6 Recipes for Smoky Flavored Foods Without Any BBQ

Smoldering wood gives barbecue its signature flavor that’s rich and unlike anything else. It’s what makes pulled pork, ribs, and brisket all so tasty. No sauce or marinade can deliver the same punch of flavor that comes from the unique cooking method. And as it turns out, adding a dash of smoke to everything from fish to baked goods is equally delicious and completely unexpected.

While the pros rely on fancy tools like a smoking gun, you don’t need to get anything quite that complex to give the method a go at home. These six recipes show you how to try it yourself with hardly any hassle. Some teach you to build a makeshift smoker with your grill, and some don’t require a single flame. Give these dishes a try and you’ll be cooking just like a restaurant chef in no time.

1. Green Tea Smoked Salmon with Ginger Scallion Sauce

Source: iStock

Salmon | iStock.com

Smoked salmon from the grocery store can come with a pretty hefty price tag for a measly amount of protein. The Tasty Bite’s salmon recipe shows you how to do it at home with the deep flavor of green tea and an easy stovetop method. Line a wok or a deep skillet with foil, then fill with a combination of rice, sugar, and tea leaves. Clap a lid on top, then set it over a high flame, until the mixture begins to smoke. Add a cooking rack, place the fish on top, and let it cook gently for about 8 minutes for medium rare. Let it go a bit longer if you prefer a more well-done piece of fish. Make sure to turn on the fan and crack a window as you cook.



  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 scallions, green parts only, julienned
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, julienned
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 (8-ounce) salmon fillets, skin removed
  • ¼ cup long-grain rice
  • 7 ounces green tea leaves
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Directions: In a small saucepan, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Add scallion and ginger. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add soy sauce, mirin, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Brush both sides of each fillet with vegetable oil and place in a heat-safe baking dish. Meanwhile, line bottom of a wok with a piece of aluminum foil. Mix rice, tea leaves, and brown sugar, then evenly distribute over foil-lined pan, folding up edges slightly to make sure all of tea mixture stays in foil.

Cover wok with a lid, and preheat over high heat until mixture begins to smoke. Reduce heat to low, and set a cooking rack in the wok. Add fish to rack, cover pan with lid, and allow fish to cook 8 to 10 minutes, without turning, until fish is medium rare. Serve immediately with sauce.

2. Smoked Tomato Sauce

Source: iStock

Smoked tomato sauce | iStock.com

When a classic bowl of spaghetti with marinara just won’t cut it, try this deeply flavored recipe from Fine Cooking. It manages to create one of the best sauces you’ll ever have with just a handful of ingredients. Tomatoes and garlic spend a fair amount of time smoking, then you just purée and strain. Add the chipotle, a bit of balsamic, and a knob of butter while it simmers, and it’s ready to go. Try it on pasta, polenta, or eggs. It’s also spectacular served with some grilled bread and fresh mozzarella.

For the best flavor, this recipe recommends using only really ripe summer tomatoes. If the ones at your store don’t look so hot, you can use the same method with canned tomatoes. Drain them well, then proceed with the recipe as written.


  • 2 pounds tomatoes, cored
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chile en adobo
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Few drops of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Soak 2 cups wood chips in bowl of water for 15 minutes. Light a charcoal grill, using enough coals to make hot fire on one side of the kettle. Drain wood chips and add to an aluminum pan or cast iron skillet. Set tomatoes in a disposable aluminum cake pan, and tuck a garlic clove into each. When grill is hot, set container of wood chips over hot coals. Set tomatoes on grill across from hot coals.

Cover, leaving air vents open. Chips should begin to smoke after several minutes. Check occasionally to see if more charcoal or wood chips are needed. Rotate tomatoes from time to time for even cooking. Smoke until tomatoes are darkened and very soft, 45 to 75 minutes. Remove from grill, and let cool.

Carefully transfer tomato mixture to blender, and purée until smooth. Add chipotle. Strain mixture through coarse sieve, pressing down to force most of solids through. Bring sauce to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in butter and balsamic. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve.

3. Smoked Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad

Caesar salad | iStock.com

Grilled romaine is nothing new, but keeping it over the grates long enough to impart any smoky flavor would lead to some pretty limp lettuce. Richard Blais’s version, featured on Serious Eats, looks to a few special ingredients to deliver the flavor so your greens can stay cool and crisp. Blend some homemade aioli with just a few other ingredients for an updated version of the classic dressing. Don’t feel like making aioli? Good ol’ mayonnaise from the store will work just as well, but you might want to up the amount of lemon juice and add a hint of crushed garlic.


  • ½ cup aioli, or store-bought mayonnaise
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 4 anchovies, drained
  • 1 teaspoon smoked salt, or kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked hickory powder, or 2 drops liquid smoke
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large romaine hearts, or 1 pound baby kale, chopped into small pieces
  • ½ cup Toasted herb Bread Crumbs, or purchased croutons
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions: Place aioli, lemon juice, anchovies, slat, hickory powder or liquid smoke, smoked paprika, and a few cranks of pepper into a blender. Purée until smooth.

Put greens in a large bowl, add dressing, and toss to coat. Divide greens among plates, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, capers, and grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

4. Smoked Buffalo Chicken Wings

Source: iStock

Chicken wings | iStock.com

Fried wings might have finally met their match. Epicurious’ version gives the bar food a new twist by marinating the wings in a whiskey-spiked sauce and then smoking them. Don’t worry if you don’t have a smoker, because this recipe includes directions for using a gas grill and charcoal grill as well. Once you’ve got the method down, experiment with different flavors for the marinade. We like a sweet and spicy version made with chipotles and maple syrup. Just purée the syrup with some canned chiles and a splash of cider vinegar.


  • 24 whole chicken wings
  • Kosher slat and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup only sauce, plus more, or purchased barbecue sauce
  • ¼ cup whiskey
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Directions: Using kitchen shears, cut each wing in half to separate flat portion from drumette. Cut off wing tip, and discard. Wash pieces, and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside in a large zip-top storage bag.

Whisk sauce, whiskey, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mustard, and whisk to combine. Cool.

Pour mixture on wings, seal, and marinate at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours.

Prepare smoker with soaked wood chips and heat to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternatively prepare charcoal or gas grill for smoking over medium-low heat.

Remove wings from marinade and discard extra. Place wings in shallow aluminum pan in a single layer. Set pan in smoker, and cook 2 hours. Remove wings from smoker. Serve with additional sauce.

5. Smoked Lemonade

Source: iStock

Lemonade | iStock.com

As strange as it might sound, adding some smoky goodness turns refreshing lemonade into a pretty sophisticated beverage. This recipe from The Crazy Spork, adapted from Brad Thomas Parsons’ Bitters, shows how it’s done. After the lemons soak up some flavor for a half hour or so, it’s just a matter of mixing in a little honey syrup and some seltzer water.

While this unique sipper is flavorful enough to stand on its own, it’s a knockout when used in different cocktails. Try adding your favorite light-bodied beer for a unique take on a shandy. It’s also great with a touch of sparkling wine.


  • 2 cups wood chips
  • 6 to 8 large lemons
  • ½ cup honey syrup
  • 4 cups seltzer water,  plus more

Directions: Soak wood chips in water 15 to 30 minutes, drain. Place chips into grill smoker box, or a foil packet piered several times to create vent holes. Place box onto primary grill burner, beneath grate. Turn all burners to high. When chips begin to smoke, turn primary burner to medium and turn others off.

Slice lemons in half, and place cut-side down onto grill grate on cool portion of grill. Close lid and smoke 30 minutes to an hour. Check occasionally to prevent burning.

Remove lemons, and let cool. Juice lemons. Add ½ cup juice to pitcher, reserving extra for another use. Add honey syrup, and stir to dissolve. Taste, and adjust sweetness. Add seltzer, and stir to combine. Add additional seltzer, if desired. Serve.

6. Smoked Salt Brownies

Brownies, chocolate cake

Brownies | iStock.com

Brownies have seen just about every variation you can imagine from s’mores to versions flecked with spicy chiles and cinnamon. This recipe from The Toasted Sprinkle looks to liquid smoke and a sprinkle of salt to add some savory depth to the rich, chocolaty treats. And they’re no more complicated than any other brownie recipe. Make these for your friends and prepare to watch jaws drop.


  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 to 8 drops liquid smoke, plus more
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • Smoked salt, or other flaky salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8-inch square baking ban with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, warm butter and chocolate just until melted. Stir until smooth. Add sugars, and stir to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until incorporated. Add vanilla and liquid smoke. Mix to combine. Add flour and stir just until combined. Taste batter, and add additional liquid smoke, if desired.

Pour batter into lined pan, and bake 60 minutes, or until center no longer jiggles when you shake the pan.

Let cool 10 minutes in pan, then remove with foil overhang, and let cool completely on a wire rack. Slice, and serve.

More from Culture Cheat Sheet: