Memphis Barbecue Sauce

Memphis Barbecue Sauce

The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 18 mins
Total: 33 mins
Servings: 10 servings
Yield: 2 1/2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
78 Calories
3g Fat
14g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10
Amount per serving
Calories 78
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 3%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Cholesterol 6mg 2%
Sodium 383mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 11g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 2mg 10%
Calcium 31mg 2%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 188mg 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.)

Of the few master methods of American barbecue, Memphis style is a highly beloved technique. It's traditionally pork-centered, with the ribs either dry-rubbed and cooked in a pit or coated in a sauce before, during, and after a smoking process. The results are succulent no matter the route taken. In both cases, table sauces are not offered like in other barbecue styles. In Memphis, ribs and pulled pork are the main dishes served, and the secret is the dry rub. But why not make a sauce with some of the rub ingredients? Our take on what would be a Memphis BBQ table sauce offers some of the traditional dry rub flavors such as garlic and paprika, alongside key herbs such as thyme and oregano. A buttery base thickened by sweet ketchup makes a perfectly semi-viscous sauce. Fresh onions, molasses, and sugar give pungency and sweetness to balance out the end result. A touch of vinegar pays homage to classic BBQ sauces.

Many Memphis BBQ joints have sauces available, either on the side or by special order. Our sauce captures the complexity of Memphis BBQ in a rich sauce that you can serve with any grilled or smoked meat, but that is also wonderful to use in other recipes. Add mayo and make a creamy spread for sandwiches and wraps, or use it as a dressing for potato salad. Use the sauce as a marinade for chicken before it hits the grill, or add a spoonful or two to your crockpot beans, soups, or beef stews. This sauce with some sour cream or cream cheese makes a tasty dip for chips or an innovative bagel spread to use with your favorite cold cut combinations.


  • 1 cup ketchup

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/4 cup pureed onion

  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons molasses

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mild chili powder

  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Memphis Barbecue Sauce ingredients

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

  2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

    melted butter in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

  3. Add onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for 15 to 20 seconds or until it becomes fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn or it will cause the sauce to become bitter.

    onions, garlic and butter in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

  4. Add remaining ingredients pouring the vinegar last). Reduce the heat and simmer over low for 12 to 15 minutes. Stir every so often.

    sauce cooking in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

  5. Remove sauce from heat and let cool for 20 minutes.

    sauce cooking in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

  6. Use right away or store in an airtight container or jar in the refrigerator for up to one week after preparation. 

    Memphis Barbecue Sauce in a jar

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

  7. Enjoy!


  • To reheat the sauce, microwave for 30 seconds at a time until it reaches room temperature. Serve on the side.
  • Use the sauce on any meats and vegetables. This can be served as a side sauce or table sauce.
  • The sauce can be stored in an airtight container or jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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