Coca-Cola Barbecue Sauce

Coca Cola Can Gabion Wall
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Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 12 mins
Total: 22 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Yield: 5 1/2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
57 Calories
0g Fat
15g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 57
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 349mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 12g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 1mg 7%
Calcium 9mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 99mg 2%
*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.)

You might not think of a cola as the base for a barbecue sauce, but the sweetness of the soda helps to enhance the flavors of the sauce. You can reduce the calories of this sauce with diet soda, but it will change the flavor.

It's best to pour the 2-cup portion out of a can or large bottle and let it sit open to the air to go flat before you use it in this recipe. Otherwise, you will get foaming that could result in a mess when you are making the sauce.

This sauce can be used on any cut of meat and most meat substitutes. It can also be served as a table sauce with pulled pork or brisket. Because it is high in sugar, it should not be used when grilling at high temperature. Sugar burns at a temperature of about 265 F (130 C). You can apply the sauce near the end of cooking time when you have reduced the heat, allowing it to glaze on the surface of the meat.


  • 2 cups (475 milliliters) Coca-Cola, or similar cola

  • 2 cups (475 millliters) ketchup

  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped

  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) white vinegar

  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) brown sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon mild chili powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or less if preferred

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Steps to Make It

  1. In a large saucepan, add all of the ingredients. Place it on the stovetop over medium heat and bring the sauce up to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook the sauce for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  2. Once the sauce has thickened, remove it from the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes before using.

If you are making the sauce ahead, let the sauce cool completely and place it into an airtight plastic container or jar and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week after preparation. Warm it before using. Discard the sauce if you see any mold forming or it produces an unpleasant odor.

Coca-Cola adds more than sugar (in the form of high fructose corn syrup). It has tartness due to phosphoric acid, similar to the tartness of the vinegar that is a basic part of barbecue sauce. The flavorings in Coke are a closely held secret. Certainly, there are essential citrus oils of orange, lime, and lemon. Lab analysis has found the aromas of cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg, and some suspect there is lavender as well.

You will also get different results based on the ketchup you use. Most brands also have high fructose corn syrup providing sugar, plus vinegar and spices that include allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. If you use your own homemade ketchup, you will have more control over what goes into your barbecue sauce.