Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe

Homemade barbecue sauce trailing off a wooden spoon into a small glass jar

The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 25 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Yield: 2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
60 Calories
0g Fat
15g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 60
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 286mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 6%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 13g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 1mg 7%
Calcium 18mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 167mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Our classic, homemade BBQ sauce is sweet, tangy, and smoky, making it the perfect sauce to brush over ribs, brisket, chicken, or chops. The simple list of ingredients makes it a fast preparation and it's ready in about 25 minutes, start to finish. 

Barbecue sauce isn't just for brushing on ribs, chicken, or beef. Serve it as a dip for chicken wings or nuggets, onion rings, fries, or meatballs. It's also an excellent sauce option for sandwiches, pizza, burgers, pulled pork, and tacos. Or drizzle homemade sauce over a grilled or BBQ chicken salad or steak salad.

BBQ sauce keeps well, and you'll want to have a jar ready to go in your fridge at all times. Luckily, it's quick and easy to make and tastes so much better than the bottled stuff.


Click Play to Learn How to Make Homemade BBQ Sauce

“This BBQ sauce is smoky, tangy and flavorful with just enough sweetness to create that perfect balance. It’s so easy to make and ready in less than 30 minutes. I used it for some BBQ cauliflower wings and it was a hit!”—Bahareh Niati

Homemade barbecue sauce in a white bowl on a plate with a spoon
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 cups ketchup

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar

  • 3 tablespoons molasses

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke

  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Homemade BBQ sauce ingredients gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray

  2. Combine the ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, onion and garlic powder, and pepper in a medium saucepan.

    classic bbq sauce in a saucepan
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  3. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Lower the heat to low and simmer until reduced and thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. The sauce will darken as it cooks.

    saucepan with classic bbq sauce
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  4. Use the BBQ sauce immediately or let it cool, pour it into a jar or container, and store it in the refrigerator.

    homemade bbq sauce in a jar
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray


  • For a thicker sauce, simmer the sauce for a little longer, stirring occasionally.
  • Adjust the sweetness by adding more or less brown sugar.

Recipe Variations

  • Maple-Flavored BBQ Sauce: Replace the molasses with maple syrup.
  • Vegan BBQ Sauce: Use vegan Worcestershire sauce or replace it with coconut aminos.
  • Spicy BBQ Sauce: Add a dash of cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, or hot sauce.
  • Bourbon or Whiskey BBQ Sauce: Add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of Kentucky bourbon or whiskey to the pan and simmer the sauce for about 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until thickened.

How to Store and Freeze

  • Refrigerate homemade barbecue sauce in a jar or covered container for up to 7 days.
  • To freeze, pour the cooled sauce into a freezer container or zip-top freezer bag. Freeze homemade BBQ sauce for up to 6 months. Defrost it in the refrigerator overnight.

How to Use Classic BBQ Sauce

  • Brush BBQ sauce over grilled meat or poultry about 10 minutes before it is done cooking.
  • Add a few tablespoons to chili or lentil and bean soups.
  • Add 2 tablespoons per each 1/2 cup of white wine to marinate chicken or flank steak.
  • Mix 1/2 cup of sauce, 1/2 cup of mayo, and 1/4 cup of dill relish to make a creamy sauce to top burgers, hot dogs, and for dipping fries or chips, or use this preparation as a dressing for pasta salads.
  • Thin out 1 cup of sauce with 1/2 cup of vegetable broth and mix with already-cooked pulled pork.
  • Pour sauce on cooked turkey, chicken, or beef meatballs.
  • Use it on deep-fried chicken wings. Once the wings are ready, coat them with sauce and serve.
  • Use it on pulled pork and cheese sandwiches, adding the cheese of your liking.
  • Add a few tablespoons of sauce to your meatloaf mixture before baking or brush it on top.
  • Use the sauce as a flavor enhancer in pork and pineapple dishes.
  • Use it on tostones, adding cheese and shredded meat on top.

Does Homemade BBQ Sauce Have to Be Cooked?

Cooking barbecue sauce helps to thicken it as excess liquids evaporate and it allows the flavors to meld, making the sauce smoky, sweet, tangy, and delicious.

Can You Use Barbecue Sauce as a Marinade?

If you are braising or slow cooking, it's fine to use BBQ sauce as a marinade. Barbecue sauce isn't a good marinade if you're grilling or broiling food because the sugar in the sauce will burn long before the meat or poultry is fully cooked.