Mouthwatering Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe (Just In 20 Minutes)

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If you want the best way to elevate your grilling game, try putting together a homemade barbecue sauce recipe. I’ve found that making it at home allows you to control the flavors, ensuring they match your tastes. You’ll never return to store-bought ones once you’ve tasted the homemade version. Use a mix of sweet, spicy, and tangy elements, and you could create the most delectable sauce that will have everyone asking for your recipe.

In my recent travels to Middle Eastern countries and some parts of Europe, I consistently noticed one thing: their sauces have a unique flavor, distinct from what we’re used to. This made me think about our very own barbecue sauce

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

You might want to know why homemade barbecue sauce stands out. It’s simple. Many people find store-bought barbecue sauces lacking in flavor, overly sweet, or just not “right” for their taste.

During a restaurant visit in Athens, a chef shared the secret of making sauces: personal touch. He believed the best way to get the perfect taste is by making it yourself.

Inspired, I returned home. When my kids requested a barbecue, I surprised them with my homemade barbecue sauce.

The result? A blend of flavors so delightful that you’ll never want to return to the store-bought ones again. 

If you want the most delicious and authentic barbecue sauce, cook your recipe at home. It’s worth every moment.

What Is Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe? 

Homemade barbecue sauce is a blend of ingredients crafted in one’s kitchen to enhance the flavor of grilled and smoked foods.

Unlike commercial sauces, making it at home allows you to adjust and customize flavors to your preference. 

It often combines sweetness, tanginess, and spiciness with ingredients such as tomatoes, vinegar, sugars, and spices. The greatest advantages of a homemade version are the absence of preservatives and the freedom to experiment. 

If you’re looking for the best way to elevate your dishes, a personalized homemade barbecue sauce could be your answer.

History Of Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe

The history of barbecue sauce is as diverse as the cultures that have embraced it. While it’s challenging to pinpoint a single inventor, its origins trace back to indigenous peoples who used to marinate meats in a mix of spices and acidic juices

As explorers traveled, these methods spread, with each region adding its touch. Europeans, for example, added tomatoes after discovering the New World.

Over time, as recipes traveled and evolved, families began crafting their unique homemade versions

Though no single individual can claim the title of “inventor,” the collective contributions of many have given us the rich variety of barbecue sauces we enjoy today.

Interesting Facts About Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe

  • Variety: Every region, from the American South to Korea, has its unique barbecue sauce recipe, showcasing many flavors.
  • First Recipes: The earliest recorded barbecue sauce recipes date back to the 19th century, with many focusing on vinegar and peppers.
  • Tomatoes: It wasn’t until the 20th century that tomatoes became a staple in American barbecue sauces, leading to the sweet and tangy profiles we recognize today.
  • Spice Blends: Some homemade recipes incorporate unexpected spices like cocoa or coffee, offering a complex flavor.
  • Heat Levels: You can adjust the spiciness to your preference; some use mild peppers, while others might go for the fiery heat of ghost peppers.
  • Healthier Option: Homemade versions typically contain fewer preservatives and artificial sweeteners than store-bought sauces.
  • Cultural Fusion: Many modern recipes are fusions, blending traditional American elements with flavors from Asian or Middle Eastern cuisines.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce

What Are The Regional Adaptations Of This Sauce?

  • American South: Characterized by a sweet and tangy profile, often using molasses or brown sugar.
  • North Carolina: Prefers a vinegar-based sauce with a spicy kick.
  • Kansas City: Known for its thick, sweet, and smoky sauce with a heavy tomato base.
  • Texas: Features a spicier, meatier sauce, sometimes using beef stock.
  • Asia: In places like Korea, the sauce combines soy, garlic, and sugar for a sweet and savory profile.
  • Middle East: Incorporates pomegranate molasses and spices, offering a tangy and spicy fusion.
  • Europe: Sauces might lean towards wine or mustard bases, with herbs for added depth.

What Will Make You Love This Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe? 

There are several reasons you’ll never resist falling in love with this homemade barbecue sauce recipe:

  • Customization: It allows you to tweak the flavors precisely to your liking, ensuring a perfect match for your palate.
  • Freshness: Using fresh ingredients ensures a vibrant and robust taste unmatched by store-bought versions.
  • Economical: Crafting your sauce at home could be more cost-effective in the long run.
  • Healthier Choice: Limit or exclude preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, or additives.
  • Versatility: It’s adaptable for various dishes, from grilling to baking or even as a dip.
  • Unique Blend: The fusion of flavors from different cultures gives it an edge, offering an exciting twist to traditional recipes.
  • Personal Touch: The joy of creating something tailored for friends and family adds a special touch to every meal.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients List

Butter (melted)2 tablespoons
Chopped onion2 tablespoons
Chopped green bell pepper1 tablespoon
Water1 cup
Ketchup1 cup
Mustard powder2 teaspoons
Salt1 teaspoon
Celery seed1 teaspoon
Brown sugar2 tablespoons
Lemon juice2 teaspoon

Ingredient Tips 

  • Butter: Opt for unsalted butter; this allows you to control the sodium content.
  • Onion & Bell Pepper: Freshly chop for a crisp texture and richer flavor.
  • Water: If you want a richer taste, add chicken or beef broth.
  • Ketchup: Use a quality brand; it can make a difference in the overall taste.
  • Mustard Powder: Store in a cool, dark place to preserve its pungent flavor.
  • Salt: Sea salt or pink Himalayan salt offers a more nuanced flavor than regular table salt.
  • Celery Seed: Grind it just before use for a fresher aroma.
  • Brown Sugar: Ensure it’s lump-free. You could also use honey or maple syrup for natural sweetness.
  • Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed offers the most authentic tang.
  • Storage: Keep ingredients in airtight containers to maintain freshness.

What Are The Variations Of Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe? 

  • Honey BBQ: Enhances the sweetness by adding honey, offering a smoother, sticky finish.
  • Spicy BBQ: Incorporates hot peppers or chili powder for those who love an extra kick.
  • White BBQ Sauce: A mayo-based sauce with a tangy profile, popular in parts of the American South, especially Alabama.
  • Bourbon BBQ: Adds bourbon for a deeper, smokier taste with a hint of the liquor’s sweetness.
  • Fruity BBQ: Infuses fruit elements like mango, pineapple, or apple to give a tropical or tart undertone.
  • Asian Twist: Uses soy sauce, ginger, and sesame oil for an Asian-inspired flavor profile.
  • Herb Infused: Mix rosemary, thyme, or cilantro for a fresh aroma and taste.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Recipe Directions

Cooking Method

  • In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  • Add the chopped onion and green bell pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Stir in the water, ketchup, mustard powder, salt, celery seed, and brown sugar. Mix until well combined.
  • Allow the mixture to come to a gentle simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the lemon juice, then remove the saucepan from heat.
  • Let the sauce cool to room temperature. For the best flavor, allow it to rest for at least 2 hours, permitting the flavors to meld and deepen.

Scaling The Recipe

  • Consistency: When multiplying ingredients, monitor the sauce’s thickness. You might want to adjust water or ketchup to reach the desired consistency.
  • Flavor Intensity: Scaling doesn’t always mean a linear increase in flavor. Taste as you go and adjust seasonings accordingly.
  • Cooking Time: Larger quantities may require more simmering time for flavors to meld. Conversely, smaller batches might cook faster.
  • Storage: Ensure you have appropriate-sized containers for storage.
  • Ingredient Proportions: Always maintain the ratio between ingredients, especially foundational ones like ketchup, water, and seasonings.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Can This Sauce Be Used As A Marinade, Dipping Sauce, Or Dressing For Salads?

  • Marinade: Its blend of flavors penetrates meat effectively, tenderizing and infusing it with a rich taste. Before grilling or baking, coat your choice of meat with the sauce and let it marinate for a few hours or overnight.
  • Dipping Sauce: The consistency and tangy-sweet profile makes it an excellent companion for finger foods. It pairs well with fried snacks, roasted veggies, and grilled meats.
  • Dressing for Salads: While unconventional, if you’re looking for a zesty twist to your salads, drizzling a thinned-out version of this sauce can add a burst of flavor. Mix it with olive oil and vinegar to achieve the right consistency for a salad dressing.

What Are The Best Dishes To Accompany Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe?

  • Grilled Meats: From pork ribs to beef steaks and chicken wings, the sauce enhances the smoky flavors of grilled items.
  • Burgers: Drizzle or spread on beef, chicken, or veggie patties for an added zesty punch.
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches: The tangy-sweet profile complements the tender shredded pork perfectly.
  • BBQ Pizzas: Swap the traditional tomato sauce for barbecue sauce on a pizza base, topped with chicken or pork.
  • Baked Beans: The sauce enriches the beans, lending depth and character.
  • Tofu and Tempeh: Vegetarian options that absorb the sauce’s flavors beautifully when marinated.
  • Roasted Vegetables: Drizzle over or mix with veggies before roasting for a delightful twist.
  • Potato Dishes: Especially fries, wedges, or potato salads. The sauce’s tang counterbalances the potato’s earthiness.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce

What Are Some Classic Dishes That Feature Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe?

  • BBQ Ribs: Tender ribs slathered with sauce and slow-cooked until they’re fall-off-the-bone soft.
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches: Slow-cooked pork shoulder, shredded and mixed with barbecue sauce, served in a soft bun.
  • Chicken Wings: Baked or grilled wings coated in the sauce, perfect for game day.
  • Brisket: Slow-cooked beef brisket brushed with sauce for a sweet and tangy crust.
  • Barbecue Chicken Pizza: A delightful pizza variation with sauce, chicken, red onions, and cheese.
  • Meatloaf: Barbecue sauce gives this classic dish a moist, flavorful twist.
  • BBQ Tofu Skewers: Marinated tofu cubes grilled to perfection, offering a vegetarian delight.
  • Grilled Shrimp: Seafood lovers can enjoy shrimp brushed with the sauce for a smoky-sweet finish.

What Are The Key Flavor Profiles And Taste Sensations That Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe Offers?

  • Sweetness: Often derived from brown sugar, honey, or molasses, it gives the sauce its classic, sticky finish.
  • Tanginess: Courtesy of vinegar or lemon juice, offering a refreshing zing.
  • Savory: The deep, umami flavor often arises from tomatoes, soy sauce, or Worcestershire sauce.
  • Spiciness: Many recipes include chili powder, cayenne, or hot sauce, adding a kick.
  • Smokiness: Ingredients like smoked paprika or liquid smoke contribute to this deep taste.
  • Herbaceous: Adding herbs like rosemary or thyme can introduce a fresh, aromatic quality.
  • Earthy: Spices like cumin or celery seed ground the sauce with a warm, comforting depth.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Can This Sauce Be Stored And Preserved For Future Use? What Is Its Shelf Life?

  • Cooling: After cooking, allow the sauce to cool to room temperature.
  • Storage: Transfer the sauce to a clean, airtight jar or container.
  • Refrigeration: Store the sauce in the refrigerator to maintain freshness.
  • Shelf Life: When properly stored, the sauce will last 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Freezing: You could freeze the sauce in portioned containers for longer storage. It will extend the shelf life to several months.
  • Checking: Before using, always check for signs of spoilage, like off odors or mold, and ensure the sauce’s consistency and flavor remain intact.

What Are The Substitutes For Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe?

  • Ketchup & Worcestershire Sauce: Mix these with honey or brown sugar for a quick alternative.
  • Hoisin Sauce: A sweet and tangy Chinese sauce, it offers depth and can be thinned with vinegar.
  • Teriyaki Sauce: Provides a sweet and savory profile with an Asian touch.
  • Tomato Sauce & Spices: Combine with spices, sugar, and vinegar to mimic barbecue flavors.
  • Chili Sauce: Offers a spicy kick and can be sweetened if necessary.
  • Mustard Sauce: It pairs well with meats, especially for a tangy alternative.
  • Molasses & Vinegar: Mix these for a basic, sweet, and tangy sauce.
  • Store-bought BBQ Sauce: Commercial versions can suffice in a pinch, though they might contain additives and preservatives.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce

How To Adjust The Consistency Of The Sauce?

  • Thicker Sauce: Simmer it on low heat, allowing excess moisture to evaporate. You could also add a cornstarch-water slurry (1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch mixed with equal water) and cook until it thickens.
  • Thinner Sauce: Add more water or any liquid component (like vinegar or broth) in small increments until the desired consistency is reached.
  • Smooth Texture: If you prefer a sauce without chunks, blend it with an immersion or a standard blender after cooking.
  • Checking Consistency: Remember, sauces tend to thicken as they cool, so always consider the final consistency once cooled. Adjust accordingly during the cooking process.

Should We Serve The Sauce Cold Or Warm?

  • Warm: Ideal for dishes straight off the grill or oven, like ribs, chicken, or brisket. Heating the sauce can intensify its flavors and meld better with hot foods.
  • Cold: Works great as a dipping sauce for appetizers or when used in cold salads. A chilled sauce can provide a refreshing contrast to hot or fried foods like chicken tenders or fries.
  • Versatility: The sauce’s beauty lies in its adaptability. It can seamlessly fit into various culinary contexts, whether warm or cold.
  • Storage: If stored in the refrigerator, consider warming it slightly for specific dishes or if you desire a runnier consistency.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Nutritional Values 

Deliciously rich in flavor, this homemade barbecue sauce also offers some nutritional benefits. Thanks to ingredients like tomatoes and lemon juice, it provides modest amounts of vitamin A and C.

The sauce’s brown sugar and ketchup contribute to its carbohydrate content. At the same time, spices and condiments add trace amounts of proteins and fats.

However, as with many sauces, it’s notable for its sodium, so it’s wise to consume it in moderation, especially for those watching their salt intake.

What Are The Total Calories In Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe? 

To determine the exact calorie count for a homemade barbecue sauce recipe, one would need each ingredient’s specific calorie values and quantities.

However, on average, a tablespoon of homemade barbecue sauce can range between 20 to 40 calories, depending on the amount of sugar, ketchup, and oil used. 

Dietary Restrictions Of The Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe

  • Gluten: Ingredients like certain ketchup or Worcestershire sauce brands might contain gluten.
  • Sugars: Brown sugar, ketchup, or other sweeteners can concern people with diabetes.
  • Vegan/Vegetarian: Some ketchup uses animal products; ensure your chosen brand aligns with vegan or vegetarian diets.
  • Salt: High sodium levels might be unsuitable for those on low-salt diets.
  • Allergens: Mustard powder is a known allergen; always check for sensitivity.
  • Preservatives: Even if homemade, some ingredients, like store-bought ketchup, might contain preservatives.
  • Acidity: Ingredients like vinegar and lemon juice can concern those with acid reflux or sensitive stomachs.

Nutrition Table 

nutrition table

What Are The Common Mistakes While Making This Sauce?

  • Over-sweetening: Adding too much sugar or sweet ingredients can overpower the other flavors.
  • Inconsistent Cooking: Not simmering the sauce long enough can result in uneven flavors. Conversely, overcooking can diminish the sauce’s freshness and make it overly thick.
  • Not Tasting as You Go: Failing to adjust seasonings during cooking can lead to bland or overly potent flavors.
  • Over-spicing: Overloading with spices or heat can make the sauce unpalatable for some.
  • Neglecting Acidity: Forgetting acidic ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice can produce a too-sweet sauce without the balancing tang.
  • Improper Storage: Not using airtight containers or not refrigerating the sauce can lead to quicker spoilage.
  • Using Low-Quality Ingredients: The quality of ingredients, especially the ketchup or tomatoes, directly impacts the sauce’s final taste.
  • Not Allowing Flavors to Meld: Skipping the resting phase can prevent the flavors from fully blending, reducing the sauce’s depth.

What Are Some Creative Uses Of Leftover Sauce? 

  • Stir-Fry: Mix it into vegetable or meat stir-fries for a quick flavor boost.
  • Meatloaf Glaze: Brush over meatloaf before baking for a tangy crust.
  • Soup Base: Add to bean or vegetable soups for depth.
  • Cocktail Sauce: Combine with horseradish for a zesty seafood dip.
  • Baked Beans: Stir into canned or homemade beans for extra flavor.
  • Pizza Base: Use instead of tomato sauce for a BBQ-themed pizza.
  • Pasta Sauce: Mix with cooked pasta for a unique twist.
  • Grilled Cheese Spread: Apply inside a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Bread Dip: Combine with olive oil for a tangy bread dip.
  • Popcorn Seasoning: Drizzle over popcorn for a sweet-spicy snack.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Special Tools & Equipment Needed

  • Saucepan: Medium-sized for cooking and simmering the sauce.
  • Wooden Spoon: Ideal for stirring without scratching the pan’s surface.
  • Whisk: Helps in blending ingredients smoothly, especially if adding a cornstarch slurry.
  • Measuring Spoons & Cups: For accurate ingredient quantities.
  • Blender/Immersion Blender: Useful if you prefer a smoother, non-chunky sauce.
  • Sieve/Strainer: Helps strain out any solid bits, if desired.
  • Glass Jars: For storing the sauce, ensure an airtight seal.
  • Thermometer: To monitor the sauce temperature, especially if simmering, for consistency.
  • Funnel: Useful when transferring sauce to storage bottles or jars.
  • Garlic Press: If incorporating fresh garlic for added flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions  

How Long Can I Store This Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe?

The sauce can last up to 2-3 weeks when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For longer shelf life, consider freezing it.

Can I Make This Sauce Spicier Or Sweeter?

Absolutely! Adjust the ingredients to your preference. Add more chili or hot sauce for heat, brown sugar, and corey for sweetness.

Is This Sauce Gluten-Free?

While the essential ingredients are generally gluten-free, always check labels, especially for ketchup and mustard powder, which might contain gluten in specific brands.

Can I Use This Sauce As A Marinade?

Yes, the sauce’s flavor profile makes it an excellent marinade for meats, tofu, and even vegetables before grilling or baking.

I Don’t Have Celery Seed. Can I Omit It Or Replace It?

While celery seed adds a distinct flavor, you can omit it or replace it with a pinch of celery salt or finely chopped fresh celery for a similar taste. Adjust the salt content accordingly if using celery salt.

Mouthwatering Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe (Just In 20 Minutes)

5 from 2 votes
Course: Sauces


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Cooking time




Ferment/Rest Time



This homemade barbecue sauce is a harmonious blend of sweet, tangy, and savory flavors, perfect for elevating grilled meats, dips, and various dishes. Crafted with fresh ingredients, it offers a richness that store-bought versions often lack, making it a must-try for barbecue enthusiasts.


  • 2 tablespoons 2 Butter (melted)

  • 2 tablespoons 2 Chopped onion

  • 1 tablespoon 1 Chopped green bell pepper

  • 1 cup 1 Water

  • 1 cup 1 Ketchup

  • 2 teaspoons 2 Mustard powder

  • 1 teaspoon 1 Salt

  • 1 teaspoon 1 Celery seed

  • 2 tablespoons 2 Brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoon 2 Lemon juice

Step-By-Step Directions

  • Preparation: Gather all the ingredients – butter or margarine, onion, green bell pepper, water, ketchup, mustard powder, salt, celery seed, brown sugar, and lemon juice.
  • Melt Butter: Melt the butter or margarine over medium heat in a medium saucepan.
  • Sauté Vegetables: Add the chopped onion and green bell pepper to the saucepan. Sauté until the onion becomes translucent and the pepper softens for about 3-4 minutes.
  • Combine Ingredients: Pour in the water and ketchup. Follow with the mustard powder, salt, celery seed, and brown sugar. Stir the mixture well, ensuring all ingredients blend seamlessly.
  • Simmer: Allow the sauce to come to a light simmer. Reduce heat to low and let it cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. This helps in melding the flavors together.
  • Add Lemon Juice: Stir in the lemon juice, mixing it well into the sauce.
  • Cool and Store: Once done, remove from heat. Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature. It’s ready to be used on your choice of meat or stored in an airtight container for future use.

Recipe Video


  • Adjustability: The beauty of this sauce is its adaptability. Feel free to tweak ingredients based on personal preferences.
  • Storage: While the sauce has a decent refrigerator life, consider freezing in portioned containers for extended use.
  • Versatility: Apart from traditional uses, get creative! Use it in stir-fries, pizzas, or even as a base for other dishes.
  • Spiciness: If you’re sensitive to heat, reduce or omit spicy components, and vice versa if you crave more kick.

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Welcome, fellow flavor enthusiasts to the world of Sauce Chick, where every flavor tells a tale of creativity, passion, and the harmonious fusion of spices and sauces.

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