Barbecue is a standout on summer menus. And flavor-packed sauces can take BBQ plates to new heights. Slather the latest trends onto your specials to heat up sales and smoke the competition.

With one-third of Americans eating BBQ or barbecue-sauced foods at least once a week¹, it’s big business for restaurants. While it will always be a crowd favorite, innovation in sauces is opening up new flavor possibilities for BBQ.

Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot

While Carolina gold is the fastest-growing sauce option in the country2, consumers continue to fan the flame for spicy flavors. From hot cocktails to sweet and spicy desserts and snacks, fiery foods are on the rise in nearly every category, and BBQ sauce is no exception.

Exploring different spice levels can appeal to heat seekers and adventurous eaters alike. Nashville hot is rapidly growing on menus, up a whopping 297% and hot honey is up 107%.3 Or consider swapping in trending Carolina reapers instead of habaneros for a sauce base. An item like Ridgecrest® Pulled Pork with tangy, ranch slaw for sliders is sure to spice up LTOs.

International Style

Interest in international flavors has made its way over to BBQ styles, including Korean, Filipino, and yakitori, a Japanese version wherein skewered ingredients are cooked over charcoal. Many restaurants are experimenting, fusing traditional Texas BBQ with Southeast Asian and Japanese-inspired sauces. Consider a coconut white BBQ sauce, or Thai yellow curry to coat smoked chicken thighs or pork ribs. Latin flavor-infused BBQ dishes are also on the rise.

Consider Ridgecrest® Brisket to create smoky tostadas coated in tomatillo salsa or Argentinian chimichurri with queso fresco, cilantro, and onion. Blending traditional dishes with trending global flavors is likely to be a hit with BBQ lovers and foodies.

Saucy Plants

Barbecue lends itself well to plant-based cuisine because it imparts so much flavor to whatever is being cooked, appealing to even the most devout carnivores. This can be a great cost-effective addition to your menu, so look at adding ingredients like mushrooms, jackfruit, and spaghetti squash, as well as plant-based meat alternatives to tap into this audience.

Jackfruit has a very neutral flavor, creating the perfect blank canvas for taking on BBQ seasoning and sauces such as teriyaki, garlicky white sauce, or spicy maple. There’s also been an increase in demand for healthier, ‘cleaner’ sauces. Brainstorm beneficial ingredients like blueberries and sweet potatoes that can also be added to sauces, adding depth of flavor and nutritional value.

Beyond the Pit

When it comes to sauces, it’s not just barbecue that attracts a crowd. Sauced-up menu items can elevate existing menu items — from burgers to pizza and salads. Perfect for spring, consider a sliced brisket salad with Ridgecrest® Brisket, coated in a mesquite-smoked BBQ sauce, atop romaine lettuce, roasted corn, cherry tomatoes, and red onion. Try blending a little sauce into dressing for a creamy, smoky flavor that complements the salad. And don’t be afraid to go beyond traditional pairings, using BBQ sauce as a flavor enhancer even in unexpected places like cocktails. BBQ Bloody Marys anyone?

1 QSR Magazine
2 Datassential, The Sauce Issue, 2022
3 Datassential, The Sauce Issue, 2022

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