This homemade BBQ sauce recipe is the perfect blend of sweet, spicy, and smoky and it’s perfect on chicken, pork, jackfruit, pizzas, or whatever your heart desires.
Why you’ll love it: Making BBQ sauce is easy and fun to customize. Serve your own special house BBQ sauce!
How long it takes: 25 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: small saucepan, measuring utensils
Servings: Makes 1¾ cups.
Summer is coming! Or so I’m told. Michigan is still giving us plenty of reason to doubt that statement. Last week we had snow, freezing rain, sleet, tons of rain, and just a tiny sneak peek of sunshine. It was a weather rollercoaster, and I’m ready to get off that ride and step into sunshine-land.
With summer comes lots of grilling and BBQ. I’m excited to fire up my Traeger more frequently and grill as much as possible.
Now, I won’t lie to you, and it probably won’t come as a surprise, but I do sometimes buy barbecue sauce. I’m a girl that’s all about shortcuts. But, if you want to control exactly what you’re eating and maybe not pay the big bucks for high-quality store-bought barbecue sauce, this BBQ sauce recipe is the way to go.
Side note: I just typed QQB instead of BBQ and now I’m thinking maybe I need some C-O-F-F-E-E. I’m blaming the lapse of brain function on the rain. I’m blaming everything on the rain. Sometimes I blame things on my kids, but they’re not home right now, so it’s definitely the rain.
About this Recipe
This BBQ sauce is packed full of sweet heat and is great on chicken, pulled pork, ribs, barbecue chicken pizza, BBQ chicken salad, and anything else that you’d normally sauce up with BBQ. It has a touch of smokiness from chipotle chili powder, and like many of my recipes, it’s customizable so you can make it perfect for you.
What’s in the BBQ Sauce
- Tomato Sauce + Ketchup: This is a tomato based barbecue sauce. There are other types that have more of a mustard/vinegar base, and even one that has a mayonnaise base. A tomato-based BBQ sauce is probably the most familiar.
- Brown Sugar + Molasses: Provides the rich sweetness that’s characteristic of this BBQ sauce.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Just a bit of vinegar balances the sweetness with a little tang and acid.
- Worcestershire Sauce: So I can practice spelling it. Oh yeah, and to add depth to the flavor.
- Spice Party! Included are Dry Mustard, Chipotle Chili Powder, Onion Powder, Paprika, Garlic Powder, Salt, Pepper, and Cayenne.
How To Make BBQ Sauce
It’s pretty easy to make this sauce. Simply measure out all of the ingredients into a small saucepan. Give it a good stir, bring the mixture to a boil, turn the heat down, and simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Let the sauce cool just a bit before using.
I rather immodestly think this tomato based sauce is perfect as is. If your sauce tastes bland or isn’t what you expected, here’s some possible add-ins: yellow mustard, crushed garlic, ground cumin, liquid smoke, more vinegar, or maybe a splash of beer.
This is a tough question. To get that signature sweet tangy flavor, some type of sugar is required. Commercial brands that advertise their product as “sugar-free” usually have some kind of sugar substitute such as stevia, allulose, or sucralose added (look at the ingredient list to make sure).
The beauty of making your own sauce is that you can cut back on the added sugar. Simply use less. If you prefer more natural sugars, use maple syrup, honey, or puréed fruit.
Whew, there’s lots of information out there about barbecue sauce. This is a very simplified summary: Tomato-based sauces are probably the most well-known (Kansas City). Mustard-based sauces are often called Carolina sauce. Vinegar-based sauces originated in North Carolina. Alabama white barbecue sauce is the most unique because it’s made with mayonnaise, vinegar, and pepper.
Make it your own
- Use light brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar if that’s all you have. You could add an additional tablespoon or two of molasses in this case. Or try a different type of sweetener, or a blend. A little maple syrup is really tasty in BBQ sauce.
- Don’t have chipotle chili powder or don’t want to buy it just for this recipe? I totally understand that. You can substitute regular chili powder. If you do this, I’d consider using smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika so you still get the smokiness that chipotle chili powder adds.
- Speaking of paprika, if you want it extra smoky like it just came out of the smoker, try using smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika, regardless of what type of chili powder you choose to use.
- If you want to make this with no ketchup, substitute tomato sauce. You may need to add some extra vinegar and/or sugar to compensate for the flavor of the ketchup. Let your taste buds be your guide.
- Cayenne: Add more! Add less! You’re the boss. Remember it’s easy to add more later and a little goes a long ways. Start with a little and add more after you taste the sauce. You can’t take it out once it’s in there.
- Try this cherry chipotle BBQ sauce for a sweet and spicy sauce.
- Looking for a BBQ rub? Try this easy homemade BBQ rub. It’s perfect for smokers and ribs.
Grilling With BBQ Sauce
If you’re grilling or broiling, brush the sauce on your meat near the end of the cooking time. Continue grilling or broiling just long enough to caramelize the sugars in the BBQ sauce and make it absolutely irresistible. If you put it on right away, the sugar in the sauce will burn before the meat is cooked through.
How long does homemade barbecue sauce last? This is a very common question I get with recipes like this. I get it a lot for my pickled red onions, too. This BBQ sauce will last for a couple weeks in your fridge, maybe more. Put it into a small jar with a lid or a tightly covered bowl. Quite honestly, it will be good ’til it gets moldy. Then you’ll know it’s not good anymore and it’s time to toss it.
I can’t wait to hear how you guys use the BBQ sauce recipe – what’s your favorite thing to barbecue?
More Ways to use Barbecue Sauce
Try homemade BBQ sauce on fall-off-the-bone Instant Pot ribs or slow cooker ribs! It’s great on Instant Pot shredded chicken, these fun turkey tenders, or yummy slow cooker pulled pork. Dress up air fryer drumsticks or thighs with BBQ sauce. Have you ever tried salmon with BBQ sauce? So good! I love to dip air fryer French fries in barbecue sauce, and air fryer chicken nuggets, too!
- 1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
- 1 cup ketchup
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
- ⅓ cup molasses
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika (see note)
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper or ground cayenne (or to taste)
- In a small to medium saucepan, combine all ingredients with a spoon or whisk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- When simmering, reduce to medium to continue cooking at a low simmer. Continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened.
- Use immediately or cool and store in a covered container in the fridge. Makes 1¾ cups. Nutrition information is based on ¼ cup serving size.
- You can use light brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar. Increase molasses by a tablespoon..
- Don’t have chipotle chili powder? Substitute regular chili powder. If you do this, use smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika so you still get the smokiness that the chipotle chili powder adds.
- Try using smoked paprika instead of regular sweet paprika for an extra smoky bbq sauce.
- If you want to make this with no ketchup, substitute all tomato sauce. Add some extra vinegar and/or sugar to compensate for the flavor of the ketchup. Let your taste buds be your guide.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.