The Asian Ingredients That Are Essential To Ina Garten's Barbecue Sauce

Ina Garten may not be the first person you think of when it comes to barbecue, but boy, does she whip up a sensational sweet and tangy barbecue sauce for her foolproof barbecue ribs. Her secret? A robust sauce brimming with umami and depth that features two key Asian ingredients. With Garten's secrets, you too can make a stellar barbecue sauce at home that might even rival one of the 50 absolute best BBQ restaurants in the U.S.

To make Garten's sauce, you need two Asian staples: soy sauce and hoisin sauce, both of which add color and umami to your barbecue sauce. Tasting Table has named soy sauce as one of 14 umami-rich ingredients you should always have in your pantry. Let's say your barbecue sauce is a little too sweet — you can balance out the sweetness with soy sauce while adding an umami punch. However, not all soy sauces you find on the market are the same. It's best you review our list of the 8 types of soy sauce and their uses before picking one to add to your barbecue sauce.

Soy sauce and hoisin sauce are commonly used in Asian barbecue dishes

As for hoisin sauce, its composition is very similar to that of barbecue sauce. It is sweet, salty, and aromatic, making it deep and layered in flavor. Adding hoisin sauce to barbecue sauce makes natural sense. Also, Garten loves mixing many ingredients together, especially when they balance each other out. 

In addition to soy sauce and hoisin sauce, the Barefoot Contessa also includes one other Asian ingredient in the barbecue sauce she uses to make her foolproof ribs: cumin, adds warmth and a pleasant smokiness. The popular lamb skewers of Xinjiang are grilled to perfection and loaded with cumin and other spices. Using Asian ingredients to make barbecue sauces is not new. The Cantonese and Chinese have long made char siu, the red BBQ pork you find hanging by the windows of Chinatown restaurants across the U.S., and the marinade is often loaded with soy sauce and hoisin sauce. Soy sauce is also a staple ingredient in the increasingly popular Korean barbecue.

Ready to make barbecue sauce that Garten would be proud of? Start with our quick and easy sweet and tangy BBQ sauce recipe. Simply swap out the tomato ketchup with soy sauce and hoisin sauce. Be sure to add at least a pinch of ground cumin to the mix. For more tips, check out our list of 14 ways to elevate your homemade barbecue sauce.