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Published June 30, 2021. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
No need to buy it from the store because this delicious sweet homemade BBQ sauce comes together in minutes and goes perfect on all of your BBQ food!
Not much more that I like than BBQ. Whether you’re making a Smoked Pork Shoulder or Smoked Chicken, the sauce that you serve it with can make a load of difference. If you. Are looking to get a little creative then definitely try serving your next smoked dishes up with a Mustard BBQ Sauce or a Vinegar Carolina BBQ Sauce.
BBQ sauce can be an excellent way to finish off food that is cooked on the smoker or simply served up as a sauce for other grilled foods as well. The sauce in general has a very long rich history and BBQ specifically sauce originally was more of a butter sauce that included cayenne and fresh herbs. The earliest recordings believe African American slaves and Creoles were the first to introduce the sauce to the new Western world and for good reason considering their history with smoked meats.
BBQ sauce can definitely have many flavor variations, but here are the basic ingredients needed to make a simple BBQ sauce:
- Ketchup or Tomato Puree – Using either will work in a BBQ sauce, but the ketchup will definitely give it a more typical BBQ sauce-like viscosity.
- Vinegar – White distilled or apple cider vinegar works best.
- Sugar – Regular granulated sugar, brown sugar, molasses, or honey are all great sweeteners for BBQ sauce.
- Onion – Either freshly chopped or powder/granules will work.
- Lemon Juice – A finishing squeeze to brighten everything up.
How to Make BBQ Sauce from Scratch
Use these simple instructions to make this delicious, sweet BBQ sauce from scratch:
Caramelize the onions and garlic in a medium-size pot over low to medium heat until well browned.
Next, add in the ingredients and simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes.
Blend everything together until smooth and serve hot or chill and serve cold.
BBQ Sauce Variations
There are many ways to alter the flavor of a homemade BBQ sauce to make it to your liking. My main goal is to capture a little bit of all of these things for the perfectly balanced sauce. Here are a few different variations:
- Sweet: You can add more sweeteners such as molasses, honey, sugar, or brown sugar to this recipe. Remember to season once and taste twice.
- Spicy: Add a hot roasted pepper in when caramelizing the onions or simply add in some cayenne pepper when adding in the remaining ingredients.
- Smoky: Consider adding some liquid smoke to the bbq sauce while cooking it.
- Tangy: Add more vinegar or lemon juice to the sauce.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: You can make this up to 3 days ahead of time. The longer it sits the more flavors that will come out.
How to Reheat: Add the desired amount to a small size saucepot and cook over low heat until warm.
How to Store: Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. This will not freeze well.
chef notes + tips
- You can absolutely sub out the onions and garlic with powder/granules and if you chose to do so there will be no need to sauté anything in oil at the beginning of the recipe.
- If you want to use tomato puree instead of ketchup, tomato paste will be needed to help thicken it.
- Do not over blend the sauce or it will turn the color.
- This will go excellent with beef, pork, or chicken.
More Sauce Recipes
Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe
- 1 tablespoon oil
- ½ peeled small diced yellow onion
- 2 finely minced garlic cloves
- 2 cups ketchup
- 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup molasses
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- Optional 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- In a medium size sauce pot add in the oil and cook the onions over low heat for 15-20 minutes or until well browned. Stir occasionally.
- Add in the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Next, add in the remaining ingredients except for the butter and cook over low to medium heat for 5-10 minutes while occasionally stirring to combined everything.
- Puree everything using a blender or a hand blender on low speed just until smooth.
- Finish by whisking in the butter and serve.