Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Want to see me get ultra riled up? Let’s talk about Homemade Barbecue Sauce. Today I’m going to be telling you how to make THE best BBQ sauce from scratch. This is an easy recipe that’s ready in 15 minutes. You can use it on sandwiches, ribs, or just lick the spoon. It’s that good.

How to make the BEST Homemade Barbecue Sauce from scratch! Easy recipe that’s ready in 15 minutes. Sweet, simple, healthy recipe without ketchup and naturally sweetened with maple syrup or honey. A great homemade bbq sauce for pulled pork, for ribs, or on bbq chicken sandwiches.

How to Make the Best Homemade BBQ Sauce.

First: What is the Best Barbecue Sauce?

Yep, I am going there. BBQ sauce is both regional and personal, and I do have a favorite.

I grew up on Kansas City barbecue, both of my sisters live in Kansas City, and every time Ben and I visit, grabbing a meal at a local BBQ joint isn’t an optional activity we try to squeeze in—it’s one of the first stops we make the moment we land at the airport.

I’ve had the pleasure of munching barbecue in different regions of the country, and while I respect and enjoy the different flavors and characteristics of each, Kansas City–style barbecue sauce is my forever favorite.

This bbq sauce is thick and rich and has smoky-sweet undertones from molasses. Without it my ribs, pulled pork, and BBQ chicken sandwiches wouldn’t be complete.

While this is a mostly sweet bbq sauce recipe, it’s not overly sweet by any means. If you prefer or are looking for a spicy homemade bbq sauce recipe, I have a few notes in the recipe for how you can kick up the heat.

BBQ Sauce Brands

If you’ve had Sweet Baby Ray’s or KC Masterpiece brand BBQ sauce, you’ve experienced a hint of just how good Kansas City BBQ sauce can be. That said, as I’ve started reading more labels in recent years, the bottled stuff is LOADED with sugar (high fructose corn syrup is the first ingredient in many).

Craving some barbecue but not wanting to rely on the the sugary stuff, I decided to see if I could make my own homemade barbecue sauce for ribs, pulled pork, or, as I quickly discovered while making and tasting this sauce, for licking right off the spoon!

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

While this isn’t one of those 3 ingredient BBQ sauce recipes (because I don’t rely on ketchup—more on that momentarily), it is still super simple and its flavor is a dead ringer for the barbecue sauces I’ve tried at legit BBQ joints. Once you taste it, you’re going to want to keep a jar in your fridge at all times!

Easy Homemade Barbecue Sauce. How to make bbq sauce from scratch! The BEST homemade bbq sauce that's naturally sweetened. Delicious for ribs, for pulled pork, or for chicken!

How Do you Make Basic BBQ sauce?

Most basic homemade barbecue sauce recipes I’ve found call for ketchup, which is actually quite high in sugar also. Since that defeated part of my purpose, I decided to see how the recipe would turn out if I were to make this homemade BBQ sauce without ketchup instead, and you know what?


How to make the BEST Homemade Barbecue Sauce. This easy recipe for homemade bbq sauce without ketchup is made from scratch and is sweet, simple, and will become a family favorite!

How to Make Homemade BBQ Sauce

Skip the premixed stuff. By using real, unprocessed ingredients, you’ll have an award winning barbecue sauce recipe that tastes, well, homemade.

I used tomato paste and tomato sauce instead of ketchup, infused it with savory spices, and then sweetened the barbecue sauce with maple syrup. I love the way the maple plays against the stronger flavors of smoked paprika and black pepper, and it makes the sauce extra rich and thick too.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce made without ketchup! Simple, easy, and naturally sweetened with maple syrup or honey. Add more cayenne powder to make a homemade spicy bbq sauce!

Let’s break it down, BBQ-style.

How to Make This Easy BBQ Sauce Recipe

  • Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. If you have a splatter screen, you might want to place it over the top. Otherwise, you can partially cover the pot with a lid. This BBQ sauce is quite chatty and likes to sputter.
  • Stir.
  • Call your mom. Hang out. Contemplate the universe. Enjoy your life for 10 minutes.
  • Every few minutes, stir again. The sauce will thicken, and your kitchen will start to smell tantalizing.
  • Stir. Taste. Adjust. Taste some more because SO GOOD.

How to Use Homemade Barbecue Sauce

You can use this homemade BBQ sauce for pulled pork, for ribs (including these Crockpot Ribs), and really in any recipe that calls for premade barbecue sauce. I’m looking forward to using it to make my favorite BBQ Chicken Salad.

It’s also my go-to for making this Crock Pot BBQ Chicken. Just add the sauce, plus chicken breasts or thighs to your slow cooker, and dinner cooks itself!

The recipe is written is more spicy-sweet than truly spicy, so if you prefer a homemade spicy BBQ sauce with a serious kick, I’ve included the option to add some cayenne. For homemade honey BBQ sauce, simply swap the maple syrup for the same amount of honey.

How to make the BEST Homemade Barbecue Sauce from scratch! Easy recipe that’s ready in 15 minutes. Sweet, simple, healthy recipe without ketchup and naturally sweetened with maple syrup or honey. A great homemade bbq sauce for pulled pork, for ribs, or on bbq chicken sandwiches.
4.67 from 9 votes
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Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Yield: 2 cups
Prep Time:
5 mins
Cook Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
15 mins
How to make the BEST Homemade Barbecue Sauce from scratch! Easy recipe that’s ready in 15 minutes. Sweet, simple, healthy recipe without ketchup and naturally sweetened with maple syrup or honey. A great homemade BBQ sauce for pulled pork, for ribs, or for BBQ chicken sandwiches and marinades.


  • 1 can tomato sauce — (15 ounces)
  • 1 can tomato paste — (6 ounces)
  • 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
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper — optional but encouraged


  1. 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 in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Easy BBQ Sauce Recipe, Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Nutrition Information

Amount per serving (2 tablespoons) — Calories: 51, Sodium: 218mg, Carbohydrates: 12g, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 10g, Protein: 1g

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

How to make the BEST Homemade Barbecue Sauce from scratch! Easy recipe that’s ready in 15 minutes. Sweet, simple, healthy recipe without ketchup and naturally sweetened with maple syrup or honey. A great homemade bbq sauce for pulled pork, for ribs, or on bbq chicken sandwiches. #healthy #barbecuesauce #bbqsauce #easy

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About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…


  1. This sound perfect. I hate that all store bought BBQ sauces start with high fructose corn syrup too! SO annoying! I will probably be swapping out the maple syrup for honey. Does it have a similar taste to Sweet baby rays honey bbq? I have someone in my house that puts that on EVERYTHING, including but not limited to turkey on thanksgiving (weird right) I can’t wait to try this.

  2. I wish I could find a BBQ sauce that is NOT sweet!!! I love BBQ steaks, ribs, fish, etc., but I make sure there is no BBQ SAUCE on them!! Is there such a thing as a non-sweet sauce??

    • Hello! I bet you could do a Google search and find some options. Sugar usually is a component in BBQ sauce, but there are lots of regional varieties, so there may be something that fits what you’re looking for!

  3. Thank you for leaving out the ketchup!

  4. Looks miles better then a store bought one. Nice one Erin!!

  5. I’ve been looking for a good BBQ sauce recipe for pulled pork for a while now. Will definitely be trying this.

  6. CAn you freeze this 

  7. Very good barbecue sauce, and so quick and easy to make. Makes it worth it to clean all the orange splatters off the stove top ;). Thanks for a great recipe!

  8. I just made this sauce and it was absolutely delicious! It is the perfect balance of zingy and tangy without being too sweet. I used a can of Hunts Fire Roasted Tomatoes which I ran through my food processor with a single clove of fresh garlic until smooth so there was no need for the garlic powder. I am planning on making your BBQ Pulled Chicken for supper this evening served over some crispy baked potatoes. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
    Thank you for a wonderful recipe. I am certain I will be making this time and time again!
    Thank you!

    • Craig, I’m so happy to hear this recipe was a hit for you! Thank you for sharing your tweaks and your plans for using it and for sharing this awesome review!

  9. Christopher Chambers Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. WOW! It’s still on the stove but I can’t help but keep going in to stir it (aka: licking the spoon). EXACTLY what I was looking for. I’ve been trying to get a BBQ Sauce recipe from a restaurant owner, locally, but it’s his secret. Yours is exactly it. However, being a spice guy, I admit that I DID quadruple the black and cayenne pepper. LOL The beauty of your recipe is that it’s so easy to tweak to our own taste AND it doesn’t rely on premade Ketchup or Mustard. There is NOTHING that anyone can buy in the supermarket that compares to this. Plus, it’s easier to make than a trip to the store. :-D

    • Christopher, I’m so happy to hear this sauce recipe is a winner for you! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your tweaks and this awesome review!

  10. I ended up making thing a couple weeks ago. I used it a little past the time you recommended, and it was still good. I used all honey and my husband thought it tasted a ketchupy at first but now he is asking when I can make it again. This is always a good sign in my book. Thanks for the recipe and will be making again soon.

    • Courtney, thanks so much for taking the time to leave this review! I’m so glad to hear you both enjoyed it enough to make it again!

  11. Quick question, any suggestions for a substitution for the molasses? I have a bizarre allergy to molasses :)

    • Hi Jenny! The flavor won’t be quite the same, but I’d suggest a little extra honey and some brown sugar. I hope that helps and that you enjoy it!

      • First time to your site. Quick question. Doesn’t brown sugar have molasses mixed with the white sugar? That is how I make my brown sugar. Just curious since a person with a true allergy to molasses may have challenges with brown sugar? Unless there is another way to make brown sugar. Looking forward to trying your recipe. Glad it doesn’t use ketchup. Thanks

  12. I enjoy the super sweet KC Masterpiece Original. The sugar content doesn’t bother me as much as the chemicals, so looking for a homemade alternative. How should I tweak your recipe to increase the sweetness?

  13. Hi,please tell me a substitute of wst sourse.

    • Kalpana, unfortunately I don’t have a good one! It’s pretty unique. You could try omitting it, though the sauce will lose some flavor.

  14. Can it be process for long term storage?

  15. Marcia Fitzpatrick Reply

    I haven’t tried this yet, but I would suggest coconut sugar for the brown sugar. It’s a good replacement. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe.

  16. Can you mix all the ingredients without cooking on the stove top? I’m thinking of mixing all ingredients and then dumping right into the crock pot with chicken. 

    • Hi Angelina! I haven’t tried that myself, but I think it could work. If you do decide to give it a try, I’d love to know how it comes out.

  17. Once I tried this bbq recipe I knew I couldn’t ever go back to store bought. Ty for making my healthy bbq dreams possible.

  18. I’m making this a second time bc the first time was SOOOO delicious. I only have blackstrap molasses, though, so I’ve omitted that both times. Would a tablespoon be ok or would that be overpowering or just not the right flavor in general?
    Thanks for your help and for this wonderful recipe.

    • Hi Amber! Blackstrap molasses is pretty intense, so I recommend sticking with regular molasses. You’re welcome to experiment, but if you enjoyed it without the first time, I think that’s fine too! (If you get regular molasses sometime, definitely give it a try that way too!)

  19. Nothing special. Added more sweetness and cumen. Very disappointed.

    • Hi Rose, I’m sorry to hear the recipe wasn’t to your taste. I know it’s disappointing to try a new recipe and not love it, so I truly wish you would have enjoyed this!

  20. Hi Erin,

    Hello from the Uk. This recipe looks and sounds amazing I’m really pleased to have found a sauce recipe that reduces the sugar content. Am I correct in thinking that passata would be the equivalent of the tomato sauce? Or a can of chopped tomatoes blended? Can’t wait to try this thanks so much…

    • Hi Rose! Tomato sauce is blended smooth (without skin or seeds). I’m not familiar with passata, but from a quick online search it sounds pretty close (although perhaps less smooth). If you try the recipe, I hope you enjoy!

  21. This is the BEST BBQ sauce!! I made it with no changes to the recipe and we loved it.
    Thank you for sharing it.

  22. I added 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp liquid smoke and extra cayenne powder (we like it hot)……it was delicious!

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