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Kohana Coffee BBQ Sauce

Anybody who knows me knows I firmly believe that coffee is as essential to life as we know it as air, water, and the latest Elena Ferrante novel. It’s what my world calls a key ingredient. 

But why isn’t coffee ever an actual ingredient? You know, as in something you cook with instead of just drink, happy though those occasions always are?

I was wondering about this out loud with a friend of mine who’s sort of a chef and a bit of a foodie, and she set me straight—coffee can be used in the kitchen and not just in tiramisu either. She said it’s got a distinctive earthy flavor that works well in both sweet and savory dishes, and can be a great accent for meats of all kinds.

Live and learn, right? And I after making the barbeque sauce recipe she gave me as proof, I see her point. It really gave the turkey burgers I grilled the other night a serious jolt. Here’s the recipe:

Kohana Coffee BBQ Sauce


  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups onions, chooped
  • 6 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 T. chili powder
  • 2 T. light molasses
  • 2 T. chopped cilantro
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 28 oz. of canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup fresh Kohana coffee (the stronger the better!)

Heat oil on medium-high in large heavy pan. Add onions and garlic, and sauté until onions are tender. Add brown sugar, chili powder, molasses, cilantro, and cumin, and stir until everything combines together into a paste. Add tomatoes and coffee, and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook (uncovered!) until the sauce starts to thicken. This takes about 1/2 an hour (stir frequently!). Voila!

This gave me about four cups, which is a lot. But it works with any meat—in the oven or on the grill. And it’s the kind of more-is-better sauce you slather on by bucketload so freeze what you don’t need and you’ll have quick way to wake up a boring meal.

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