My Own Monster: the Story of Dr. Sauce

About: I was born in 1976 in the town of Atascadero, California, which translates to "mud hole." It's an apt description, believe me. It was after moving to Colorado that I got interested in the sciences, and in mu...

It was in my kitchen, two years ago, that I created my own monster. It seemed decent enough of an idea, to make a barbecue sauce using Dr. Pepper, and avoiding the use of ketchup. But what happened in the kitchen that day has, like Frankenstein's monster, continued to haunt me.

I don't understand the nature of this monster. It's not a barbecue sauce, even though it started as an attempt to make one. It's not a steak sauce, as it lacks the tartness of raisins or tamarind. All I know is, it has a unique flavor, and it tastes fantastic on my oven-fried chicken wings. I also put it on burgers and hot dogs, and even after having made many batches, I still keep raiding the fridge with a spoon to taste it straight, as I still can't figure out what it really is. Maybe you, the Instructables community, can help me figure that out.

All dramatics aside, Dr. Sauce gets its name from one of its main ingredients, Dr. Pepper. It's a great way to use up flat DP from a 2-liter bottle, as the soda does not need any fizz to get cooked into this recipe. Let's hop to it, shall we?

The ingredients list:

1/3 cup canola (or other neutral) oil
One-quarter of a good-sized onion, chopped into half-rings
16 ounces canned tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups (otherwise known as one can) of Dr. Pepper
The juice and zest of one lemon
1/2 cup loosely-packed brown sugar (probably 1/3 cup packed or so)
2 tsp powdered or granulated garlic
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp dried basil

Essential tools:

One decent saucepan (I have a saucier-like device)
Wooden spoon
Good knife for chopping
Grater for zesting the lemon


Splatter guard

First stop: Browning some onion!

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Step 1: Cry Me an Onion

Heat up your saucepan over a medium heat. Put in the oil (all 1/3 cup: it's not just for frying up the onions, it's a part of the flavor and mouthfeel of the sauce), then carefully pop in your onions. You want the onions to brown, but not burn, and you don't want it to happen too fast. You also want the onions to go translucent, so keep an eye on that temperature control. You can smell the onions browning, so you can use that as a guide.

Once that's done, we move on to the next step.

Step 2: Suddenly, Last Simmer...

Once the onions are brown, add everything else. I start with the liquids, either the Dr. Pepper or the tomato sauce, and I usually add the spices and salt last. Stir it all together, lower the heat to a nice medium low simmer, and let it cook down to about half of its current volume, until thickened. You have to use your judgment here, and gauge about how thick the sauce will end up once it's cooled. It took me a couple of tries to get it down.

Step 3: All's Well That Blends Well!

After the mixture has simmered and cooled off a bit, though it need not cool off completely, it's time to blend it together. This is how we'll deal with that oil slick that keeps forming on the surface. Emulsification is a wonderful thing.

This step is simple: pour it all into the blender, and hit the go button until it's a nice, thoroughly combined sauce. After the blending is done, pour it out into the container of your choice to cool the rest of the way before refrigerating.

Step 4: ... But What Have We Actually Made?

Is it a barbecue sauce? A steak sauce? A hot dog sauce? A wing sauce?

I have no clue. All I know is I like it. Even if I have nothing to use it on, I'll sneak a small spoonful out of the container in the fridge and taste it, again and again, in my quest to understand this mysterious concoction I have dubbed Dr. Sauce.

Perhaps it is you who will help me crack this conundrum.

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    24 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    "Dr. Sauce" -- that's classic. You can't be mad at a sauce with a PhD.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I think I will attempt to build a chicken and "taco blend" cheese pizza using this sauce.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, what a monster. The two greatest substances known to man, put together. this would make one crazy son of a steak sauce =D

    3 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Just out of curiosity, what's the other great substance I'm using? I'm assuming Dr. Pepper is one of them. :-)


    11 years ago on Introduction

    its consider a red sauce cause of the tomatos in it if it had beef stock in it it be a brown sauce it seems to be like a bbq sauce


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I'm curious to hear some of the ways you've experimented with this. I'm definitely going to do some experimenting of my own.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I will have to try this I don't care for the Dr. but have used soda of one kind or another for cooking and it always seems to add a unique flavor

    1 reply

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Have you perchance done a nutritional analysis of the finished product? Like how many calories/calories from fat/carbohydrates/protein etc. per tablespoon? If not, when I make this I'll try to figure it out. Gotta get to the store for the ingredients. How does it grill?

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I have not, mainly because I'm afraid to. :-) It has plenty of sugars in it, so it grills up pretty good and gets nice and caramelized.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Huh... Looks very... brown lol no it's strange looking, but maybe also tasty