Sweet and Smoky Homemade Barbecue Sauce (BBQ Sauce)


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I always find it exciting when I learn to make a common condiment at home. When it’s something I use a lot and always seem to run out of, like honey mustard, it’s even more satisfying.

Recently, I was going to be making ribs and I was out of BBQ sauce. Rather than making a trip to the store, I made a trip to the kitchen. It took a little tweaking but I’m happy with the result. And now I can use it to make BBQ chicken nachos!

The Anatomy of a BBQ Sauce

Most people are well aware that barbecue sauces vary by region and personal preference. There’s the thick smoky-sweet kind that originated in Kansas City and the thinner more vinegary kind from the Carolinas. More details here.

Most BBQ sauces contain tomato sauce (or ketchup), mustard, and vinegar as well as additional spices and sometimes something for sweetness. Mine is heavily tomato and applesauce-based. I add a decent amount of vinegar and balance it out with a range of spices. Some people use liquid smoke (a bottled smoky water substance) to achieve the smoky flavor of BBQ sauce, but I prefer to use smoked paprika.

The beauty of making your own is that you can customize it to fit your preference. My recipe doesn’t entirely fit into any one category. It’s pretty thick, a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, and has a nice vinegar tang. I suggest making and tasting and adjusting until you get a sauce that you love.

Making Barbecue Sauce and Condiments at Home

I’ve switched to a lot of homemade condiments over the years. I’ve done it gradually, adding one here and one there. I think I would have been overwhelmed if I’d made the switch to homemade cold turkey. But since I added one at a time it’s become second nature to have a number in the fridge.

I think there are two really useful pieces of kitchen equipment to have for condiment making. The first is a good supply of pint-size mason jars with lids. They’re great for shaking, mixing, and storing. The second is an immersion blender (stick blender). This one has additional attachments so it’s perfect for pureeing, whisking, and chopping.

Here are some condiments I like to make:



Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe

Make sweet, smoky, tangy barbecue sauce at home with common ingredients that are probably in your cupboard or fridge.


  • In a medium saucepan, whisk together all the ingredients except for the water.

  • Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally.

  • Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes until flavors meld, whisking every couple of minutes.

  • Let the sauce cool and store in the fridge.

  • Add water to thin if necessary and use as you would any BBQ sauce.


Customize the sweet, sour, and spicy elements of this recipe to make the perfect BBQ sauce for you!


Serving: 2TBSP | Calories: 25kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 217mg | Potassium: 141mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 222IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg

Do you make your own barbecue sauce?


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