This fresh-tasting Barbecue Sauce recipe is a sassy little number, with a fabulous depth of flavor. A BBQ sauce with the perfect combination of savory, sweet, tangy, and smoky. You’ll want to eat it on everything!
The Best Homemade Barbecue Sauce
When it comes to homemade Barbecue Sauce, this sassy little recipe is my go-to. It’s perfectly savory, sweet, and smoky, with a fabulous depth of flavor!
This homemade barbecue sauce is a favorite condiment around here. We like it slathered on grilled chicken, pork chops, and burgers. And, of course, it’s a natural on pulled pork. Once you try it, you’ll want to eat on everything!
What Makes This Recipe So Good?
We like to keep this BBQ sauce recipe handy, especially spring through fall when we’re grilling almost daily. Here’s why you’ll love this recipe:
- Delicious – It has the perfect balance of flavors, from savory to sweet to smoky. And I love how fresh it tastes, as this recipe starts out by sauteéing fresh onion and garlic until they’re softened. It has the best BBQ sauce flavor!
- Easy – While this recipe has a number of ingredients, it’s still super simple to make. Just remember that each ingredient adds another layer of flavor to this beautiful sauce, giving it rich, deep deliciousness.
- Healthier – I realize that barbecue sauce isn’t exactly a health food, but when you make it from scratch, you can bypass a lot of unnecessary ingredients, like corn syrup and artificial flavors.
- Versatile – There are many ways to use this sauce. Top a burger or pulled pork, marinate with it, use it as a dip for fries or chicken fries, or slather it on grilled meats – I loooooooove a meal of grilled ribs or chicken with charred BBQ sauce, plus bread & butter pickles and honey cornbread muffins!
What You’ll Need
This recipe calls for ingredients that are all common pantry ingredients, plus fresh onion and garlic. While it’s not a super short list, every ingredient is impactful in creating this rich, flavorful sauce.
Be sure to scroll down to the (printable) recipe card for exact measurements and full instructions.
- Oil – Use vegetable oil or canola oil.
- Onion – I like to use a sweet yellow onion, such as Vidalia. Sauteé it with the garlic to get this sauce started with fresh flavor.
- Ketchup – Every red barbecue sauce starts with a tomato base. I’m a big fan of ketchup, and it works beautifully in this recipe.
- Water – This is used to thin the sauce a bit.
- Dijon mustard – I always have this on hand. Not only is it a great condiment, but it also adds fantastic flavor and texture to homemade salad dressings and sauces.
- Red wine vinegar – Just a little bit, for a bright hit of acidity.
- Worcestershire sauce – This classic condiment adds savory depth of flavor. If you like more of a steak sauce flavor, feel free to add more.
- Chipotle powder – This is really just smoked and dried jalapeno peppers that are ground. It gives a smoky flavor with a hit of heat. If you really like heat, try adding more of this.
- Ancho chili powder – This is dried poblano peppers, which are a mild pepper. I love using this when I want some chili pepper flavor without the heat.
- Smoked paprika – One of my favorite spices, and so important in this recipe – it smells and tastes SO GOOD!
- Dark brown sugar – I love brown sugar in BBQ sauce!
- Honey – Another layer of sweet flavor.
- Molasses – And a third layer of sweetness, one that’s deep and rich and dark.
- Salt & pepper – Add this according to your own taste preferences. I like to add quite a bit of black pepper!
NOTE: If you like a sweeter barbecue sauce, feel free to add more brown sugar, honey, and/or molasses.
How to Make Barbecue Sauce
Whenever I make this barbecue sauce recipe, I’m reminded of why it’s so easy to skip right past all the bottled stuff on the store shelves. This sauce tastes SO GOOD!
Here’s how to make it:
- Sauteé the onion and garlic. In a saucepan on the stovetop, sauteé the onion garlic until they’re softened.
- Add ketchup and water; simmer briefly. Then stir in the ketchup and water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add spices and sweetness; let cook. Stir in the Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire, chipotle powder, ancho chili powder, smoked paprika, brown sugar, honey, and molasses, and bring back to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, until thickened.
- Pureé. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth – or carefully use an immersion blender, and blend right in the saucepan. I like to leave just a slight bit of texture to the sauce, but you can blend it until it’s ultra smooth if you like.
- Taste test and season. Give the sauce a taste, then season with salt & pepper as desired. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Enjoy! Use the sauce right away (straight from the pan, if you like!) or store it in the fridge or freezer – scroll down for storage details.
Ways to Use BBQ Sauce
This tomato-based condiment is super versatile. Here are a number of ways to use it:
- Burgers – Make a tasty BBQ burger or chopped cheese sandwich by using this homemade barbecue sauce in place of ketchup. It’s also great on meatloaf and individual meatloaf muffins!
- Chicken – Use on baked or grilled chicken or drizzle it over shredded chicken for BBQ chicken sliders. It would also be wonderful on a chicken cheesesteak or with a skillet of cowboy chicken.
- Pork – Delicious with brisket, ribs, and pork chops – and definitely with pulled pork.
- Pizza – Use in place of pizza sauce for a BBQ chicken pizza or a pulled pork pizza. It would also be delicious in these bacon cheeseburger pizza rolls – just swap out the pizza sauce for bbq sauce!
- Side dishes – Barbecue sauce is a great addition to cowboy beans – so good!!
- Dip – Everyone loves to dip. Offer barbecue sauce and buttermilk ranch dressing with appetizers and sides – like chicken fries, French fries, pigs in a blanket, southwest egg rolls, bacon wrapped smokies, and fried pickles!
How to Store and Freeze It
Use right away: You can use the sauce right away, straight from the pan on the stovetop.
To refrigerate: Or transfer the cooled sauce to a jar or other container and cover tightly, then store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
To freeze: Yes! You can definitely freeze barbecue sauce. If you’re not going to use all of it within 3 weeks, simply transfer it to a freezer bag, label it with the date, squeeze out any excess air, seal the bag, and lay it flat in the freezer. It’ll freeze well for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the fridge overnight before using.
Yes, BBQ sauce will eventually go bad (even the bottled stuff from the store!). Obvious signs that a BBQ sauce has gone bad include mold and any change in texture, color, smell, and/or thickness. If something seems “off”, it’s best to toss it.
This savory sauce is used to complement barbecued and grilled foods. It can be described as spicy, tangy, smoky, and/or sweet, depending on the included ingredients and how it’s prepared.
More Homemade Dips & Condiments to Try
Our family is big on dips and condiments, and we have many recipes to share. Here are a few you might like:
- Baked Buffalo Chicken Dip
- Cheesy Beef Taco Dip
- Million Dollar Dip
- my Mom’s famous Shrimp Dip
- Queso Blanco
- Restaurant-Style Salsa
- Zesty Sweet Corn Relish
- Pickled Jalapenos
- Bread & Butter Pickles
- my Mom’s Refrigerator Sweet Pickles with Dill
- Pickled Red Onions
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- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 medium yellow onion coarsely chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic coarsely chopped
- 1 cup ketchup
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ⅛ teaspoon ground chipotle powder
- 1½ tablespoons ancho chili powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Place a heavy-bottomed nonreactive saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Once heated, add the oil. When oil is shimmering, stir in the onion and cook until softened, 4-5 minutes – do not let it brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
- Stir in the ketchup and water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire, chipotle powder, ancho chili powder, smoked paprika, brown sugar, honey, and molasses, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 10 minutes, or until thickened.
- Transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth – or very carefully use an immersion blender, and blend right in the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Use right away. Or transfer to a jar or other container and cover tightly, then store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
This post was first published in 2010 and then updated in 2023.