This homemade BBQ sauce is better than anything you can buy at the store! It’s made with pantry staples like ketchup, brown sugar, and cider vinegar and is ready in about 15 minutes. The sweet and smoky flavors will make your mouth water, and it’s perfect with chicken, ribs, or even tofu. Jump to the BBQ Sauce Recipe
Many thoughts exist on what makes the best bbq sauce. There are so many delicious regional styles. I’m not here to tell you one way is the best because we love them all. I’m just as happy digging into a vinegary North Carolina-style sauce as the sweet, tangy sauces from Kansas City. And don’t get me started with South Carolina’s spicy mustard version. They all deserve a place on the table.
I love this quick homemade barbecue sauce, which is a cross between Kansas City and Memphis style. It is a little thicker than Memphis style, but not as sweet as Kansas City style. It has a base of ketchup, vinegar, and brown sugar but isn’t too sweet! It’s the perfect DIY replacement for those bottles at the grocery store. So stop buying the store-bought sauces, and try making this easy bbq sauce instead! Bonus, this sauce is easily made vegan; see our tips below!
This recipe is part of our chef series, where we share recipes from our friend and renowned chef, Richard Hattaway. We asked Richard to develop a barbecue sauce that is better than anything at the store, and we think he knocked it out of the park! We genuinely love it, and we hope you do too.
How to Make Your Own BBQ Sauce
If you can add ingredients to a saucepan, you can make this easy bbq sauce. Once it is made, try it slathered onto these fall-off-the-bone ribs or stir it into our pulled pork (amazing!). The detailed recipe is below, but here’s a brief explanation of how to make it:
Ketchup is our base, you can use homemade ketchup if you like, but this sauce works beautifully with most store-bought brands. We have found that organic or natural options tend to be thicker and are made with no high fructose corn syrup.
To sweeten the sauce a bit, there’s brown sugar and molasses. I love how the molasses adds a richer flavor. Then, to balance things out, there’s pineapple juice, apple cider vinegar, and a mouth-watering list of spices.
Until Chef Richard shared this barbecue sauce recipe with us, we had never used pineapple juice when making bbq sauce. But, after tasting the sauce, we are sold! It’s sweet and tart. I love it! Bonus, after looking at a few store-bought nutrition labels, this homemade version has significantly less sugar added. Less sugar, but with more flavor! Win-win.
You probably already have most (if not all) of the spices you need in your kitchen. You’ll need:
- Smoked paprika
- Mustard powder
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Ground turmeric
The smoked paprika adds the most beautiful smoky aroma and flavor to the sauce, while the mustard powder adds a bite. We use Coleman’s mustard powder, but if you don’t have it on hand, you can substitute prepared mustard — prepared English mustard or Dijon mustard. Substitution recommendations are in the tips section of the recipe.
The last pop of flavor comes from either Worcestershire sauce or Pickapepper sauce. They are both umami-rich condiments used as a seasoning in soups, stews, and sauces.
Pickapepper is a little thinner, slightly sweeter, and more aromatic than the savory Worcestershire. Still, in most circumstances, they are interchangeable. As a bonus, Pickapeppa sauce is naturally vegan, so if you want to make vegan barbecue sauce, use Pickapepper sauce.
To make the sauce, simply whisk everything together in a saucepan until it bubbles. Once it bubbles, reduce the heat and cover for eight minutes. Then uncover the sauce and transfer it to jars so its ready for your next meal.
At first taste, you might find the sauce too sweet or vinegary, but as it sits in the fridge, the flavors will bloom and become one. I love this sauce immediately, but it gets even better after an hour or two if you can wait. We love this bbq sauce with pork ribs, pork chops, barbecue chicken, pulled pork, and roasted tofu!
Sweet and Tangy BBQ Sauce
If you can add ingredients to a saucepan, you can make this easy bbq sauce. This recipe is part of our chef series, where we share recipes from our friend and renowned chef, Richard Hattaway. We asked Richard to develop a barbecue sauce that is better than anything at the store, and we think he knocked it out of the park! We genuinely love it, and we hope you do too.
You Will Need
1 ½ cups (390 grams) ketchup, see notes
5 tablespoons (57 grams) packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 (6-ounce) can pineapple juice, 3/4 cup, look for 100% juice with no added sugar
2 tablespoons Pickapepper or Worcestershire sauce, see notes
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons mustard powder, like Coleman’s, see notes
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Scant 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or cayenne pepper, optional for heat
1Whisk all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Continue to whisk as you bring the sauce to a simmer. Since the saucepan is over lower heat, this will take a few minutes, but keeping the heat low prevents the sugars in the sauce from scorching.
2Once the sauce bubbles, cover the saucepan with its lid and reduce the heat to the lowest flame or setting. Leave the sauce covered for 8 minutes. Transfer to jars and let cool. Keep refrigerated for up to one month.
3Homemade barbecue sauce tastes a bit more sweet and vinegary at first. However, after it has cooled, the flavors mellow a little, and the sauce becomes one.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Ketchup: This sauce is best when made with thicker varieties of ketchup with no high fructose corn syrup added. You can use homemade ketchup, or we have found that organic or natural options like Hunt’s 100% Natural or Heinz Simply work nicely in this recipe.
- Pickapepper and Worcestershire sauce are umami-rich condiments used as a seasoning in soups, stews, and sauces. Pickapepper is a little thinner and a bit sweeter than the more savory Worcestershire, but in most circumstances, they are interchangeable. As a bonus, Pickapeppa sauce is naturally vegan, so if you want to make vegan barbecue sauce, Pickapepper is the right choice.
- Dry Mustard: Coleman’s dry mustard is excellent here, but you can substitute it with other mustard powders, prepared Coleman’s mustard or Dijon mustard. When substituting prepared mustard for dry, you will need a bit more. Start with one tablespoon of prepared mustard and go from there.
- Making bbq sauce on the grill: You can also make this bbq sauce on the grill; just be mindful of the hotter areas of your grill. Keep the sauce over the coolest, most indirect heat, so the sugars don’t burn.
- Making vegan bbq sauce: Use vegan reviewed brands of ketchup, sugar, and molasses as well as Pickapepper sauce instead of Worcestershire.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.
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