Homemade BBQ Sauce

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This Kansas City-style homemade BBQ sauce recipe is super quick and easy to make, and full of the best tangy, smoky and slightly-sweet flavors that everyone is sure to love!

Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe

Friends, have you ever tried making homemade BBQ sauce?

If not, it’s time. ♡

And as a KC girl, I’m going to vote that you make this Kansas City-style bbq sauce recipe!  It’s super-easy to make — just stir everything together and simmer for about 15 minutes — and it’s full of that famous tangy, smoky and slightly-sweet blend of flavors that we all love in Kansas City.

We use this sauce regularly in our house for traditional bbq chicken, pulled pork, ribs and baked beans.  But it also works great as a pizza sauce (hello, bbq chicken pizza) or as a glaze (on meatballs or meatloaf).  Or of course, you can get creative and add it into everything from soups to salads, tacos, burgers, casseroles and more.

Here’s how to make it!

Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe | 1-Minute Video

BBQ Sauce Recipe

Homemade BBQ Sauce Ingredients:

To make this homemade bbq sauce recipe, you will need the following ingredients (amounts included in the full recipe below):

  • Tomato sauce: One can of plain tomato sauce (just puréed tomatoes, no extra ingredients).
  • Apple cider vinegar: To add some tang to the sauce.
  • Honey: I really prefer the taste of honey as the natural sweetener in this bbq sauce.  But you could also sub in brown sugar or maple syrup.
  • Tomato paste: To intensify the rich tomato flavor in this sauce.
  • Molasses: A must in Kansas City bbq sauce!
  • Worcestershire: If making this sauce vegan, be sure to use a vegan brand of Worcestershire.
  • Liquid smoke: To give the sauce those important smoky notes.
  • Spices: A combo of smoked paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder and salt.  Plus a few optional pinches of cayenne, if you would like to give the sauce some heat.

How To Make BBQ Sauce

How To Make BBQ Sauce:

This bbq sauce recipe couldn’t be easier to make!  Simply…

  1. Combine ingredients.  Stir everything together in a saucepan.
  2. Simmer. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then let it continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until it has thickened slightly.
  3. Serve. Then that’s literally it — your sauce is ready to go and use in any of your favorite recipes!

Homemade BBQ Sauce | Vegetarian, Gluten-Free and Vegan

Possible Recipe Variations:

Want to customize your own BBQ sauce recipe a bit?  Feel free to:

  • Make it gluten-free: To make gluten-free BBQ sauce, just be sure to use gluten-free liquid smoke. (I recommend Wright’s or Colgin.)
  • Make it vegan: To make vegan BBQ sauce, just be sure to use vegan Worcestershire.  (I recommend Annie’s.)
  • Make it sweeter: Add more honey, to taste.
  • Make it smokier: Add a touch more liquid smoke, to taste.
  • Make it thicker: Simmer the sauce for longer until it reduces to your desired consistency.

Best BBQ Sauce Recipe

Ways To Use BBQ Sauce:

There are so many great ways to put a batch of homemade BBQ sauce to delicious use!  Some of our faves include:

  • Traditional bbq meat: Grilled or pulled chicken, pulled pork, ribs, burnt ends, etc.
  • Baked beans: BBQ sauce is a simple and delicious way to flavor a batch of baked beans.
  • Burgers: Use it as a spread on your favorite burgers.
  • Pizzas: Use it in place of pizza sauce.  (Hello, bbq chicken pizza!)
  • Soups/salads: Mix it into broths to flavor soups, or use the sauce as a dressing for your salad.
  • Tacos/quesadillas/burritos: BBQ sauce is a great way to give your favorite Mexican dishes a different twist.
  • Dipping sauce: And of course, it’s always a great dipping sauce for everything from chicken nuggets to veggie sticks to cocktail meatballs and more!
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Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe

Homemade BBQ Sauce

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: About 2 cups 1x

Description

This Kansas City-style homemade bbq sauce recipe is sweet, tangy, smoky, and perfect on just about everything.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • optional: a few pinches of cayenne for extra heat, if desired

Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients.  Whisk all ingredients together in a medium saucepan.
  2. Simmer. Cook over medium-high heat until the sauce reaches a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer (uncovered) for 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce has slightly thickened.
  3. Serve. Use the sauce immediately, or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 1 week.

Notes

Vegan option: To make vegan bbq sauce, just be sure to use a vegan brand of Worcestershire. (I recommend Annie’s.)

Gluten-free option: To make gluten-free bbq sauce, just be sure to use a GF brand of liquid smoke. (I recommend Wright’s or Colgin.)

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265 comments on “Homemade BBQ Sauce”

  1. 5 stars
    This is now my go-to BBQ Sauce! SO much better than store bought, and without all those nasty fillers like corn syrup or excess sugar. You can adjust the sugar content here, which I did by omitting agave/honey, since I prefer a tangier BBQ rather than sweet; also I used brown sugar instead of molasses – just as a flavor preference. Ali – I love your recipes and this food blog. There are a million out there and this is my favorite and the first place I look for recipe ideas!

    • How much brown sugar did you use?

    • Thank you for this recipe. Most that I have seen use ketchup for the base, which I think is to sweet.
      I did put the cayenne in as recommended (1 tsp) and also added 1 tsp white pepper.
      I could eat it by the spoon full.
      Thank you.

  2. 5 stars
    Instead of onion and garlic powder, I sauteed 1/2 of a chopped up yellow onion and added 2 large cloves of diced garlic to the mix. Heated the sauce, and pored over ribs in the crockpot. Shouldn’t do it, but had to taste the ribs after about an hour. Oh, boy, such good sauce. Thank you.

  3. 5 stars
    Don’t think my first comment posted. Changed the onion and garlic powder to sauteed yellow onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Did the unthinkable of testing the crock pot with the sauce over the ribs. Oh my, it is delicious. A keeper. Thank you!

  4. 5 stars
    This turned out so yummy and was perfect for the meatloaf I made. I used a simple syrup infused with Lapsang souchong (smoked tea) instead of the liquid smoke and compensated by using less honey. I also used a bit more garlic, onion, and cayenne. Will be using this recipe again!

  5. Excellent…loved it!

  6. 5 stars
    Nice easy recipe. Tastes great. Will go well on my pulled pork for tonight.

  7. 5 stars
    I loved this sauce didn’t want liquid smoke because I made Hungarian ribs and sauerkraut it was very good just as it reads NO changes. I wish ppl would just make the recipes as is or “not” ost a review.

    • Thank you, Shelbel. I couldn’t agree more about not posting if you’re going to change up some stuff. Then you’re only reviewing your own recipe. This is especially true if someone makes several changes then makes negative comments.

  8. 5 stars
    This is the best BBQ sauce I’ve ever tasted. It’s an easy recipe to make too.

    • I like to know how others substitute other ingredients. I don’t particularly like molasses and was interested to know about the brown sugar substitution

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  10. 5 stars
    Made it, it’s delicious! I want to make a big batch but is this recipe good for canning for long term storage? If so how long to boil the jars of sauce? Thank you!

    • As far as boiling the jars of sauce you would do it until the tops of the jars pop. Then I turn the heat off and let them sit in the hot water for an additional 10 minutes before removing them.

  11. 5 stars
    Used to live in KC but now live in Indiana. Indy doesn’t have the BBQ sauce choices at the local grocery like KC does. Had to riff a little on your recipe due to being out of stuff like liquid smoke (used a smoked salt instead) and it turned out delicious! Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  12. 5 stars
    I made this to go on baby back ribs. We love the touch of sweet with the kick of the cayenne pepper in the background. I will definitely be repeating this recipe.

  13. 5 stars
    Put this sauce over jalapeño sausage and it was perfect. The sauce was sweet and tangy and was the perfect counter to the hot sausage! Would use it again, and was easy to make.

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  15. 5 stars
    Absolutely love this! I make it all the time. I would recommend adding in chipotle chili powder (1/2 tsp) to spice it up a little more but that’s because I am a spice fiend. Thanks for an amazing recipe!

  16. 5 stars
    Purty good, adapted a little for vegan/vegetarian palate. I used canned tomatoes with green chilis, cut the honey back a bit, and marinated tofu in it. Later added garbanzos. Thanks.

  17. I’ve lived in KC all my life. Well, I’m actually now living in a small town on just the outskirts of KC. Can’t wait to give this sauce a try. I just love BBQ but am all for trying my own rather than the stuff in the store full of chemicals.

  18. 5 stars
    Thanks for your great BBQ sauce/marinade recipe. I made it this morning here in my kitchen in Sydney Australia and I think it’s one of the best I’ve tasted. Will be my go to sauce for BBQ now. Will definitely be sharing it and,of course, acknowledging the source. Cheers MJ

  19. 4 stars
    This is only good for 1 week in the refrigerator? I’ve seen other recipes that are good up to 2 months.

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  21. 5 stars
    WOW! I so rarely post comments, but I just made this BBQ sauce and holy cow, it’s so good! I followed your recipe exactly and it was lip-smacking good. I did end up adding 1/2 tsp. of fresh lemon juice while it was cooling, for my own personal taste preference, but it was AMAZING even without that addition. And I love that my family and I are not ingesting all of those terrible preservatives and added sweeteners from store-bought BBQ sauce and ketchup. I actually did a taste comparison with my go-to Sweet Baby Ray’s and there really is no comparison for the depth of flavor of this homemade BBQ sauce. Thank you so much for this delicious and easy recipe! I recently became familiar with liquid smoke but for those who have never used it, you can find it at your local grocery store. For anyone who’s wary about making this because of the high yield, just halve the ingredients and you’ll end up with 1 cup instead. But definitely make it – you’ll never buy bottled BBQ sauce again.

  22. 5 stars
    Super delicious! I didn’t have time to simmer it so I just made it in the blender. I also didn’t have any tomato sauce, so I just used ~6 oz can of tomato paste and added 10 ounces of water to get the right consistency for sauce. I didn’t have Worcestershire sauce, so I needed to added another 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1-2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar, and another splash of salt to tweak the flavor. Ok, I know it sounds like I didn’t follow the recipe at all at this point :) But everything else was the same! (oh wait, I used sweet instead of smoked paprika. . . . ) BUT REALLY, this was DELICIOUS!!!!!! So good. I’m never buying BBQ sauce ever again.

  23. has anyone tried to do this in the instant pot? Ali do you think if i just cook for 5 min on high pressure it will be ok? i don’t have tomato sauce – only crushed tomatoes…. fingers crossed it will be ok!

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  25. 5 stars
    Very nice recipe. I make extra bbq sauce and freeze some for bbq chicken pizza and marinates as it freezes well. I use tomato passata (what we call tomato purée in Australia) in the sauce not ketchup. I also used white vinegar as that is all I had. Delicious. Thank you for the recipe.

  26. 5 stars
    This is the best recipe! I substituted brown sugar for the molasses (didn’t have any) and used half balsamic vinegar for the cider vinegar (to help replace the molasses I didn’t have!) It was perfect! Such a good flavor! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  27. Could you make this without liquid smoke? I want to make this for an upcoming event and don’t have that on hand. Thank you!

  28. I absolutely love this recipe! Has anyone tried canning it to preserve it? Oh how I would love to have this in my pantry in pint jars! So delicious!

  29. Delicious! Some of the best sauce I’ve ever had.
    I added about quarter cup of ketchup, and little extra vinegar, I like it a little more tangy.
    Will definitely make this again.

  30. I continued using mine for about 4 weeks. I love this recipe!

  31. Do you think you could can this BBQ sauce,?

  32. I left out the liquid smoke and honey.. delicious and tangy.

    I’d rather use the entire tomato paste can – 6 oz. Will it make a major difference or should I make an adjustment elsewhere?

  33. Can you freeze BBQ sauce? I’m thinking about making a batch and throwing some containers in the fee freeze. Thanks!

  34. I’ve tried quite a few bbq sauce recipes and can’t find a good one until now! This is amazing!

  35. I just made this sauce. Instead of using liquid smoke I put 3 small chunks of oak wood on one end of my bbq and put all the dry ingredients spread out in a pan on the other end of the BBQ. Got the oak lit, sprinkled some wet hickory chips on top and once it started burning I blew it out sonit would smolder. After an hour the spices were smoked and went to making the sause. I used 1/4 cup spiced white vinegar and 1/4 cup regular white vinegar. Turned out awesome. I just want to eat it.

  36. It’s a keeper…thanks for sharing!

  37. We realized we didn’t have any BBQ sauce and the store was closed so we took a chance on this recipe. It’s delicious! I appreciate that it uses pantry staples, and that it’s not made with ketchup as a base. We prefer this over whatever we would have bought at the store, so it all worked out in the end!

  38. I made this today with some “self isolation quarantine pantry” adjustments, out of necessity. I didn’t have any molasses or liquid smoke. I only have one can of tomato paste left, so I decided to save that. Otherwise made it as is. Tasted during the simmer, and it was *quite* tangy, I’m sure because I left out the paste and molasses. So I added maybe three tablespoons or so of brown sugar and that helped a lot. It’s still a little tangy but we love it! About to make instant pot pulled pork. Very easy and good for my pantry.

  39. Thank you for this recipe, it was great! Now before I tell you that there were a couple of things I did differently, please hear me out. I usually get upset when someone gives 5* to a recipe and after reading their comments you realize they either never made it, or they totally revamped the recipe. I get it. But let me preface this to say that during Coronavirus shelter-in-place, I needed some barbeque sauce for a meal. I had less than an inch left in the bottom of the bottle. I looked for what ingredients I had on hand and realized that I have tomato sauce, so I googled “BBQ sauce made with tomato sauce” and up popped this recipe. I had most of the ingredients on hand except the onion and garlic powder. So I gave it a try, substituted fresh minced garlic for the garlic powder, and just had to make-do without onion powder. It was DELICIOUS!!! The flavor and consistency were perfect. Like you suggested, I added probably more than just a pinch or two of cayenne! Yum! Thank you again! This recipe not only saved the day, but it was so good I’ll definitely be making this again!

  40. Excellent

  41. I’m making this right now as I type. I subbed two things.
    The tomato for biota brand vegetable cocktail and coconut amino for the Worcester (2 tbsp). It looks and tastes amazing in the pot. It’ll probably turn out a little thin but so far so good!

  42. Had everything for this except the liquid smoke. Used 2 tsp of smoked paprika and it turned out perfect! Thank you!

  43. This is a fantastic BBQ sauce! We had two bottles of other sauce with just a little bit left, and this sauce beat them both out of the water. We won’t need to go to the store for this anymore! Thanks for sharing.