Homemade barbecue sauce made with a thick tomato base complements any meat with spicy flavor and sweet notes. Ready in 30 minutes, it’s the perfect add-on for grilled meats and other summertime BBQ recipes.
Making homemade barbecue sauce is not hard, and it’s the one condiment that will take your outdoor grilling recipes to the next level. I’ve been experimenting with sweetness, acidity, thickness, and spice levels, to find that perfect balance. This grilling season, why not impress guests or family with a jar of your own concoction.
This sweet and spicy recipe can be poured, slathered and dipped on chicken, beef, pork or seafood. The best part is that the sauce is ready in less than 30 minutes, or can be prepared ahead of time so you can serve it up on the side along with your favorite feast!
How to make homemade barbecue sauce
A good barbecue sauce typically contains a tomato base, acid, sweetness, and spice. Depending on the style you like, you can make adjustments as you go. I tried to shoot for a Western South Carolina style sauce that is sweet, tangy, and infused some hotter elements to give a little lingering kick! Here are the essential steps to compete with those store-bought versions.
- Base: A lot of recipes I’ve seen call for ketchup. I’ve done a little reverse engineering so you can skip the high fructose syrup loaded products. All you need is good ole’ fashioned tomato paste to give a thick consistency. Orange juice is used to dilute the paste for a pourable sauce while adding natural sweetness and acidity. Choose fresh squeezed or one that does not have added sugar.
- Sweetness: Pure maple syrup is used to sweeten naturally, and it provides an excellent depth of flavor.
- Acidity: To give the tang flavor I use apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard. The acidity helps to balance the sweetness of the sauce. The acid also naturally enhances the flavors.
- Heat: Whether you can handle the fire-breathing dragon heat, or just a mild lingering kick, the spice from capsaicin can be adjusted to your liking. I add fresh jalapenos and dried chipotle pepper powder. The peppers provide a fresh stinging spice, while the chipotle gives a smoky flavor and longer lasting heat. I didn’t overdo it, so add more if your taste buds can handle it!
- Aromatics: Sauteed onions, garlic, and earthy paprika provide a delicious layer of flavor to each spoonful. The dry-heat cooking process creates new flavor compounds from Maillard Browning than just simmering alone.
Are you ready to see how all of the barbecue sauce ingredients came together?
Hello, gorgeous! Once all of the ingredients are combined and simmered for 20 minutes, you get a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce with a little spiciness to elevate your food from good to gourmet.
Jason recently made some nice upgrades to our Weber barbecue grill just in time for the summer, so I’ve been cooking it up outdoors and much as I can. I’ve been adding this condiment to my Santa Maria-Style tri-tip, and it’s been a big hit around the house!
This homemade barbecue sauce is so versatile and tastes even better the next day as the flavors infuse together. You’ll find yourself looking for more ways to add it to your food! Do you like your sauces hot, tangy or sweet? What are your favorite meals to grill? I’d love to hear about your favorite things to grill in the comments section!
Don’t forget to taste as you cook
Taste every 5 minutes to see how it changes as the acids cook-off and the sauce thickens. Acids like vinegar and lemon juice are very volatile (evaporates with high heat) and aromatic. This a good thing because as the sauce reduces, acids are natural flavor enhancers, so you retain the tangy flavor without the aroma. A sweetener like sugar, maple syrup, honey, jams or preserves help to balance the sauce, and it helps reduce bitterness.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon jalapeños, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
- 3/4 cup tomato paste
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté, occasionally stirring, until softened for 5 minutes.
- Stir in minced jalapeños and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn heat down to medium low.
- Whisk in vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, maple syrup, paprika, salt, and chipotle powder, tomato paste, and orange juice.
- Bring sauce to a simmer, then cook over low heat until thickened and acidity of the sauce has reduced. Stir occasionally, about 20 minutes.
- Strain the barbecue sauce through a fine mesh strainer. Allow to cool to room temperature, and then serve with your favorite meat.
- Transfer to an airtight container or jar if not using immediately, for up to 4 days and keep refrigerated.
- Increase chipotle powder if you would like a spicier sauce.
- Cayenne pepper powder or chili powder can be substituted for the chipotle powder.
- Smoked paprika can be used for a more smoky sauce flavor.
- This recipe makes about 1 cup of barbecue sauce.
- 1 serving = 1 tablespoon sauce