Some like it hot. Some like it smoky. And a whole lot of people like their barbecue sauce thick, sweet and flavored with pineapples, mangoes, blackberries and more.
Brushed on just-grilled protein or used as a dip, a rich, fruity barbecue sauce can provide a great kick of flavor and the yin-yang appeal of salty and sweet in the same bite.
Of course, not all fruity barbecue sauces are done right. Some are so sweet that they'd work better on a PBJ. Others are too salty for comfort. The best boast fresh fruit and layers of interesting flavors.
For this taste-off, nearly every sauce with fruit on the label was invited to the table. Dozens of mini-meatball dippers helped narrow the field and settle the scores. Now here's the scoop on the sauces worth hunting down for your next backyard barbecue -- and the ones best left on the shelf. Think of it as the good, the bad and the icky.
Williams-Sonoma Mango HabaÃ±ero Barbecue Sauce
This puree of roasted mango and peppers is a slam-dunk in a jar. It has a serious spice kick and tastes like fresh mango. It's barely sweet yet packed with flavor. A 16.5-ounce jar is $14.95 at Williams-Sonoma. (4 stars)
William-Sonoma Darn Good JalapeÃ±o Peach BBQ
Roasted peaches with just a hint of jalapeÃ±o make this tangy, savory sauce perfect for those who like a touch of spice but not so much that it burns. A 16.5-ounce jar is $14.95 at Williams-Sonoma. (4 stars)
NOH Hawaiian Bar-B-Q Sauce
Fruity and sweet, this traditional Hawaiian sauce is thick and pineapple-forward, with just the right amount of acidic tomato puree to keep it from being cloying. A 20-ounce jar is about $5.69 at the grocery store. (3 1/2 stars)
Stonewall Kitchen Pineapple Ginger Sauce
This chunky, colorful sauce is more like a chutney or salsa than a barbecue sauce. I wouldn't slather it on my barbecue, but I certainly would serve it alongside fish or chicken. An 11-ounce bottle is about $6.99 at the grocery store. (3 stars)
Tom Douglas' Rub with Love Ginger Pineapple Teriyaki Sauce
This sauce from the renowned Seattle restaurateur may look like watered-down soy sauce and be without even so much as a hint of pineapple flavor, but it saturates the meat and delivers a nice burst of sesame and ginger. A 16-ounce jar is about $9.95 at the grocery store, or just $6.50 at tomdouglas.com. (2 1/2 stars)
American Stockyard Red Raspberry BBQ Sauce
Classic barbecue sauce infused with raspberry makes this a perfect pick for traditionalists. It's not overly sweet, and the raspberry plays well with the smoky, tangy flavors in the sauce. Harvest Apple is the same sauce infused with apple. A 32-ounce bottle is about $8.99 at the grocery store. (2 1/2 stars)
Kozlowski Farms Blackberry & Orange Roasted Chipotle Grilling & Dipping Sauce
Think of this as blackberry jam with a chipotle twist. The chipotle gives a fresh-grilled flavor to protein, but it's so sweet that it almost turns meat into a dessert. A 13.25-ounce bottle is $4.99 at Whole Foods. (2 stars)
Stonewall Kitchen Roasted Apple Grille Sauce
The roasted apple flavor of this homey sauce is nice, but it's too sweet and one-dimensional to work with anything more than a piece of pork. An 11-ounce bottle is about $6.99 at the grocery store. (1 1/2 stars)
Bronco Bob's Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce
This smoke-bomb of a sauce packs so much sweetness and smoke that it obliterates the flavor of barbecued meat. A 15.75-ounce bottle is $5.99 at Whole Foods. (1 star)
San-J Sweet & Tangy Polynesian Glazing & Dipping Sauce
This might work as a marinade, but it's too salty to enjoy as a barbecue sauce. A 10-ounce bottle is about $3.50 at most grocery stores. (1/2 star)
Reviews are based on product samples purchased by the Contra Costa times or provided by manufacturers.