5 Fresh Summertime Sauces to Take Your BBQ to the Next Level

steak and pesto

Summertime is upon us, which means laying by the pool, weekend camping trips, fresh watermelon … and barbeques! The tricky part of backyard BBQs is they are always filled with calorie-laden potato salads and unhealthy hot dogs and burgers. Think it’s impossible to host a healthy BBQ for your family and friends? Think again: These recipes are easy to make and total crowd pleasers.

Hot off the grill, here are five homemade sauces for your next BBQ—along with a ton of ideas for how to use them to create a meal that’ll be remembered. And yes, feel free to give your guests the recipe when they ask.

Basil-Mint Pesto

A departure from standard basil-and-pine nut pesto, the addition of bright mint and earthy walnuts makes this pesto both livelier and heartier at the same time. It also has incredible utility—from pizza to grain bowls. The garlic is optional; leave it out and toss this with a fruit salad.

How to use it at your BBQ:

  • Put a dollop of pesto on top of chicken, pork, tofu, or your favorite protein.
  • Mix into freshly cooked pasta and chill to make a pasta salad.
  • Use as a dip for crackers, crostini, or crudité.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 cloves garlic—optional

Directions:

Coarsely chop the walnuts. Zest the lemon to equal ¼ teaspoon. Finely chop, press, or grate enough garlic to measure 2 teaspoons (optional).

In a food processor using an S blade, pulse the basil and mint. With the motor running, in a steady stream add the olive oil to desired consistency. Add the walnuts, salt, lemon zest, and optional garlic and pulse to combine.

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Chimichurri

Argentina is famous for its beef, so it’s no surprise the country has a lock on one of the finest herb sauces for grilled steak.

How to Use it at Your BBQ:

  • Smear generously over grilled steak
  • Pile over a grilled Portobello mushroom
  • Layer over grilled salmon or mahi mahi filets

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped oregano
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice plus 1 tablespoon lime zest (from 1 lime)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Finely chop garlic, parsley, cilantro, and oregano. Zest and juice lime.

In a small bowl, combine the oil, garlic, parsley, cilantro, oregano, lime zest, and juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use at once, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
 

Cuban Mojo Marinade

This citrusy, garlicky marinade hails from Cuba where it's used to season pork, (sometimes a shoulder, sometimes a whole pig), for a classic dish known as lechon asado. As good as it is on pork, mojo makes a wonderful marinade for a variety of proteins.

How to Use it at Your BBQ:

  • Toss with grilled shrimp
  • Coat on grilled chicken breasts, chicken wings, or pork
  • Use as a marinade for rockfish or swordfish

Ingredients:

  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest and juice 1 lime
  • 5 to 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground guajillo pepper
  • Kosher salt to taste

Directions:

In a blender or food processor, combine the orange, lemon, and lime zests and juice with the garlic cloves, olive oil, oregano, cumin, and guajillo pepper. Blend until smooth.

Season to taste with salt. Use at once, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
 

Artichoke Romesco

Romesco, a Catalan sauce from coastal Spain, is traditionally a gorgeous brick-red color, pureed with roasted red bell peppers, and classically served with seafood. This creative version adds a summertime zing, adding paprika-spiked artichokes to the mix.

How to Use it at Your BBQ:

  • Serve with grilled vegetables and Portobello mushrooms
  • Slather generously over grilled chicken or pork
  • Spice up your grilled fish with a dollop

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup baby arugula leaves
  • 1/4 cup roasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup marinated quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt

Directions:

In a blender or food processor, combine the arugula, almonds, artichokes, oil, garlic, vinegar, and paprika. Blend until a coarse paste forms. Season to taste with salt.

Use at once, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
 

Cilantro Pesto

This gem of a recipe is so versatile; you can use it as a marinade, sauce, dip, or topping. It’s healthy and fresh, and while some love the garlicky hit of fresh pesto, if the strong bite isn’t to your liking, wait awhile before serving. The color will lose its vibrancy along with the garlic’s sharp edge.

How to Use it at Your BBQ:

  • Spread generously on delicate proteins like fish or chicken
  • Top off your steak with a dollop
  • Use on your hamburger or veggie burger
  • Use as a marinade for pork, beef, or lamb
  • Mix it wit sour cream or softened goat cheese to make a dip for crostini, crackers, or crudité

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch cilantro (approximately 3 ounces—or 2 cups leaves and stems)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds
  • 4-5 cloves fresh garlic—peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

Coarsely chop the cilantro leaves and stems. Coarsely chop the almonds. Coarsely chop the garlic.

In a food processor using an S blade, pulse the cilantro, almonds, and half the garlic until combined. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until the pesto reaches desired consistency. Add the salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Taste to adjust seasoning, adding the rest of the garlic plus additional salt and pepper to suit your palate.

Transfer pesto to a bowl and serve on the side or dollop right on top of your favorite protein right off the grill.

Prep Time: 8 – 10 minutes
 


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About the Author
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Justine Kelly

Executive Chef
As the executive chef of Sun Basket , Justine Kelly crafts deceptively simple and delicious recipes and sources the best ingredients for each week's deliveries. Known for her longstanding role as the corporate chef de cuisine at San Francisco's award-winning restaurant The Slanted Door, Chef Justine's many accolades include mentions in Gourmet Magazine and an appearance on Iron Chef.Read more