How to Prepare Homemade BBQ Sauce

How to Prepare Homemade BBQ Sauce

Nothing says comfort food more than firing up the grill for a good barbecue. You’ve just gotten your baby-back ribs fresh off the grill while using our BBQ grill charcoal basket. You’ve got the potato salad, coleslaw, and pulled pork sandwiches, but there is one staple you are missing: BBQ sauce. You can’t have a barbecue without the staple BBQ sauce! Sure, you could buy the sauce that squirts out of a plastic container that you get from the grocery store. Or, you could go the extra mile and make it yourself. This is an easy recipe; it only takes about 15 minutes, and we promise is worth every last second of it. This sauce can be used for marinades, flavoring, basting, condiment, and to top meat as it cooks on your barbecue grill. Not only will you impress your guests, but you will also be amazed by just how much more flavorful and satisfying it is when you taste your very own homemade BBQ sauce.

BBQ Sauce Origin and Variations

There are so many blends of BBQ sauces to choose from, and they complement so many different regional styles of barbecue across the USA. The tradition of BBQ sauce goes way back in America, since at least the mid-1700s. In Philadelphia, slaves were found pounding pods from Guinea peppers, then mixing them with salt and preserving the mixture in a bottle. This sauce was used as an accompaniment for meats and fish. Back then the only ingredients were vinegar, salt, and pepper.

In 1876, the addition of Heinz ketchup made it into our BBQ sauces, dividing the nation on whether or not tomatoes should be added to our precious condiment. We are on the side of the tomato. However, in this recipe, we leave out the processed ketchup (which is quite high in sugar) and instead substitute it with tomato paste and tomato sauce. We think these additions make the sauce taste a little more homemade and healthy.

Today, BBQ sauce is a staple of the American culture. The flavors of sauce range from the spicy and acidic North Carolina vinegar sauce, to South Carolina-style mustard sauce, to Kansas City’s thick, sweet, and tangy sauces. Northern Alabama boasts a white sauce that is mayonnaise-based and includes apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and black pepper. Traditional Texas-style BBQ sauce includes spices like cumin, chili pepper, and black pepper. They include fresh onion, and less ketchup and sugar.

Made Homemade is From the Heart

After the ketchup was incorporated into BBQ sauce recipes, a new addition of sugar began to emerge. After World War II, the amount of sugar and the addition of more ingredients began to increase steadily. Fast forward to today, and store-bought condiments like BBQ sauce and ketchup often come with a lot of extra ingredients we don’t want or need. Some of these highly-processed ingredients include high-fructose corn syrup, caramel color, potassium sorbate, and sodium benzoate. Appetizing, right? While this homemade recipe is by no means healthy, we like to think it’s healthier than most. This sauce recipe is gluten-free, vegan, and sugar-free (meaning free of refined sugar). We substitute the processed high-fructose corn syrup with molasses and maple syrup. We think they are much more natural choices, not to mention that they give a nice, deep, smokey-sweet flavor that well offsets the seasoning spices in this recipe. You definitely can’t go without a little sweetness in your homemade sauce!

Photo by Amie Johnson on Unsplash

What Homemade BBQ Sauce is Good With

So, what does this sauce go with? Practically everything at your barbecue picnic! Here are some of our favorite meals to pair this thick and rich homemade BBQ sauce with:

  • Chicken
  • Salad
  • Burgers
  • Brisket

Try our homemade sauce on evenly-cooked BBQ chicken sandwiches while enjoying some family picnic time. You can throw some coleslaw on top of your chicken sandwich and call it a day.


Try something new with this tasty barbecue chicken salad with cornbread. Yum!


Pick the right cheese to complement the sauce on your BBQ cheeseburgers. Then grab some chips, pickles, and a nice tall glass of cold lemonade. Sounds like the perfect meal to enjoy on a hot summer day with family and friends!


The real winner is our mouth-watering BBQ beef brisket. We also recommend seasoning your meat first with our tasty barbecue rub to join the unbelievable flavor fest. Why not? You can’t go wrong with that medley of spice in your mouth. Also, don’t miss out on some of our other favorite BBQ side dishes that will have your taste buds doing backflips.

Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe

  • 1 Can tomato paste (6 oz.)
  • 1 Can tomato sauce (15 oz.)
  • 1/3 Cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup molasses
  • 1/4 Cup maple syrup (can also substitute honey)
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Teaspoons paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 Teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 1-¼ Teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional (can also substitute a few dashes Tabasco sauce)

1. Using a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients: tomato paste, tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, molasses, maple syrup (or honey), Worcestershire sauce, paprika, dry mustard, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne pepper (or Tabasco sauce), optional.

2. To avoid splattering, cover most of the pan with a lid, leaving some room for air to escape. Allow the sauce to reduce, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens. This should take approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Taste to make sure the seasoning is to your liking, and add more as needed. You can serve the sauce immediately. To save it, let it cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Photo by Alex Munsell on Unsplash

Our Easy BBQ Sauce Recipe Variations

We think this homemade recipe is spectacular just the way it is, but if you like an extra kick here and there, we would recommend a few twists. If you have a preference toward spicy-style barbecue sauce recipes, add the optional cayenne pepper. You could also try flavoring the sauce with a few dashes of Tabasco sauce as well. If you prefer honey over maple syrup, you could swap maple syrup for the same amount of honey. If you are feeling a little naughty, you could add a bit of booze, like a bourbon whiskey or Jack Daniels. To incorporate the alcohol, add ¼ to ? of your selected variety with the tomato sauce. Simmer the sauce a little longer if the flavor is too strong.

Freezing and Storing your Homemade BBQ Sauce


We particularly like using half-pint mason jars to store BBQ sauce. This sauce is good for seven days in the refrigerator due to its lack of added preservatives. Store in a mason jar or any airtight container.


Some mason jars are made specifically for freezer use, but we have not had a problem with using old-style canning mason jars. Since this sauce doesn’t have preservatives, we recommend freezing it when you make a large batch. Store in a mason jar or any airtight container. Remove from the freezer into the refrigerator the night before you want to serve it. The sauce keeps in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Enjoy Your BBQ Sauce

So, it’s time to fire up that charcoal grill! You’ll know this homemade BBQ sauce is good when you find your face smothered in it. Let’s eat some homemade barbecue and try out this tasty recipe!