Want to see me get riled up? Let’s talk about Barbecue Sauce. Today I’m sharing how to make homemade barbecue sauce from scratch. This is an easy recipe that’s ready in 15 minutes. You can use it on sandwiches or ribs or just lick the spoon. It’s that good.

a jar of Best barbecue sauce recipe

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Head to the grocery store or scan recipes for homemade barbecue sauce online; you’ll see ketchup, high-fructose corn syrup, and refined sugars everywhere you look.

Determined that none of these ingredients are necessary to make an award-winning bbq sauce recipe (fit for this Instant Pot Pulled Pork), I set out to make the BEST homemade barbecue sauce (that’s also healthy).

SPOILER ALERT: I did it.

homemade barbecue sauce for brisket, pulled pork, chicken, or ribs in a mason jar with a spoon

Thick and rich with smoky-sweet undertones from molasses, this versatile, finger-licking-good BBQ sauce recipe is perfect for chicken, Crockpot Ribs, a Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwich, Air Fryer Chicken Wings, and brisket.

What is the Best Barbecue Sauce?

This is a loaded question because BBQ sauce is both regional and personal. Everyone has a favorite style of barbecue sauce, and so do I.

I’ve had the pleasure of munching barbecue from many different regions of the United States.

While I respect and enjoy the different flavors and characteristics of each, I’m a Kansas girl who grew up on Kansas City barbecue.

Therefore, it should be no surprise that a Kansas City style bbq sauce recipe is my forever favorite.

This homemade bbq sauce recipe is my interpretation of some of the BEST sauces from the region.

Award winning bbq sauce recipe being poured into a jar

5 Star Review

“This is the best recipe ever for BBQ sauce. I made this recipe this afternoon and it is so good I can eat it with a spoon.”

— Beverly —

How to Make Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Not only is making your own homemade barbecue sauce from scratch infinitely more delicious than anything you’ll find at the store, but it is also EASY.

While this may not be one of those 3 ingredient BBQ sauce recipes (most of those include ketchup, FYI), it is still super simple and a dead ringer for the best barbecue sauces I’ve tried at legit BBQ joints. 

Try it the next time you fire up the grill to make a Grilled Chicken Breast—you won’t be disappointed.

Dietary Note

As written, this barbecue sauce is vegan, gluten free, and sugar free (meaning free of refined sugars, like dark brown sugar or granulated sugar).


The Ingredients

  • Tomato Sauce + Paste. For the tomato flavor, I used tomato paste and tomato sauce instead of ketchup. 
  • Apple Cider Vinegar. The vinegar adds much-needed acidity to our sweet and tangy barbecue sauce recipe. 
  • Maple Syrup + Molasses. To sweeten things up, I used a little maple syrup and molasses. I love the way the maple plays against the strong flavors in the spices (like in my Easy Baked Beans), and both of these ingredients make the sauce rich and thick too.

Substitution Tip

For a slightly different flavor, you can also make this barbecue sauce with honey instead of maple syrup (don’t skip the molasses, though).

Kansas City barbecue sauce recipe with a spoon in a mason jar
  • Worcestershire Sauce. Another key component in my quest to find the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and tangy. Worcestershire sauce is intensely savory and instantly adds a long-simmered flavor to the sauce.
  • Seasonings. Smoked paprika, dry mustard, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper results in a classic, balanced combination of flavors.

Tip!

While it’s optional, adding a dash of cayenne pepper gives just the right amount of heat. See below for more tips on how to make your sauce extra spicy.

The Directions

ingredients for the best bbq sauce in a mixing bowl
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Stir.
a mixing bowl with a whisk stirring homemade barbecue sauce without corn syrup
  1. Simmer the barbecue sauce for 10 to 15 minutes (cover the pot a little, it splatters). Stir. Taste. Adjust. Taste some more because SO GOOD.
  2. SLATHER ON EVERYTHING.

Recipe Variations

  • Homemade Spicy BBQ Sauce. The recipe, as written, is more spicy-sweet than truly spicy, so if you prefer a BBQ sauce with a serious kick, I’ve included the option to add some cayenne or even a tablespoon of hot sauce.
  • Homemade Honey BBQ Sauce. Simply swap the maple syrup for the same amount of honey. (This version I especially like on Grilled Salmon in Foil.)
  • Bourbon Barbecue Sauce. If you love my Bourbon Chicken, try this variation. Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup bourbon whiskey with the tomato sauce (the more you add, the stronger the taste will be). Cook as directed, extending the simmer time for a bit if the bourbon flavor is too strong.
  • Jack Daniels Barbecue Sauce {Copycat}. You also can use a Tennessee whiskey like Jack Daniels (follow the above directions for bourbon bbq sauce) for your own version of this popular store brand.
homemade barbecue sauce no ketchup in a jar

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 7 days. Since it is not loaded with preservatives, homemade barbecue sauce will go bad faster than store-bought barbecue sauce.
  • To Freeze. Yes, you can freeze barbecue sauce! Place the sauce in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Serving Ideas

The beauty of this easy sauce is that it can be used in any recipe that calls for premade barbecue sauce, or you can use it to spice up your favorite protein.

  • Ribs. You can use this homemade BBQ sauce for these Crockpot Ribs and Instant Pot Ribs.
  • Salad. I love using this sauce to make my favorite BBQ Chicken Salad.
  • Chicken. This is a delicious BBQ sauce recipe for chicken recipes like these Maple Bourbon Crock Pot BBQ Chicken Sandwiches. Or this Crock Pot BBQ Chicken (just add the sauce, plus chicken breasts or thighs to your slow cooker, and dinner cooks itself!). It would also be a yummy base for BBQ chicken pizza.
  • Meatballs. Brush it over these Baked Turkey Meatballs for a different flavor spin.
  • Salmon. Try brushing it over a side of salmon and then cooking the salmon according to the directions for this Baked Salmon in Foil.
  • Burgers. Use this tangy sauce to make a cowboy-style burger slathered in homemade bbq sauce, melty cheddar cheese, and fried onions.

What to Serve with Barbecue Sauce

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

The Best Saucepan

Compatible up with all cooktops, and ovens up to 600 degrees F, the saucepan’s 2 layers of stainless steel provides superior heat distribution.

a jar of Best barbecue sauce recipe

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

Time to clear out the aging condiment stash in your fridge because you’re going to want to make room for this easy and healthy barbecue sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does all Barbecue Sauce Have Tomatoes?

Nope! If you love grilling but don’t enjoy tomatoes or have an allergy to them, fear not. There are many different regional styles of barbecue. While many homemade barbecue sauce recipes include tomatoes, some regions of the United States do not have tomatoes in their sauces. For example, white barbecue sauce does not use tomatoes.

Can Homemade BBQ Sauce Be Canned?

I have not tried canning or preserving this recipe for long-term storage, so I cannot provide specific guidance, unfortunately. If you have made and canned similar homemade barbecue sauce recipes before, however, I’m sure the same method could be used here with success. If you try it, I’d love to hear about your results.

Is this Barbecue Sauce Vegan and Vegetarian?

Yes! This homemade barbecue sauce can be made vegan and vegetarian so long as you check your labels when selecting your Worcestershire sauce. Traditionally, Worcestershire is not a vegan or vegetarian-friendly product because it contains anchovies as a key ingredient. However, in recent years, many brands have come out with vegan-friendly options.

a jar of Best barbecue sauce recipe

Barbecue Sauce

4.94 from 43 votes
The BEST barbecue sauce from scratch. An easy tangy and sweet homemade barbecue sauce recipe without ketchup. Ready in 15 minutes!

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 15 mins

Servings: 2 cups

Ingredients
  

  • 15 ounces tomato sauce (1 standard can)
  • 6 ounces tomato paste (1 standard can)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional but encouraged)

Instructions
 

  • In a medium saucepan, stir together all of the ingredients: tomato sauce, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, molasses, Worcestershire, smoked paprika, dry mustard, garlic, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Cover with a lid slightly ajar so that the pot is mostly covered to deter splattering, but steam can still escape and the sauce can reduce. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Enjoy immediately or let cool and store for later use.

Notes

  • TO STORE: Homemade barbecue sauce may be stored in an airtight container (I like to use a mason jar) in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • TO FREEZE: Store barbecue sauce in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before use.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup (of 2)Calories: 390kcalCarbohydrates: 92gProtein: 7gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gPotassium: 2445mgFiber: 8gSugar: 76gVitamin A: 3271IUVitamin C: 36mgCalcium: 223mgIron: 8mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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136 Comments

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  1. I found this to be the perfect recipe, not too sweet, not too spicy, tomato not too strong. Shared a jar with my daughter, she called and asked for the recipe. Thanks so much!5 stars

  2. Good day Ms Erin
    Can I make this in a large batch like 8 to 10 cups and can it using hot water bath instead of freezing or refrigerated it
    Thank you

    1. Hi Steven! I have not tried canning this myself, but if you frequently can BBQ sauce, you could try following those steps here. If you decide to experiment with it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

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