless or just peel the skin off yourself!). That rich tomato base worked wonders and I knew it would, because Tuttorosso’s tomato sauce is perfectly sweet, with zero tinniness like you might find in other canned tomato products, which might explain part of the reason people started using ketchup as a base for homemade BBQ sauce recipes.
Feel free to try this sauce on any kind of chicken you like, or even pork, steak, beans, tofu–anything. I hope you love it as much as we do!
Chicken Drumsticks with Easy Homemade BBQ Sauce
Easy Homemade BBQ Sauce:
- 15 ounce can Tuttorosso tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon Tuttorosso tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 ½ teaspoons liquid smoke
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper plus more to taste
- 12 skinless chicken drumsticks
- For the BBQ sauce, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring all sauce ingredients to a boil. Reduce the heat to keep the sauce at a simmer, whisking frequently, until thickened and slightly reduced, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust heat and seasonings as desired.
- Grill Method: Heat your grill. Grill the drumsticks, turning 2 or 3 times to allow the chicken to brown all sides and brushing with additional BBQ sauce as they cook, until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes to 20 minutes. Serve.
- Oven Method: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Season the skinless chicken thighs with salt and pepper and coat them on all sides with BBQ sauce. Bake for 35 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and brush each drumstick with BBQ sauce. Bake until the chicken is cooked through or the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve.