By Mason Hutchison

Some people wait until summer to declare the start of BBQ season, but as soon as the spring equinox hits (this year it’s on March 19), I am eager to get the grill going. I try to be outside as much as possible and am always looking for opportunities to hear the sounds of the sizzling grill and the giggles of loved ones. One of the first dishes I make every year is any protein (including tofu, tempeh, etc.) generously brushed with bilberry barbecue sauce. It’s one of the delicacies that has been deemed a favorite by both friends and family alike, so who am I to deny them a flavorful kickoff to the warmer days ahead?

Bilberries aren’t the most common ingredient in barbecue sauces, but they add a unique tangy flavor. They also have antioxidant properties that help maintain good health and fight free radicals**. Combine this with good-for-you herbs and spices, and you’ve got yourself a meal that your body will enjoy as much as your mouth.

I’ve tweaked the recipe several times, and continue to do so, depending on the company I’m having, so I encourage you to customize the recipe to suit your household preferences.

Savory Bilberry Barbecue Sauce Recipe


  • 1/3 cup organic dried bilberries*
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/8-1/4 cup organic sesame oil*
  • 1 tablespoon organic dried minced garlic*
  • 1 tablespoon organic dried minced onion*
  • 15 ounces canned organic tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup organic maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup organic blackstrap molasses (or raw, local honey)
  • 1 teaspoon ground organic yellow mustard seed*
  • 1 teaspoon organic chipotle powder*
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground organic black pepper*
  • 1 teaspoon organic paprika powder*
  • 1 teaspoon organic smoked paprika powder*
  • 1 teaspoon organic oregano leaf*
  • 1 teaspoon organic sage leaf*
  • 1 cup organic apple cider vinegar



Reconstitute dried bilberries by pouring 1 cup of boiling water over them in a bowl, allowing them to steep for 10 minutes. Strain water from bilberries, mash them into a paste, and set aside. Heat sesame oil over medium-high heat and add garlic and onion, stirring to incorporate. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomato sauce, remaining 1/2 cup of water, maple syrup, molasses, bilberries, and all the spices. Stir well with a whisk or wooden spoon. Turn heat down to medium, add apple cider vinegar, and simmer for up to one hour, just until sauce is thick and the flavors have combined well.

How to use:

Brush homemade sauce on your protein of choice while grilling, sautéing, or roasting. It’s also great for dipping, if you just can’t get enough!

Storage tip: If you have leftover sauce, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Or it can be frozen for up to one month.


*These items can be found at the Mountain Rose Herbs Mercantile.

Mountain Rose Herbs | 152 W 5th Ave., Ste. 3 | 541/868-8420 |


**This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. For educational purposes only.