Hoisin BBQ Sauce

My mother became intrigued with international cuisines after her move to the USA from France in 1954. It might have begun when she purchased the set of cookbooks from Time-Life, called Foods of the World. After that, she set herself on a mission of culinary discovery.

I so wish there had been the concept of food photography in my youth, and digital photography would have been a plus, because I’d love to share photos of my mother’s creations. I remember a Russian salmon en croute, called coulibiac, that my mother turned into a fish, precisely carving the fins and scales out of pastry. It didn’t hurt that she was an artist and sculptor.

My mother also became a huge fan of Indian and Ethiopian cuisines. We probably had the best smelling house when those dishes were on the menu. Then, there was her Chinese phase, with my favorite meal being hot pot!

To learn about global cuisines, my mother followed lots of recipes, which I think is the best way to learn cooking techniques. But it also teaches about ingredients and seasonings, and what go well together.

That’s exactly how this sauce came about.

It’s simple, and probably not a unique combination for many home cooks, but for me, this sauce was over-the-top-good and I loved it. My mother’s “recipe” is based on hoisin sauce, using ketchup as a “carrier oil,” plus fresh ginger and garlic. Simple but sublime.

Hoisin Barbecue Sauce

1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup hoisin sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
2” piece ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
6 pounds baby-back ribs, at room temperature

Combine The first six ingredients and stir until well combined.

Set your slow cooker to HIGH, and spray the inside with Pam.

Cut the rib slabs into halves, then slather them with 3/4 of the sauce; refrigerate the remaining sauce for use after the ribs are cooked.

Place the ribs in the slow cooker for one hour, then reduce the heat to LOW and cook for 5 more hours.

Turn on the broiler and get the sauce out of the refrigerator. Get the ribs out of the slow cooker and lay them in one layer on a rack placed in a roasting pan, meaty side up.

Brush the remaining sauce on the ribs. Broil the ribs for a few minutes until there’s some serious caramelization.

Serve immediately; they’re also good at room temperature.

Cut the ribs into smaller pieces, if desired, although the meat is very delicate.

I served these ribs with plain white rice. Besides tasting the hoisin component, the ginger and garlic really stand out.

The sauce is equally good with chicken, pork, and even salmon.

The rib meat is so tender. Truly this technique is one of the best ways to prepare ribs inside, whether you’re using a marinade or a rub.

As a note, the hoisin in this marinade/sauce can be substituted with Gochujang to create a Korean-inspired version. It’s equally good!

44 thoughts on “Hoisin BBQ Sauce

  • Mimi, this is a lovely combination of flavors for a BBQ sauce. A must try for sure.
    I think I had coulibiac while traveling in Russia. It was like a giant pierogi filled with salmon and such. Now, I must make that dish, but without the artistry that your mother showed.

    • I’m sure you did, I think it’s a pretty traditional dish if I remember right. I think I was in college when she made the coulibiac. I hope I complimented her artistry. Now I’m not sure she’ll remember having made it.

  • Mimi, this sauce sounds amazing – I love that nice chunk of ginger grated into it, makes my mouth water just thinking about it! Going to give this a try! Thanks!

  • This sauce is one I’d love to always have at the ready. How delicious all of those flavors are together! Your mom must have made amazing culinary creations.

    • She was pretty amazing. A while back I saw ketchup used in a few marinades (in a cookbook) and so I’ve actually started using it more. It’s a good, fairly neutral base.

    • I am trying really hard not to say anything terrible. But my mother never really had friends. So, probably not. A shame.

  • My dear Mom traded supper dishes with neighbours of similar sized families; this is the way we enjoyed cuisines of the world! I have a much more adventurous experience in the kitchen, but then Food Network and the internet was and is instrumental in teaching techniques. This recipe looks wonderful, sticky and sweet! Perfect for BBQ season.
    Sorry I haven’t been around much, been having some health issues that I’m still working through.

    • I usually do them in the oven! With a little broiling at the end. This works so well, but obviously there are many choices regarding ribs and getting them tender. But I do love the marinade/sauce flavor!

  • Neat sauce! And I like the concept of ketchup as a “carrier oil.” We don’t use very much of the stuff — maybe a small bottle every year — but when we do, it’s as an ingredient in another dish as often as not. Sounds like your mom was an exceptional cook — your house must have been THE place to eat in town. :-)

    • As I mentioned in another comment, I used ketchup according to a recipe from a barbecue cookbook, and it worked so well that I’ve been using it occasionally. It works really well.

  • Love how you share your mother’s virtues. Is there any sculpture or painting to show in your future posts ? It would be soooo lovely… Thank you dear Mimi :-)

  • Mimi I love hearing about your mum….she is a legend and an inspiration to me!
    Ethiopian food….I haven’t experienced it yet and would love for you to share a recipe or two! Also, my son bought me a slow cooker for Christmas but I haven’t got many recipes – so thanks for this one….

    • Thank you Kathryn. Ethiopian food is so multi layered and fabulous. I did post on some dishes, but it was early on in my blog and I need to re-do the photos. I don’t use slow cookers much. I really don’t see the purpose. Even when I had kids at home I didn’t use it. Maybe because of the idea of the “crock pot” offended me. But I’ve made ribs twice using this technique and it’s truly magical.

    • You’re sweet! She was such a great cook. And for most of it I didn’t appreciate her skills, or what I was eating! Pretty typical for kids, though.

  • Oh my, I wish that I would have been able to smell your mothers house when she was cooking Ethiopian cuisines. I was very lucky when I was on holiday in Frankfurt once and there just so happened to be an Ethiopian restaurant across the road from the hotel we were staying at. The flatbreads served there and the spiced vegetable dishes were amazing! I digress….. Now can I come to your house and smell what it was like when you were cooking these ribs with your hoisin bbq sauce? The ribs looks so tender!

    • Thank you! I wish I could have appreciated more what my mother did in the kitchen, but we were young, and I certainly didn’t love food like I do now! We’re probably all guilty of that. I was in college before I liked lettuce and tomatoes! This way of cooking ribs is pretty amazing, and I don’t really love using a slow cooker! Ethiopian food is really incredible. Such great flavors.

  • This looks and sounds fabulous and is going on my must make! Maybe I’ll make it while I’m down here at my daughter’s house in Georgia! I used to be kind of snobby about ketchup, but have a few things I like to use it as a base for, too.

  • Mimi this sauce sounds wonderful. Actually your method for making ribs is similar to mine only you use the slow cooker and finish in the oven and I use the oven and finish on the bbq.

    How wonderful to have been exposed to so many flavors of cooking growing up. How fun! Like you I’m always thinking about what to cook next. I think I’ll try your hoisin bbq sauce. It sounds delicious!

    • Thanks. My husband only has a bbq grill, so I’ve never used your technique. I’m sure this is where a gas grill comes in handy. The sauce is really nice. You taste the hoisin, garlic and ginger.

  • Mimi, you’ve always got the BEST recipes on your site. This BBQ sauce looks amazing. And BTW, these photos are gorgeous and they are making me so hungry right now. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Mimi, it’s so cool that your mother cooked so many wonderful things. You are truly blessed in that. Everything we had was from cans or boxes or frozen dinners. I so admire that your mom cooked for you. This barbeque sauce looks fantastic! I love a sweet, sticky sauce!

    • Of course my sister and I didn’t appreciate it. I especially hated Thanksgiving because my mother refused to cook a turkey!

  • Okay, making homemade hoisin sauce is going to be my summer project. I really love the stuff, but haven’t been able to eat it for more than 30 years! It’s got to be easy enough to do… Don’t you think?

    • Sure! Just minus the garlic, right? Good luck. I’ve honestly never looked into a recipe for it.

  • I love hoisin sauce! I like to mix it with Asian sweet chili sauce for certain things, I will have to try your mix for ribs, I’m sure its wonderful!
    By the way, I was following you but somehow stopped getting your posts, I will have to sign up again, don’t know what happened…

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