I’ve extolled the virtues of pre-mixed seasonings before. Seasoning and sauce mixes aren’t just a weapon in the lazy home cook’s arsenal; they’re also often cheaper than gathering the ingredients for your own seasoning, which may or may not turn out the way you intend. Pre-made mixes can elevate a sad lunch to a flavor-packed standout; they can also do some truly revolutionary things to a discount pork shoulder from the grocery store butcher counter. More than that, I’ve found that some of my favorite pre-mixed seasonings and sauces are derived from generations-old family recipes, which is charming. That’s certainly the case with Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce, a self-described “teriyaki-ish barbecue sauce” inspired by the founder’s grandmother.
According to the brand’s website, matriarch Judy Yokoyama was born in California in 1936 and, during World War II, was imprisoned at Camp Amache internment camp. She survived the camp and went on to start a large, boisterous family, earning the pet name Bachan (a variation of obachan, which is a term of endearment for “granny” used by some Japanese speakers). Now, the family-owned company is driven by principles that founder Justin Gill, Yokoyama’s grandson, calls “Bachanisms.” Gill writes:
“Attending every grandkids’ sporting event, helping with homework, holding weekly Sunday dinners, she always strengthened her family and offered sage advice. These words of wisdom have lifted up generations, inspiring [me] as a kid, and now encouraging [my] daughters.”
Gill writes that Bachan’s tenets for a life well-lived—“family comes first,” et cetera—are key to the company’s success. Still, the sweet, umami-rich sauce is the main event. “For as long as I can remember, my Bachan—you might say Granny—would cook up the most amazing meals with our umami–filled, teriyaki-ish sauce,” Gill writes on the company’s website. “The recipe has been passed down and perfected over generations and today, my family and I are honored to share our authentic Japanese Barbecue Sauce with you.”
I received a sample of Bachan’s—both the original formula and a gluten-free variation—a few months ago. The sauce came during a period when I was subsisting largely on Ketchup Beef, my go-to meathead lunch that’s exactly what it sounds like. On a whim, I set the ketchup aside and covered my ground beef in a hearty pour of Bachan’s. Reader, I’ve used Bachan’s almost every day since.
The cold-filled sauce is free of additives, preservatives, and artificial flavors, and it’s delivered in an easy “chef-inspired” squeeze bottle that I love. The combination of ingredients—which include soy sauce, sugar, mirin, tomato paste, ginger, green onion, rice vinegar, garlic, salt, and toasted sesame oil—gives the sauce a familiar vibe that’s reminiscent of teriyaki, but a little less sticky-sweet. Bachan’s is quite a bit thinner than you might expect from a barbecue sauce, but it’s much more viscous than soy sauce. Most importantly, it’s better than any homemade teriyaki I’ve ever attempted. The sauce’s pleasantly rounded sweetness goes great with pretty much everything you can imagine saucing. For me, that includes:
- Ground turkey
- Ground beef
- Roasted veggies
- Plain rice
- Shredded pork
Most days, I squirt a generous pour of Bachan’s onto prepared foods to liven them up, and I’ve taken to marinating a big pan of veggies in the sauce every weekend. I don’t have issues with gluten, but if you do, you’ll be pleased to know that the gluten-free variation of the sauce tastes identical to the original. Ultimately, I highly, highly recommend this one, which you can order online or find at specialty retailers nationwide. Plus, Bachan’s offers some sweet merch including a Stop Asian Hate tee that supports Stand With Asian Americans, a nonprofit that works to fight hate crimes against Asian Americans. What more could you ask for?