BBQ Sauce Recipe- Sweet & Tangy

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This spicy, tangy BBQ sauce is easy and super delicious. Essential to any backyard cookout and perfect on bbq chicken, ribs, and pulled pork.

Try this easy homemade bbq sauce on Bacon-Rubbed Pork Kebabs, Smoked Pulled Pork, or Smoked Ribs. You’ll be the star of your next backyard BBQ.

homemade bbq sauce in a mason jar sitting on top of a cutting board

What You’ll Love About This Recipe

  • So good. Better than store-bought barbecue sauce.
  • As sweet as you want. You can control the amount of sugar in this recipe. You can even use a keto sweetener to make this barbecue sauce keto friendly.
  • Mild or spicy. Adjust the seasoning to make it more or less spicy to suit your taste.

BBQ Sauce Recipe

This recipe is a family recipe. My parents got it from a neighbor, and we’ve kept it in the family ever since. Now you can make this secret family recipe yours too!

bbq sauce with smoked ribs

What You’ll Need For Homemade BBQ Sauce

Homemade BBQ sauce is made with a tomato and vinegar base. Spices and sweeteners are added to enhance the flavor.

In some cases, bbq sauce recipes call for ketchup. This is an easy shortcut if you’re running low on time.

You can use ketchup in the recipe instead of tomato sauce. This also eliminates the need to use the mirepoix. See the recipe card for a quick and easy shortcut to the homemade barbecue sauce recipe.

Using tomato sauce and the mirepoix allows you to control the amount of sugar you add to this bbq sauce recipe. This is great if you want a keto or low-carb bbq sauce.

  • Mirepoix – Butter or oil, sweet onion, celery, carrot, and jalapeño peppers or serrano peppers. (Skip these ingredients using ketchup instead of tomato sauce.)
  • Tomato sauce – Use a low or no-salt variety of tomato sauce.
  • Sherry vinegar – Or apple cider vinegar.
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Lemon juice
  • Dry seasoningsdry mustard, salt, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne pepper (optional.)
  • Sweeteners – Molasses and brown sugar. You can use Lakanto sweetener to make this bbq sauce keto or low-carb.
  • Liquid smoke – A small amount of liquid smoke adds a smokey flavor to homemade bbq sauce. Leave it out if you are using the sauce on smoked meat.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Prepare the mirepoix. Grate the onion, carrot, and celery. Mince the jalapeño.
  2. Sauté. Add the butter to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the butter is heated, add the vegetables and sauté until the vegetables are very soft.
  3. Bring to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat. Simmer on low for 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.

FAQs and Expert Tips

What is traditional BBQ sauce made of?

The main ingredients in barbecue sauce include; vinegar, tomato base, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and spices.

Variations are different depending on the region or origin.

What are the 4 types of BBQ sauces?

Tomato-Based – Tomato-based BBQ sauces are most commonly associated with Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, and Texas BBQ.

Kansas-City barbecue sauce is thick, tangy, and sweet. It usually includes black strap molasses.

St. Louis, Memphis, and Texas barbecue sauces are tomato-based but tend to be thinner and less sweet, leaving out the molasses.

Vinegar-Based – Vinegar-based barbecue sauce tends to be more common in North Carolina. North Carolina BBQ is mainly served with pulled pork, and the vinegary sauce pairs perfectly with fattier meats.

Mustard-Based – Mustard-based barbecue sauce is popular in South Carolina. This sauce is also spicy, heavy on the vinegar, thin, and perfect for serving with pork.

Mayonnaise-Based – This creamy white barbecue sauce reigns from Alabama. It might sound weird, but this sauce is still spicy and vinegary. It’s typically served with chicken instead of pork.

spoonful of bbq sauce showing it's smooth texture

What To Serve With BBQ Sauce

BBQ sauce is the perfect accompaniment to Pulled Pork Sandwiches, a healthy Pulled Pork Bowl, or my famous Bacon-Rubbed Pork Shish Kabobs.

Sweet and tangy BBQ sauce is always good with your favorite Meatloaf Recipe.

More BBQ Recipes That You’ll Love

Here are a few essential recipes to keep on hand when grilling.

Leave A Review

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homemade bbq sauce recipe

BBQ Sauce Recipe

by: Laura Reigel
This spicy tangy BBQ sauce is easy to make and super delicious. It's perfect on chicken, ribs, and pulled pork.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Course Sauce
Cuisine American
Servings 24
Calories 59 kcal


  • medium saucepan
  • immersion blender


  • 2 tablespoons butter, or oil
  • cup sweet onion, grated
  • ¼ cup celery, grated
  • ¼ cup carrot, grated
  • 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, or serrano peppers, finely minced
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 cans tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, or keto sweetener of your choice
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional


  • Grate the onion, carrot, celery, and jalapeño.
    ⅓ cup sweet onion, ¼ cup celery, ¼ cup carrot, 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers
  • Add the butter to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the butter is heated add the vegetables and sauté until the vegetables are very soft.
    2 tablespoons butter
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan and bring everything to a boil.
    2 cans tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, ¼ cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 1 teaspoon sea salt, ¼ teaspoon cumin, 3 tablespoons molasses, ¾ cup brown sugar
  • Simmer on low for 30 to 45 minutes.

Laura’s Tips + Notes

  1. Short-cut. Use ketchup instead of tomato sauce. Leave out the onion, carrots, and celery. Use a few teaspoons of onion powder and adjust the sweetness if desired. 
  2. Low-sugar BBQ sauce. Replace the brown sugar with a keto sweetener, such as Lankanto brown sugar. 
Keyword barbecue sauce, bbq sauce recipe, bbq suace

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  1. I make a lot of my own sauces too. I tend to lean towards a sweet but tangy and it hint of cayene or red pepper. Sweet tangy smoky
    Base Sauce (heat once combined)
    1 cup ketchup
    1/2 cup brown sugar or 1/4 cup molasses
    2 drops mesquite liquid smoke (Optional)
    a pinch of cayene or red pepper

    Add any of these to base to get different flavors :
    1/2 cup pinnaple juice or
    1/2 tspn mustard or
    1/2 tspn apple cider or
    vineger or
    1/2 tpspn sesami oil
    Also if you have a rib rub, go ahead and throw a tbsn of that in to give it a little extra flavor.

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