While no one knows exactly where the famed Chicago Mild Sauce originated, it has nevertheless garnered a reputation for being one of the most delicious sauces around. Used by plenty of beloved food stores from Harold’s, Uncle Remus to Len’s Bar-B-Q.
It’s considered an all-around condiment and is much beloved in the west and south side of Chicago. It works great on anything from chicken strips and wings to shrimp. It’s also commonly used on BBQ’d ribs, sausages, and even french fries.
Today we’re going to show you how to make the perfect Mild Sauce at home by just using simple ingredients so you can enjoy this beloved Chicago condiment anytime you want.
How to make Chicago Mild Sauce
There is no single agreed-upon recipe for Chicago Mild Sauce and every diner has its own take on the exact quantities. But the fundamental idea is always the same.
We combine BBQ sauce, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, and seasonings to create one of the most delicious and versatile sauces around.
This also gives us the opportunity to get playful with things and adjust the quantities as we wish to influence the flavor to our preference.
- 1 cup of Barbecue Sauce from your favorite brand
- 1/2 cup of ketchup
- 3 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
- 3 teaspoons of paprika
- 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
- 1teaspoon of white pepper
- 1 cup of water
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
Between its versatility as a condiment and the fact it can be prepared so easily, Chicago mild sauce is perfect for all cooking applications.
Whether you want to use it as a marinade, or a dipping sauce, the choices are endless! Here’s how you can quickly make this delicious sauce.
Gather up all of the ingredients, there are a lot of individual seasonings used in this recipe and we need access to them all at once. So ensure they are all within arms reach.
Put a small pot on the stove over low heat and start adding the ingredients.
Start with the water so none of the dry ingredients get the chance to burn, then add the rest as you see fit.
Stir everything well and leave cooking on low heat for about 10 minutes, it should be simmering by the end.
We are waiting for it to thicken up to about the same consistency as regular BBQ sauce, so if this happens before the 10-minute mark you can take it off early.
Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
This sauce can be served at room temperature, so once it’s cooled you can serve it right away!
But a nice trick you can do (if you have the time) is to refrigerate it beforehand, some people really enjoy the cold condiment on the hot food and say it gives it a refreshing quality.
There are a few ingredients that are fundamental in Chicago Mild Sauce, and that is the barbecue sauce, ketchup, and apple cider vinegar.
Beyond that, we can really get playful with the seasonings and style of hot sauce we use which allows us to adjust the flavor palette and create something unique, while still hitting all the major beats to make that tried and true sauce.
If you are not keen on regular old hot sauce, sriracha in any of its various incarnations makes a great substitute. It offers its own distinct flavor and can be used as a 1:1 replacement.
A good recommendation is the tabasco-sriracha combination which offers the same kick as a hot sauce with that signature delicious sriracha flavor.
If you don’t have any paprika around, cayenne pepper makes a great substitute. While it’s very similar in color, it is quite hotter than your average paprika.
If you’re not looking to make the sauce much hotter, you can reduce the amount used from 3 teaspoons to 1.5/2 which should keep the heat level about the same as the original recipe.
3. Black/Garlic pepper
Not everybody has white pepper around, so if this isn’t available black pepper makes a great alternative without affecting the flavor palette too much.
But if you want to go further than that and start to get playful with things, garlic pepper or lemon pepper offers that same peppery taste with the added garlic adding a new dimension to the overall sauce.
What to serve with Chicago Mild Sauce
Because this sauce isn’t designed for a single dish and is used as a more general condiment, there are a lot of meals it’s often paired with that work great.
Here are some of the typical dishes Chicagoans will pair this sauce with.
Fried chicken wings
Spicy chicken wings are a classic favorite for many, and the quality of them largely depends on the sauce you put them with.
You can either dip them in the Chicago Mild Sauce or even paint it all over the chicken wing after cooking. Either way, they are a match made in heaven and make the perfect pairing.
BBQ’d rib tips
Much like how we enjoy dipping wings or chicken nuggets into the sauce, BBQ’d rib tips make great playful food you can use to dip in your sauce.
They are of the perfect size and the taste of that rib in tandem with our heavily spiced sauce really makes a perfect combination.
Oftentimes we’re all too quick to reach for typical ketchup, or if we’re feeling adventurous maybe a BBQ sauce.
But we can go further than that, and Chicago Mild Sauce makes for an excellent fries sauce. Its signature vinegary spice combined with that crispy outside of the potato makes every bite feel weighty and substantial.
How to reheat Chicago Mild Sauce
This is where personal preference comes a little into play. Some people prefer to serve their sauce cold straight from the fridge, while others might prefer it at room temperature or even hot.
The goal here is if you’re refrigerating or freezing your sauce for storage purposes, bring it back to room temperature as quickly and easily as possible.
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Simply use low heat and add your cold sauce to the pot, keep stirring to ensure it doesn’t burn. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to come back up to temperature.
If your sauce was frozen beforehand this will take a little longer, just be sure to keep moving it around until it’s totally defrosted.
How to reheat Chicago Mild Sauce in a microwave
Probably the fastest and easiest way to reheat the sauce whether from refrigeration or frozen. Simply place in the microwave and cook for 30 seconds.
Remove it and stir thoroughly, check it with your finger to see if you are happy with the temperature. If it’s not quite there yet throw it in for another 10-15 seconds and you should be good!
How to reheat Chicago Mild Sauce in the oven
If you have already put your sauce on something such as chicken wings reheating in the oven is one of your best options.
Preheat to 350°F and place your wings out on a tray. Cook for 10 minutes and remove from the oven, check they have warmed through to the middle and you can eat them right away.
How to reheat Chicago Mild Sauce in an air fryer
While unnecessary if you are just heating the sauce by itself, this does work great if it’s already been applied to something.
Simply wrap the item in foil or parchment paper and fry for 4-5 minutes at about 350°F.
How to store Chicago Mild Sauce
This is a very good recipe to scale up if you want to make more than you need and store for later. Luckily, this is very easy to do.
Store in the fridge
Ensure the sauce is at room temperature and then simply place it in an airtight container and refrigerate.
It will keep for up to two weeks this way making it ideal to use on multiple meals.
Store in the freezer
Or if you really wanted to make a lot you can freeze the sauce for up to 3 months, perhaps in small batches so you can transfer them to the fridge as you need.
Simply place in either a freezer bag or an appropriate air-tight container and freeze.
To thaw it simply transfer it to the refrigerator and then you can reheat it using the methods mentioned above.
Chicago Mild Sauce Recipe
- 1 pan
- 1 cup barbecue sauce
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 3 tbsp hot sauce
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- Gather up all of the ingredients, there are a lot of individual seasonings used in this recipe and we need access to them all at once. So ensure they are all within arms reach.
- Put a small pot on the stove over low heat and start adding the ingredients.Start with the water so none of the dry ingredients get the chance to burn, then add the rest as you see fit.
- Stir everything well and leave cooking on low heat for about 10 minutes, it should be simmering by the end.We are waiting for it to thicken up to about the same consistency as regular BBQ sauce, so if this happens before the 10-minute mark you can take it off early.
- Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.This sauce can be served at room temperature, so once it’s cooled you can serve it right away!But a nice trick you can do (if you have the time) is to refrigerate it beforehand, some people really enjoy the cold condiment on the hot food and say it gives it a refreshing quality.