Chicken with Cherry-Fennel Barbecue Sauce

This South Asian take on classic American barbecue sauce is sweet, spicy, and savory—and the best thing that ever happened to chicken.
Publish date:
chicken with cherry-fennel barbecue sauce served on gray plate

Recipe by Nik Sharma

Start to Finish: 35 minutes (plus 6 hours for marinating)

Servings: 6


  • 1 lb. frozen pitted cherries

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion

  • 1/4 cup spicy yellow mustard

  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

  • 1 tsp. ground Kashmiri chile or 3/4 tsp. paprika mixed with 1 /4 tsp. cayenne

  • 4 black peppercorns

  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds

  • 1/2 cup jaggery sugar or muscovado sugar

  • Fine sea salt

  • 6 chicken leg quarters

  • Vegetable oil, for brushing


1. In a blender, pulse the cherries, onion, mustard, vinegar, ground chile, peppercorns, and fennel seeds until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Add the jaggery and 1/2 tsp. sea salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the jaggery dissolves and the sauce starts to bubble, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Season the sauce with salt.

2. Pat the chicken dry. Using a sharp small knife, pierce the skin and meat in a few places. Place in a large resealable plastic bag. Add 1 cup of the sauce. Seal the bag and massage the meat a few times. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or, preferably, overnight. Cover and refrigerate the remaining sauce.

3. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Discard the bag. Using paper towels, pat the chicken dry; season with sea salt. Brush the pan with oil. Grill the chicken, turning occasionally and basting with 1/2 cup of the reserved sauce, until an instant-read thermometer registers 165° when inserted into the thickest part of each piece, 30 to 40 minutes. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with the remaining sauce.