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Homemade BBQ Sauce

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This sweet, tangy and smoky barbecue sauce is easy to make and delicious slathered on grilled chicken or ribs.

Jar of barbeque sauce.

You can buy a tasty barbecue sauce at the supermarket, but it really is so easy to make your own. My kids put this sweet, tangy, smoky homemade BBQ sauce on just about everything. It’s a classic Kansas City-style BBQ sauce made from ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, cider vinegar, and spices, and it’s delicious slathered on BBQ chicken, pulled pork, or baby back ribs. Because of the high sugar content in the sauce, it’s best to use brush it on the meat towards the very end of the cooking time so that it doesn’t burn. Feel free to double the recipe if you’d like to make extra; the sauce keeps well in the refrigerator for up to one week.

What You’ll Need To Make Homemade BBQ Sauce

homemade bbq sauce ingredients

Step-by-step Instructions

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat and add the onion.

Wooden spoon stirring onions in a pan.

Cook, stirring frequently until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

adding garlic to onions

Add the ketchup, water, brown sugar, molasses, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin; stir to combine and bring to a simmer.

simmering bbq sauce

Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. At this point, the sauce is ready to serve, but if you’d like to make it completely smooth, transfer it to a blender and blend until smooth.

finished bbq sauce

Store the BBQ sauce in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Jar of barbeque sauce.

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Homemade BBQ Sauce

This sweet, tangy and smoky barbecue sauce is easy to make and delicious slathered on grilled chicken or ribs.

Servings: 2 cups
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 35 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ cups ketchup
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the ketchup, water, brown sugar, molasses, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin; stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. At this point, the sauce is ready to serve, but if you'd like to make it completely smooth, transfer it to a blender and blend until smooth.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (16 servings)
  • Serving size: 2 tablespoons
  • Calories: 69
  • Fat: 2 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 14 g
  • Sugar: 11 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Sodium: 232 mg
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Comments

  • Hi Jenn, I’ve used and loved your homemade BBQ sauce for a couple of years now but I’m sure I’ve never sautéed onions as part of it. Is this an updated recipe? If so, is the old recipe the one described in your Slow-Baked BBQ Short Ribs recipe?

    • — Ellie B on April 19, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Ellie, I haven’t changed the recipe — it’s always had the sauteed onions. 😊

      • — Jenn on April 19, 2024
      • Reply
  • I just made this BBQ sauce and the BBQ chicken on the grill. We were ready for a summer style meal, after all the winter comfort food. In the summer I keep a jar of it in the fridge at all times. I could eat it plain with a spoon it’s so good!

    • — Tonya on March 16, 2024
    • Reply
  • I have been looking for a good homemade bbq sauce and think I found it.
    After making it a few times, I have made the following modifications:
    – reduce ketchup to 1 cup and add 1/2 cup tomato sauce
    – deleted the cumin
    Add: 1/2 tsp onion powder, garlic powder, ground mustard and cayenne as well as salt and pepper and a few dashes of Franks Hot Sauce.
    I also mince the onions so I don’t have to blend it after it cooks.
    Thanks for the great recipe!

    • — Mr. K on November 19, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. Do you think this sauce would freeze well?
    Many thanks for your wonderful website & cookbooks.
    Mary

    • — Mary on October 22, 2023
    • Reply
    • Glad you like the recipes/cookbooks! I’ve never done it, but do think you could get away with freezing the BBQ sauce.

      • — Jenn on October 23, 2023
      • Reply
  • Wow, this Homemade BBQ Sauce is so delicious and I adding it to my favorite recipes. The baby back ribs were tender with this sauce, and will try it with other meats. I’m back looking for another recipe written by you.

    • — Frances Maye on September 30, 2023
    • Reply
  • Excellent recipe. I didn’t have molasses:( but it still made a stellar bbq sauce. I’ll try it again when I buy molasses.

    • — ReneeK on June 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is a quick, easy and delicious bbq recipe. The whole family really enjoyed it!

    • — Jeri on June 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • Amazing sauce even with low-sugar ketchup. Everyone loved it! Thank you, Jenn!

    • — S. Powell on February 11, 2023
    • Reply
  • Huge fan of this sauce. Everyone in the family always loves it every time we make it.

    • — Bbqdood on February 10, 2023
    • Reply
  • Quick, easy & delicious, serves really well with the zucchini fritters from this same website!

    • — Mel on January 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • DELICIOUS! I made this recipe for some pork ribs I slow cooked in the oven with a homemade dry rub for 3 hours on 300* and then brushed them with this BBQ sauce and put them on the grill for 5 minutes a side. They were fall off the bone fantastic!

    • — Isabella on October 30, 2022
    • Reply
  • OH MY GOSH. This isn’t good, it’s fabulous! Best BBQ sauce I think I’ve ever had. This is another thing I’ll never buy at the grocery store! A keeper! Thank you so much.

    • — Terie on August 28, 2022
    • Reply
  • Love all your recipes. This BBQ sauce is so easy to make and is out of this world! I will NEVER use store bought BBQ sauce again. Thank you for all your wonderful recipes. Love your cookbooks, too!

  • Used this recipe after finding my pantry bare of my favorite BBQ sauce. This was quick and delicious! I may never buy BBQ sauce again. I used red onions instead of yellow as that’s all I had. You could easily adjust this to incorporate more spice, add honey or even maple syrup. I didn’t process it, but I see the advantages of doing so if your chop isn’t fine on the onions and garlic or whatever else you might want to add like a jalapeno. Thanks again Jenn!

  • I made this with your chicken recipe and it is SO good with that! Do you think it would work on meatloaf as well? Thank you!!

    • Glad you liked it! Yes, I think this would work nicely on meatloaf.

  • How long will this keep in the refrigerator?

    • Hi Mari, It should last nightly for up to a week.

  • This is a delicious (and easy) barbecue sauce! To make it vegetarian for my daughter, I swapped in soy sauce for the Worcestershire. I used it to make pulled jackfruit (similar to pulled pork or chicken, but good for vegetarians).

  • Very good! I halved the chili powder because of our family’s tolerance to heat, but kept the rest the same. Will make again!

  • Since this is “homemade” could the ketchup be substituted with pulpa or other canned tomato product? I try to use a little processed food as possible and it seems that most of your ingredients are what is in ketchup anyway.

    • Hi Dennie, I do think you could use canned tomato sauce, but you will likely need to add more sugar and seasoning to taste. Hope that helps!

  • Would maple syrup be ok instead of molasses if I don’t have any? Or do I need is thickness?

    • Sure, Judy, that should be fine. Enjoy!

      • I used maple syrup and it was off the charts yummy.

        • — Barb on June 26, 2022
        • Reply
  • I don’t have molasses in the house – can I just use dark brown sugar instead of the light?

    • Sure – I’d replace the molasses with the dark brown sugar and use dark brown sugar in place of the 1/4 cup of light brown sugar. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • Tried this recipe for ribs that I made and have to say it’s very very good. My new bbq sauce for sure.

  • Why is it suggested that the sauce keeps only for a week in the refrigerator, when all ingredients would normally last much, much longer individually? Thank you

    • Hi Jim, it may very well keep nicely for longer than that, but I like to err on the conservative side from a food safety standpoint. Hope that clarifies!

  • FYI, there appears to be a typo in the “prep time”: . . . 10 hours, 15 minutes!

    I’ll look forward to trying this recipe.

    – Mark

    • LOL – oops! That would be a long time to spend on BBQ sauce! Thanks for letting me know. ☺

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