Smoky, sweet and tangy, my quick and easy homemade BBQ sauce recipe is far better than anything you can buy in a bottle. Eat it on burgers, fries, hot dogs and grills or use it as a cooking sauce.
Homemade BBQ sauce recipe
A good barbecue sauce is a thing of beauty and can give a real lift to a meal. I like homemade BBQ sauce so much better than anything that comes from the shop. It’s only natural, when you think about it, because making it at home, you can make it just the way you like it.
Everyone has their own idea of exactly the right balance. Do you like a sweeter sauce with maple or honey notes, or do you like a smoky flavour? Do you like a bit of heat in there? Does it need to be veggie? With this easy barbecue sauce recipe you can adjust the balance to get it just right for you.
Why make BBQ sauce?
- This BBQ sauce recipe is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make.
- It’s absolutely delicious.
- Adjust it to your taste and get the balance just right.
- It only takes ten minutes.
- Far better than shop bought!
Homemade BBQ sauce ingredients
- Tomato Ketchup – Choose one you like. It doesn’t need to be a fancy brand, but don’t anything watery or too vinegary. Thicker and richer is better.
- Worcestershire Sauce – The classic British brand is Lea & Perrins. It lasts forever so ignore any best before dates on the bottle. Like most Brits, I call it “Wooster Sauce”. Most of the letters in Worcester and Worcestershire are silent!
Worcestershire sauce is a key ingredient in a Bloody Mary, as it pairs brilliantly with tomato. That same pairing is delicious in a BBQ sauce.
Regular Worcestershire sauce is a fermented anchovy sauce but there are several vegetarian substitutes available. The Yorkshire favourite, Henderson’s Relish is a good choice for vegetarians and mushroom ketchup works too. Alternatively, you can substitute soy sauce, tamari or liquid aminos for that umami hit.
- English Mustard – English mustard is fierce and you only need a little. Again, ignore any best before date. Mine has been in my fridge for at least 10 years and I’m only halfway down the jar. You can use half a teaspoon of mustard powder or 2 tsp of another milder smooth mustard in its place.
- Vinegar – I’ve used (apple) cider vinegar as it adds a fruity note to the finished sauce. If you don’t have any, most vinegars would do. Try white/red wine vinegar, or another fruit or herb vinegar, as long as it’s not too strong. I don’t recommend using malt (far too harsh) or your best balsamic (it would be a waste).
- Dark Brown Soft Sugar – Adds sweetness, flavour and depth. If you don’t have any, use whatever sugar you have. If you do this, swap in either an everyday balsamic vinegar instead of the cider vinegar, or treacle for the maple syrup.
- Maple Syrup – Maple syrup adds a distinctive flavour, but honey works equally well. Treacle/molasses would be great here too.
- Smoked Paprika – Adds a touch of heat and smokiness.
- Garlic Powder – Adds another layer of flavour and interest, but you can leave it out if you prefer.
- Liquid Smoke – Liquid smoke adds a massive punch of smokiness and is a great addition to your store cupboard if you love smoky flavours. Use it sparingly as it is strong stuff. A bottle will last for years and you will find it in speciality food shops or on Amazon.
- Chilli Sauce – This adds a little heat. I nearly always add a teaspoon of sriracha.
How to make BBQ sauce – step by step
Before you start, read my step-by-step instructions, with photos, hints and tips, so you can to make this BBQ sauce recipe perfectly every time.
Scroll down for the recipe card with quantities and more tips at the bottom of the page.
Step One – Throw all the ingredients into a saucepan. Then give it a good stir.
Step Two – Bring to a simmer on the lowest heat, stirring all the time. As you stir, take care to scrap the sides and bottom of the pan so it doesn’t catch and burn.
At this stage the sauce smells very strongly of vinegar and won’t taste at all nice. Don’t try it and don’t be put off!
Fuss Free Tip
The sauce is a thick mixture and if you boil it, it will splatter and spit, so go gently. If you overheat it, it will make a horrible mess. Those sugary spits and splatters are hot and can burn. You may need a diffuser ring, even on the smallest burner on the lowest heat.
Step Three – Your barbecue sauce is ready once it has reduced down to about the same volume and thickness of the ketchup you started with. It will be glossy and nicely coat the back of a spoon.
Once cool, transfer to a jam jar and keep in the fridge.
The BBQ sauce is ready to be used straight away. However, the flavour develops over time, so is far better the next day, or a few days later once the flavours have had a chance to mellow and meld.
Enjoy this easy BBQ sauce on fries, burgers, hot dogs and grilled meats, or use it as a cooking sauce to make my delicious Hunter’s Chicken.
Alternatively use it as a marinade on meat or even tofu.
- Smoky BBQ Sauce – Add more smoke with liquid smoke or a little smoked salt.
- Honey BBQ Sauce – Use extra honey or maple syrup for a sweeter, stickier sauce.
- Bourbon BBQ Sauce –Add 2 tbsp of bourbon, whisky or rum. Cooking time will be a bit longer.
- Spicy BBQ Sauce – Add extra chilli or a little ginger for a spicier sauce.
The barbecue sauce will keep in jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
If you want to keep it for longer, freeze it in small plastic tubs or a jar. It doesn’t freeze solid which means you can spoon it directly from the freezer, but it does mean that you need to make sure the container is either leakproof or stored upright!
Hints and Tips
- Using a good ketchup makes a big difference, so don’t be tempted to use a sad, watery one.
- Do take care and cook your sauce gently, because spatters can burn. Overheating won’t help the flavour.
Use Henderson’s Relish or a little soy sauce/tamari instead. You can use liquid aminos too, if that’s something you keep in your kitchen.
You can use ordinary granulated sugar and add some treacle/molasses for depth.
Absolutely! You may want to make it a little less thick than when you make it as a condiment.
More Easy Sauce Recipes
- Burger Sauce – perfect paired with BBQ sauce
- Salad Cream – a British classic that is so much nicer when homemade
- Feta Dip – fantastic as a dip, with a lamb burger, or served with a salad
- Kebab Shop Chilli Sauce – Fresh, hot and just as you get from the local kebab shop
- Kebab Shop Garlic Sauce – pair with the kebab shop chilli sauce for that authentic fakeaway taste
- Parsley Sauce – rediscover this British classic that is delicious when you make it yourself!
- More delicious easy sauce recipes (and dips and dressings)
Easy BBQ Sauce
- 240 g tomato ketchup
- 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
- 3 tbsp white wine or apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp garlic granules
- 1 tsp English mustard
- 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- dash chilli sauce (to taste)
- ½ tsp liquid smoke
- Throw all the ingredients into a saucepan. Then give it a good stir.
- Bring to a simmer on the lowest heat, stirring all the time. As you stir, take care to scrap the sides and bottom of the pan so it doesn't catch and burn.
- Your BBQ sauce is ready once it has reduced down to about the same volume and thickness of the ketchup you started with. It will be glossy and coat the back of a spoon.
- This recipe is worth 2 Weight Watchers Smart Points per portion