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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

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 Baked BBQ Chicken, or 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

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.

Barbecue Sauce

4.88 from 54 votes
The BEST barbecue sauce from scratch. An easy tangy and sweet homemade barbecue sauce recipe without ketchup. Ready in 15 minutes!

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes

Servings: 2 cups

Ingredients
  


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.

Video

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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175 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!

  3. Back ribs turned out great in the instant pot + the rub as well as the home made BBQ sauce was great! Added to the garlic powder quantity and used 1 TBS cayenne in the sauce for extra heat and added rye whiskey to the sauce as well.5 stars

  4. Absolutely the best barbecue sauce I’ve ever tasted. I do substitute honey for the maple syrup, and I have used tomato purée instead of tomato sauce in a pinch and it came out fine, award winning!5 stars

  5. I enjoyed this barbecue sauce very much. I was using what I had and made a few substitutions. I replaced tomato puree with diced fire roasted tomatoes. I also replaced molasses with brown sugar. Used a full tsp of cyan pepper and it was hot but not scorching. Put it over pulled chicken on bread and just really enjoyed it. Thanks for saving me from another trip to the store with this satisfying and very good sauce.5 stars

  6. The sodium content was not included in the nutrition information. Do you the sodium content? I have to watch my sodium intact & all the store bought brands are high.

    1. Hi Claire! I stopped including sodium info because it can vary so much depending upon what products you used, and I found a lot of conflicting info online, so ultimately I didn’t feel comfortable publishing it because sometimes it wasn’t even in the ballpark. If you’d like to calculate it yourself, there are lots of free tools online (myfitnesspal.com is popular). I hope that helps!

      1. I know that; I just wanted to make sure other readers knew that standard Worcestershire sauce is not vegan. I thought that was important to clarify, since your recipe claims to be vegan as written.

        1. Hi Wendy! If you check under the FAQ’s of the blog post, I actually covered this topic in detail. Thanks!

          1. Sorry, I didn’t read the whole blog, but I did see the prominent dietary note stating that the recipe is vegan as written. It seems to me there should be an asterisk or qualifier there.

  7. My son in law says this is the best bbq sauce ever!

    Just curious about the nutritional information. It says 7 g of protein Where is the protein coming from?

    1. Hi Kate! I believe it is coming from the tomato sauce and paste. From what Google says and USDA every 1 cup of tomato sauce has 3.2g protein. Hope this helps!

  8. I’ve never been a fan of barbecue sauce because of the sugary sweet taste that often overpowers the smokiness and lingers too long. But this was delicious with the Smoked Chicken Thighs recipe. I love that it’s freezable too, and so easy and affordable to make! I’ll be taking it with a tray of smoked pulled pork to a pool party next weekend. Next time I make it I may cut back the maple syrup a bit and increase the cayenne for my love of spicy. Great recipe!5 stars

  9. Will never buy another store bottle of bbq sauce. Your recipe has captured all that I want and enjoy. So delicious. Thank you.5 stars

  10. Served me well. Just like classic barbecue sauce, but better. Easy to make. I modified the recipe a little by slow-cooking in a crockpot for about 10 hours per batch, stirring occasionally. I also added a splash of pineapple juice.
    Thank you! You are a lifesaver and I would highly recommend this recipe. I have tried at least two other recipes and this one left them all behind!5 stars

    1. Hi Ro! I’m so confused, because I see it on my end! The recipe is in the recipe card, right above the area where you commented. You can also click the “jump to recipe” button at the top of the screen to help get you there faster. Could you please check again!

    1. I’m so confused, because I see it on my end! The recipe is in the recipe card, right above the area where you commented. You can also click the “jump to recipe” button at the top of the screen to help get you there faster. Could you please check again!

  11. Sorry, but this leaves A LOT to be desired. It just tastes like tomato paste, needs a lot of improvement in the flavor category. Not sure what to even add to try to make it taste even a little bit like BBQ sauce.1 star

    1. I’m sorry to hear the recipe wasn’t to your taste Jen. I know it’s disappointing to try a new recipe and not enjoy it. I (and many other readers) have enjoyed it, so I really wish they would’ve been a hit for you too!

  12. The principle of your sauce looks great, however of note it is not vegan as a true Worcestershire Sauce has anchovies in it. What can I substitute instead of Worcestershire Sauce to make your recipe?

  13. This really is the Best BBQ sauce. I have used it with your Instant Pot Ribs at least 2 times now! Love it! Thank you!5 stars

  14. One thing you mentioned that it’s vegan. But a lot of people do not realize that in Worcestershire sauce there is anchovies so that actually technically does not make it vegan so please beware when you’re buying your Worcestershire sauce. The only reason why I know this is because I’m highly allergic to anchovies so I’m constantly reading the labels of the Worcestershire sauce that I buy. Just thought I’d let you know other than that it’s a kick rear recipe

    1. Hi Michelle, thanks for the feedback, we actually have one of our FAQ’s dedicated to this subject. Hope you enjoy the sauce!

  15. This barbecue sauce is everything! I love that it uses a whole can of tomato sauce and tomato paste. No need to measure. And yes that is a big deal to me lol. It’s so delicious and the flavors are well-balanced! No more store-bought barbecue sauce for us. Thanks, Erin for this fantastic recipe 😊5 stars

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