I made a fruit-sweetened barbecue sauce once before on the blog, strawberry pulled pork, and I loved the results. So, I thought I'd try one which uses unsweetened apple butter. I got the idea from a recipe in It Starts with Food which adapted a Cook's Illustrated recipe to use applesauce instead of sugar and tomato puree instead of ketchup. Apple butter is thicker than applesauce and has a molasses sort of flavor so I thought that it would be ideal for this sauce; I also added some spices and used balsamic vinegar for some complementary sweetness. This is not candy-sweet like conventional barbecue sauce. In fact, I think that unsweetened apple butter on its own is less sweet than bottled BBQ, so do not expect it to taste like the barbecue that you are used to. But, if you want a subtle, natural sweetness, you will enjoy this recipe. I made chicken drumsticks in the crock pot and then ran them under the broiler before serving with an extra coat of sauce. This served to crisp up the skin as well as caramelizing the sauce for some additional sweetness.
I served this with a quick guacamole slaw. I wanted to devise a creamy cole slaw recipe that did not use mayo, since storebought brands have some dodgy ingredients and it's kind of a pain to make it yourself. I like the idea of using prepared guacamole because it keeps well in the fridge and already has seasonings like cilantro, lime, and onion. Wholly Guacamole is a good brand without added sugar. I actually did end up using a tablespoon of mayo but I think you can leave it out if you'd like. If you are watching calories, you can try using Greek yogurt instead of oil and mayo, or even just try using water instead. Just add water a tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency. Using prepared guac and bagged cole slaw veggies made this a snap to whip up.
APPLE BUTTER BBQ CHICKEN AND GUACAMOLE SLAW
Serves about 4
- BBQ seasoning/dry rub. I used Penzeys BBQ 3000, also any cajun/blackening seasoning would work. If you want to make your own, combine 1 Tbs paprika, 1 tsp dry mustard, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, and 1/4 tsp cayenne.
- 3-4 lbs chicken drumsticks (I used skin-on, skinless is fine too)
- Salt to taste
- 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
- Fat of choice for sauteeing the garlic (I used bacon grease)
- 1 cup canned tomato puree
- 1/3 cup unsweetened apple butter (no spice added)
- 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbs coconut aminos (or Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce)
- 1 Tbs yellow mustard
- 1 tsp hot sauce such as Tabasco
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp chipotle powder (or 1 tsp chili powder + 1/4 tsp cayenne)
- 1/8 tsp ground coriander
- Pinch allspice
- Pinch ground ginger
- 10 oz bag shredded cole slaw mix (if all you can find is a 16 oz bag, that is fine; you just may not use all of it)
- Half a red bell pepper, julienned
- 1/2 cup guacamole
- 2 Tbs cider vinegar
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 Tbs mayonnaise (or just use more olive oil)
For the chicken:
- Stir together all of the barbecue sauce ingredients except the oil and garlic.
- Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and saute until fragrant and straw colored. Add the barbecue sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until thickened. Set aside to cool.
- Dump the chicken drumsticks in a slow cooker and coat them on all sides with the barbecue seasoning. Add salt unless you are using a pre-made barbecue seasoning which already contains salt.
- Measure out 1/2 cup of the sauce and coat the chicken with it (I used a basting brush). Cook for 4-6 hours on low.
- When ready to serve, set the oven rack 10" from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Set the drumsticks in a single layer on a lightly oiled slotted broiler pan. Coat them with half of the remaining sauce and broil 10-15 minutes until charred and crispy. Flip them over, coat with the rest of the sauce, and broil again for 10-15 minutes to crisp the other side. Serve immediately with guacamole slaw or side dish of choice.
- Stir together the guacamole, vinegar, oil, and mayo (if using)
- Add the cole slaw veggies and red bell pepper. Toss to combine.
- Let chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.