Sweet & tangy with just the teensiest bit of heat, this is the barbecue sauce of your dreams! Easy recipe & so much better than store-bought!

Barbecue sauce in a shallow glass dish with a basting brush.

Today I’m sharing this fabulous homemade barbecue sauce recipe with you. It’s our family favorite and I think you’re going to love it too!

It’s sweet and tangy and there is just the barest whisper of heat, to really take your meals to a super-delicious level.

You can make it with mostly pantry staples and it couldn’t be easier. Basically just a dump and stir situation that you can just let simmer away and thicken up.

Add this to your list of summertime cookout basics, along with my potato salad, baked beans, and macaroni and cheese!

Barbecue sauce recipe prepared and being picked up on a sauce brush.

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Why this is the best barbecue sauce recipe

  1. Tastes amazing: It’s the perfect balance of sweet, tangy, smoky, and a little bit spicy.
  2. Few ingredients: You probably have most of them already on hand.
  3. Easy to make: There’s only around 5 minutes of active time.
  4. Versatile: Adjust the ratios to make it more or less sweet or spicy or add more smokiness.

What does this homemade barbecue sauce taste like?

If you like Sweet Baby Ray’s then you’ll love this homemade barbecue sauce. It’s a dead ringer!

The color is dark, it’s smooth and thick, and very sweet and tangy. I’d put it into the “Kansas City barbecue” category.

There’s a slightly smoky quality from the chipotle chilis (which are smoked jalapeno peppers) and a teensy bit of heat as well.

If you like it smokier, I’ve got suggestions for that below, and you can also up the spice if you so choose.


Ingredients for making barbecue sauce, with text labels.

Ketchup: Forms the basis of the sauce. It’s great because it’s already nice and thick, and it’s got tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and other spices that really form a nice head start to your sauce.

Vinegar: I like apple cider vinegar here. It’s fruity notes really compliment the other flavors in the sauce.

Brown sugar: Dark or light brown sugar will work just fine. For what you see here, I used dark brown sugar.

Molasses: Molasses is made from sugar cane, so it offers sweetness in the same way as the brown sugar does. But it’s also dark as night and so sticky, with a slight bitterness that really balances everything out beautifully.

Worcestershire sauce: Worcestershire sauce is another ingredient that’s made up of a blend of lots of different things. Overall, it provides a slightly tangy but very savory, umami flavor.

Chipotle in adobo: Chipotle chili peppers are jalapenos that have been smoked. They come in a small can, and they’re drenched in a sauce that is smoky, tomato-y, and a little spicy. Once the can’s been opened, transfer any remaining contents to an airtight container and stash them in the fridge. They last an eternity. You can add as many or as few chipotle peppers as you like. I just use 1. I don’t like things too fire-y-hot, and one pepper just gives the barest hint of spice.

Dry mustard: A traditional ingredient that brings a little earthiness and heat.

Garlic powder: Adds a savory quality that tastes great with any kind of meat.

Pepper: I prefer ground black pepper here.

Special equipment

How to make barbecue sauce

This easy recipe only has 2 steps!

Step 1: Combine the ingredients

Dump everything into a pot.

Ingredients for homemade barbecue sauce in a small pot.

Whisk it up until smooth.

Step 2: Simmer

Place the lid on the pot, bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down to the lowest setting, set the lid slightly ajar (so steam can escape) and allow the sauce to simmer until nice and thick.

This usually takes around 30 minutes, but keep your eye on it and give it a stir every so often so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

How to serve bbq sauce

This can be used as a marinade or a glaze.

Coat chicken in it and allow it to soak in for an hour or so, then transfer it to the grill to cook and brush more on for the last 5 or 10 minutes, for sticky glaze that will have you licking your fingers!

It’s also great on smoked ribs or brisket.

You can even use it as a condiment for dipping sweet potato fries or on top of your crispy chicken sandwich or on hamburgers or steak.

Expert tips

Adjust to your own taste: Prefer a less-sweet barbecue sauce? Cut back on the brown sugar and molasses. Like it smokier? Add a few teaspoons of smoked paprika. Want it spicy? Drop in a couple more chipotles, or add crushed red pepper flakes. You can totally make this your own!

Stir frequently: It’s not a bad idea to check your homemade bbq sauce often as it’s cooking, giving it a stir so it cooks evenly and doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pot.

Homemade barbecue sauce clinging to a silicone brush.

Frequently asked questions

Why is my barbecue sauce too runny?

If your sauce isn’t as thick as you’d like, just simmer it longer!

As things bubble and cook down, the natural liquids are released in the form of steam. This process is called “reducing.”

Reducing your sauce to around half it’s original volume results in sauce that’s super-thick and sticky, so it clings well to whatever you’re brushing it onto.

Why is my barbecue sauce too thick?

If you let it go too long on the stove, it may become too thick.

If this happens, just whisk in a little water until you have the consistency you prefer.

Can this be made ahead?

Homemade barbecue sauce keeps incredibly well in the fridge.

Pop it into a canning jar or airtight plastic container, and it should last for several weeks in the fridge.

Can you freeze homemade barbecue sauce?

You can, and this will prolong its life even further. Thaw it at room temperature or in the fridge.

Can you process homemade barbecue sauce in a water bath?

Ladle your sauce into sterilized jars, pop fresh lids on, and screw on the collars.

Then immerse them in boiling water for 15 minutes.

Remove them with tongs and allow them to cool. The “button” in the middle of the lid should suction down.

If it does, they’re properly sealed and can be kept at room temperature for around a year.

What is the serving size?

This recipe makes around 1 1/2 cups of sauce and I’ve figured on a serving size of 1 tablespoon per person. So you should get around 24 servings from a batch.

How to make barbecue sauce and store it in a shallow glass jar with a red checked cloth in the background.

A few more of my best sauce recipes

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Barbecue sauce in a shallow glass dish with a basting brush.
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Barbecue Sauce

Servings: 1.5 cups (approx.)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Sweet & tangy with just the teensiest bit of heat, this is the barbecue sauce of your dreams! Easy recipe & so much better than store-bought!



  • Whisk the ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, chipotle, dry mustard, garlic powder, and pepper together in a small pot over medium heat.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil, then turn the heat down to the lowest setting, place a lid on the pot (slightly ajar), and allow the sauce to simmer until thickened (approx. 30 minutes).
Serving: 1tablespoon, Calories: 453kcal, Carbohydrates: 115g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 0.4g, Saturated Fat: 0.05g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.2g, Sodium: 1297mg, Potassium: 1410mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 103g, Vitamin A: 568IU, Vitamin C: 7mg, Calcium: 194mg, Iron: 5mg
Cuisine: American
Course: Sauce
Tried this recipe?Mention @bakingamoment on Instagram or tag #bakingamoment.


  • Allie

    Allie is the creator and owner of Baking a Moment. She has been developing, photographing, videographing, and writing and sharing recipes here since 2012.

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