Homemade Barbecue Sauce

5 from 5 votes
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This sweet and tangy homemade barbecue sauce tastes way better than store-bought! It’s easy to make with ingredients you already have in the fridge and pantry. You’ll want to use it on all your summer grilling recipes!

A spoonful of homemade barbecue sauce held over a mason jar.


My easy homemade barbecue sauce is one of my favorite things to make in grilling season. This recipe has a sweet and tangy base, rounded out with some flavorful pantry spices like smoky paprika and cayenne for heat. If you’ve never made BBQ sauce at home, or if you’re looking for a new favorite recipe, you need to try this one! 

This barbecue sauce takes 20 minutes on the stovetop and stays fresh in the fridge for a while. It’s delicious on everything from grilled pork chops to chicken wings, perfect for summertime cookouts.

Why It’s Worth Making Your Own Barbecue Sauce

  • Better taste. First things first. Homemade barbecue sauce tastes WAY better than store-bought. It’s hard to explain, but the flavors are… fresher. More flavorful. Like your grandmother just cooked up a batch of soulful, sweet-and-sticky BBQ sauce and delivered it with a hug.
  • Better ingredients. Making barbecue sauce at home means you can skip the “filler” ingredients, and stick to what makes a really good sauce. I love knowing exactly what goes into this recipe. You will, too!
  • It’s cheaper. I’m always making big batches of homemade BBQ sauce since it keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It’s also great to freeze for later, so you can save the trip to the store.
Ingredients for homemade barbecue sauce.

Recipe Ingredients

Barbecue sauce recipes are a very regional thing in the States. If you ask someone from Texas, Kentucky, or the Carolinas, they’ll all tell you different versions of what’s considered authentic barbecue sauce! Some are vinegary, some more tomatoey, others are sweet or even mayo-based, like Alabama’s white sauce.

My recipe is more of a smokier, sweeter, tomato-based Kansas City-style barbecue sauce. Here’s what you’ll need to make it. Scroll to the recipe card for a printable list of ingredients with the amounts.

  • Ketchup – This can be substituted with tomato sauce or tomato paste. I’ll also use homemade ketchup whenever I have a batch handy in the fridge.
  • Brown Sugar – I use light brown sugar, but regular brown sugar or granulated sugar works, too.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – You can substitute this with red or white wine vinegar if you’d like.
  • Molasses – Be sure to use light or dark molasses. I don’t recommend blackstrap molasses as the taste is very bitter.
  • Worcestershire Sauce – For a little umami flavor. Soy sauce also works here.
  • Seasonings – Chili powder (mild or spicy), sweet or smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper. 

How to Make Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Making this BBQ sauce from scratch is as easy as combining the ingredients in a pot on the stovetop, and letting them cook down into a sticky-sweet, smoky reduction. Follow the short steps below. Scroll down to the recipe card for printable instructions.

  • Combine the ingredients. First, add all of your barbecue sauce ingredients to a saucepan. Give everything a whisk until smooth.
  • Bring to a boil. Next, let the pot come to a boil over medium heat. Keep whisking! 
  • Simmer. Lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the sauce for 20 minutes while it reduces and thickens. Afterward, take the pan off the stove and let the barbecue sauce cool.

Tips for Success

  • Don’t overheat. Keep in mind that your barbecue sauce will continue to thicken up as it cools. Watch the sauce while it simmers and stir it every so often, making sure that it’s not reducing too quickly.
  • Add more heat. For a spicier barbecue sauce, feel free to add more cayenne pepper to taste. You can also add a dash of hot sauce or a spoonful of adobo sauce (crack open a can of chipotles in adobo and then make chipotle bacon ranch dip to get your BBQ started!)
  • Double the recipe. This recipe makes about 2 cups, but you can easily double it to make a bigger batch.
  • More homemade recipes. For another tasty barbecue sauce recipe, try my BBQ sauce with Coca-Cola.
A spoonful of homemade barbecue sauce held over a bowl of sauce.

Ways to Use Homemade BBQ Sauce

You can use this homemade barbecue sauce the old-fashioned way, on meats like chicken wings, ribs, and pulled pork. But why stop there? I love barbecue sauce on a grilled chicken sandwich, as a dressing for burgers, or I’ll use it as a dip for chicken tenders. It’s also great as a basting sauce for smoked chicken legs and brushing over grilled steak and pork. 

If you’re looking to get creative with your BBQ sauce, try these BBQ chicken nachos, or swap out the buffalo sauce on this buffalo chicken pizza.

A spoonful of homemade barbecue sauce laying on a tabletop next to more sauce in a mason jar.

How to Store

  • Refrigerate. This homemade barbecue sauce lasts in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Store it in a jar or airtight container.
  • Freeze. Yes, you can freeze barbecue sauce! Store this sauce airtight and freeze it for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight and give it a stir before using.

More Easy Sauce Recipes

A spoonful of homemade barbecue sauce held over a mason jar.
5 from 5 votes

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

By Erin
This easy homemade barbecue sauce tastes way better than store-bought! It’s sweet and tangy, perfect for summertime grilling, ribs, wings, and more
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper


  • In a saucepan whisk together all of the ingredients until well combined and smooth. 
  • Heat over medium heat to a boil, whisking frequently. 
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring every once in a while, until the mixture has thickened and is smooth. 
  • Remove from the heat and let cool. It will continue to thicken as it cools. 


Serving: 1g | Calories: 80kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Sodium: 403mg | Sugar: 18g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Erin
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: American
Calories: 80
Keyword: homemade barbecue sauce, homemade bbq sauce, homemade bbq sauce recipe
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About Erin S

Welcome to Dinners, Dishes, & Desserts where my love of food meets my busy life. My name is Erin and I’m a casual home cook who loves to feed people. On this blog, you’ll find hundreds of quick and easy recipes made mostly from scratch. My days are spent in the kitchen, creating new recipes to share with family and friends.

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  1. 5 stars
    I used this with a slow cooker pulled pork recipe I have, and it made the best sandwiches EVER! I love this stuff.

  2. 5 stars
    I used this with pulled pork, and it was outstanding. It is really SO much better than store bought.

  3. 5 stars
    I made the Homemade Barbecue Sauce for our cookout, and everyone loved it! It was so much better than store-bought, with a rich and bold flavor.

  4. 5 stars
    BBQ sauce is my all time favorite condiment – I would swim in it if I could. This one is fantastic, and super easy to make!