Best BBQ Sauces for Ribs

The best sauces for ribs tend to be thick and sticky so that they coat the ribs and stay on the meat when you eat them. While most of these sauces are tomato-based, there are plenty of variations.

Any sauce that contains sugars (like tomatoes do) will burn at temperatures above 265 F (130 C). If you're cooking at temperatures above this, wait until the ribs are cooked before applying the sauce. This will prevent burning and you won't have blackened ribs.

Prepare these sauces in bigger batches and keep in the fridge between 1 and 2 weeks in a glass container. Avoid tasting and redipping the spoon because the sauce will go bad and get sour before you know it. Always reheat your sauce before using it. Never save sauce that has been in contact with cooked or uncooked meats.

  • 01 of 09

    Classic BBQ Rib Sauce

    Classic BBQ Sauce

    The Spruce

    A great rib sauce should cook on the ribs, low and slow so that it can sink into the pores of the meat and create a sticky crust on the surface. That's the case with this sauce, made on a base of ketchup and flavored with sugar, spices and liquid smoke for a true BBQ taste.

    Keeps for 1 week in the fridge.

  • 02 of 09

    Kansas City Rib Sauce

    Kansas City Rib Sauce
    Sabrina S. Baksh/Regarding BBQ Inc.

    In Kansas City, you typically get a thick tomato-based sauce that is sweet and often spicy. Our classic barbecue sauce is rich, dark in color, beautifully shiny on your favorite ribs, and also sticky and sweet.

    Since this is a sweet sauce made with sugar, avoid your cooking temperature rising above 265 F since it will burn easily. 

  • 03 of 09

    Jack Daniel's Rib Glaze

    Jack Daniel's Rib Glaze
    Iain Bagwell/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Whiskey-based barbecue sauces have a long history in the South. Our sweet tomato-based sauce gets that great whiskey flavor, and the sugar and spices tame that bite. Make the sauce a few days in advance for it to have time for the flavors to blend and for the whiskey to mellow.

    The recipe starts with simmering a cup of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey and flavoring it with ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper. Remember that despite the cooking process, the sauce will retain about 40% of its alcohol, so serve the sauce on the side and offer an alternative to those who don't wish to consume alcohol.

    Keeps for 1 week in the fridge.

  • 04 of 09

    Savory Rib Sauce

    Baby back ribs
    Juanmonino / Getty Images

    Our savory barbecue sauce features an old-fashioned approach to sauce-making by using chicken stock as a base. This is a great sauce for all kinds of barbecue, but the perfect blend for ribs, and because it's mild heat it's good for kids.

    Keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

    Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
    LOVE_LIFE/Getty Images

    Many commercial barbecue sauces use liquid smoke or smoke flavoring to give them that "authentic" barbecue flavor. In our sauce, we use smoked jalapeños (chipotles) instead for a hint of that charred flavor. Ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce round out the strong flavors going into the sauce.

    This is the perfect barbecue sauce for ribs that haven't been smoked.

    Keeps for 1 week in the fridge.

  • 06 of 09

    Dr. Pepper Barbecue Sauce

    BBQ ribs on grill


    If you have a plate of smoky ribs in one hand, chances are an ice-cold soda is in the other. Grab one bottle of Dr. Pepper and put this soda to fantastic use in a sweet sauce that's perfect on ribs.

    The Dr. Pepper reduces with ketchup, mild chili powder, sweet paprika, cider vinegar, brown sugar, among other ingredients. Watch your pot and stir to avoid overflowing because of the carbonation in the soda or burning because of the high sugar content. Add liquid smoke to taste.

    Baste your ribs with this sauce and to let it cook into place for smokey and perfectly sticky ribs.

    Keeps for 1 week in the fridge.

  • 07 of 09

    Best Odds Rib Sauce

    Grilling Ribs
    mphillips007 / Getty Images

    This classic barbecue sauce is specifically designed for great barbecue ribs and gives you the best odds at making the best rack of ribs you've ever made.

    Cook tomato sauce, garlic powder, paprika, mustard, vinegar, onion powder, basil, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. Simmer until thick.

    Keeps for 5 days in the fridge.

  • 08 of 09

    Apple City Barbecue Sauce

    BBQ ribs
    mphillips007/Getty Images

    From legendary pitmaster Mike Mills, this award-winning barbecue sauce is a labor of love. Loaded with flavor, this sauce balances the sweetness of apples, the tartness of vinegar, and the smokiness of bacon. Would you believe it includes soy sauce?

    Keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Memphis Barbecue Sauce

    Memphis Barbecue Sauce

    The Spruce

    Balanced between sweet and hot, this sauce contains 1/2 cup of Louisiana-style hot sauce for a little kick. Thinner than most BBQ sauces, our Memphis-style recipe calls for molasses and sugar, so keep an eye on the pot and don't let it burn.

    Stir frequently until sauce has thickened, but remember Memphis-style sauce is thinner than others. Don't overcook.

    Keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge.

What Else to Do with BBQ Sauce

If you made too much sauce and don't know what to do with it, here are a few suggestions:

  • Use it as an overnight marinade on poultry or beef. Alternatively, freeze your meats coated in sauce and label them with the flavoring.
  • Use it as meatloaf sauce.
  • Mix it with mayonnaise as a salad dressing or as a dip for crudites, cheese sticks (tequeños), wrapped hot dogs, or chips.
  • Add 1/2 cup of sauce into your crockpot chili.
  • Use it as a sandwich sauce.
  • Grill thick pineapple slices coated in sauce.