Saturday, September 8, 2018


Once the jar was open, I had no choice but to find some other uses for miel de caña, cane “honey,” or Spanish molasses. (See last week's blog for more about miel de caña, a tradition in Málaga where sugar cane once was grown.)


As molasses is often an ingredient in barbecue sauces, I decided to make one with only molasses as the sweetener and no added sugar. Instead of the usual ketchup as a base ingredient, I used fresh plum tomatoes in the market now.

Pureed tomatoes simmer with molasses, vinegar and spices for a not-too-sweet barbecue sauce.

Fatty ibérico pork ribs caused flare-ups on the grill.
I first tried the sauce on a couple racks of ibérico pork ribs. Fresh ibérico pork is fabulous, because the fat keeps the flesh especially juicy. However, the dripping fat caused constant flare-ups on the grill. After having to scrape off all the encrusted bits afterwards, I plan next time to par-boil the ribs first to remove some of the fat.  

Molasses quickly caramelizes on the grill, so add sauce once ribs are cooked.

Ready for grilling--chicken legs are seasoned only with salt, pepper and fennel pollen.
Chicken legs worked much better. They grilled slowly until tender, then were painted with the sauce to glaze them. I am “harvesting” wild fennel flowers and stripping off the pollen to use as a seasoning. It’s especially good with pork, chicken or salmon. Any other spice or herb could be used instead—cumin is my usual favorite.

Molasses in the sauce gives a touch of sweetness to balance the vinegar. Pimentón adds some heat.

Barbecue Sauce with Molasses
Salsa Barbacoa con Miel de Caña

Use either ordinary pimentón (paprika) or smoked pimentón or both in this sauce. Two kinds are called for, sweet and “hot” (pimentón picante). If the hot is not available, use cayenne, but in a lesser quantity.

Lightly oil measuring spoons and cups before measuring the molasses. The sticky molasses slides right off.

Use light or dark molasses, not blackstrap.

Makes about 2 cups sauce.

1 ½ cups skinned and chopped plum tomatoes (about 5 tomatoes)
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
½ cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup dark molasses
1/3 cup Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon hot pimentón
1 tablespoon sweet pimentón (paprika)
Fennel pollen or other spices or herbs (optional)

Place the tomatoes, red pepper, onion and garlic in a food processor and process until vegetables are finely chopped.

Combine chopped vegetables in a saucepan with molasses, vinegar, salt, two kinds of pimentón and herbs, if using. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the sauce until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes.

Cool sauce. Sauce keeps, covered and refrigerated, up to one week.

To use the barbecue sauce: spread it on grilled foods (chicken, pork, beef, vegetables) once they are fully cooked and continue grilling until the sauce begins to brown and glaze the food.

More barbecue sauce recipes:

Another recipe with fennel pollen:

More about ibérico pork:


  1. It’s always encouraging to read that not everything works out as planned and hoped, Janet, Terrific photo essay. Again.

    1. JohnD: Thanks! But those ibérico ribs were fabulous in spite of the mess.