Homemade BBQ Sauce

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This mild Homemade BBQ Sauce is thick, tangy, and uses up leftover tomato products in your pantry instead of relying on ketchup as a base. Slightly sweetened with molasses for the kids and a touch of liquid smoke for adults, this BBQ sauce is a winner all around the dinner table.

spoonful of homemade bbq sauce hovering over a mason jar.

Today’s Pantry Essentials: Homemade BBQ Sauce

Making your very own BBQ sauce has some pretty cool benefits. First, you get to be the boss of what goes into it, meaning no sneaky additives or preservatives. That’s a win for serving up a healthier, more natural option for your family. Plus, it’s like playing mad scientist in your kitchen, adjusting the flavors and heat to match your crew’s taste buds.

How to make the best homemade BBQ sauce ever

There is a wide variety of BBQ sauces out there, I’ve tried a ton. And each has its own special taste or technique. However, many are pretty spicy and therefore not very kid-friendly. Between that and the ingredients required, I decided to make my own.

Does all BBQ sauce have ketchup? Not this one! This BBQ sauce is thick, heavily tomato-based without using any of your ketchup, and makes the perfect glaze for your chicken wings or spare ribs. As a mom, we go through ketchup enough as it is, so I want to save that for when we use it for traditional dipping.

All you need to do is whisk up the the ingredients and cook them over medium-low heat. Give it an occasional stir, and you’ll soon see it start to simmer. After about 10 minutes, it’ll thicken up nicely, and you’ve got yourself a homemade BBQ sauce to slather on your favorite grilled goodies.

Buy Generic or Store Brands

Opt for store-brand or generic versions of ingredients like canned tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar. They’re often just as good as name brands but cost less.

Ingredients Needed

Exact measurements can be found in the printable recipe card below.

  • Tomato Paste and Crushed Canned Tomatoes: This is how we manage to make the BBQ sauce without ketchup! If you don’t have crushed tomatoes you can use tomato sauce instead.
  • Brown Sugar: You can replace this with honey or maple syrup for a different flavor.
  • Maple Syrup: Contributes a unique sweetness. Replace with honey or brown sugar if necessary.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Soy sauce can be a substitute for a vegetarian version.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Use white wine vinegar or lemon juice if you’re out of apple cider vinegar.
  • Molasses: If you don’t have molasses you can add more other other sweetener instead.
  • Liquid Smoke: Infuses a smoky aroma without the need for a grill.
  • Seasonings: Onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, and mustard powder.

Recipe Variations

  • If you love heat, add extra red pepper flakes or a dash of hot sauce. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce can also bring a smoky and spicy kick.
  • Replace some or all of the brown sugar and molasses with honey for a sweeter, milder flavor.
  • Enhance the tanginess by using more mustard, or make it the star ingredient for a unique tangy BBQ sauce.

Make Larger Batches

Preparing a bigger batch of BBQ sauce can help you save in the long run. Store any excess sauce in the refrigerator for later use. If you have empty glass jars from other condiments, sterilize and re-use them to store your homemade BBQ sauce.


This is an overview of the instructions. For complete directions, scroll down to the bottom.

  1. Combine all ingredients with a whisk in a small pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
  2. Stirring occasionally, bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.

How to store and freeze BBQ sauce

  • Refrigerate: To store BBQ sauce, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a month.
  • Freeze: For freezing, place the sauce in a freezer-safe container, leaving some room for expansion, and store for up to 3 months.
  • Reheat: When reheating, gently warm the sauce in a saucepan over low heat or in the microwave, stirring occasionally, until it reaches your desired consistency.

Use leftover BBQ sauce as a pizza sauce for a unique BBQ pizza. Top with grilled chicken, red onions, and mozzarella cheese.


Does BBQ sauce need to be cooked?

No, BBQ sauce doesn’t necessarily need to be cooked before using. You can use it directly as a marinade, glaze, or dipping sauce. However, simmering the sauce can enhance its flavors and thicken the consistency.

Is BBQ Sauce healthy?

The healthiness of BBQ sauce depends on the ingredients used. Homemade BBQ sauce allows you to control the ingredients, making it a healthier option by reducing added sugars and artificial additives. You can adjust the sauce to fit your dietary preferences.

Is it possible to make a vegetarian or vegan version of BBQ sauce?

Absolutely! You can make a vegetarian or vegan BBQ sauce by replacing ingredients like Worcestershire sauce with vegan-friendly alternatives and ensuring that all components are plant-based. Homemade BBQ sauce allows for complete customization to meet dietary preferences.

How to Use Homemade BBQ sauce

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Homemade Mild BBQ Sauce

spoonful of homemade bbq sauce hovering over a mason jar.
Don't let the name fool you. This homemade mild BBQ sauce is mild in heat but rich in flavor. Add it to your meat of choice and watch this thick glaze transform ordinary dinner into an extraordinary family favorite.
Katie Chase
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • measuring utensils
  • small saucepot
  • whisk
  • pint mason jar with lid


  • 14.5 ounces tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses
  • 1 Tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine black pepper
  • cayenne pepper to taste


  • Combine all ingredients with a whisk in a small pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
  • Stirring occasionally, bring to a simmer for 30 minutes to combine and thicken. Use immediately or store for future use.
Disclaimer: Please note all serving sizes, pricing, and nutrition is an estimate based on 2023-2024 pricing and nutrition guides. For accuracy please do your own calculations.

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