BBQ Sauce


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Now this is how you make a finger-licking BBQ sauce! It’s the perfect combination of sweet, smoky and spicy, with that lusciously rich texture we all crave. Oh, and it’s not overly complicated. Just a simple BBQ sauce recipe you can make on the spot again and again.

A jar of BBQ sauce on a plate with a basting brush.

Homemade BBQ Sauce Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This

I won’t deny that buying a bottle of BBQ sauce is convenient. But I will say that this classic homemade version gets all the barbecue enthusiasts excited – and that’s saying something.

It’s thick, smoky, and tangy – bringing all the delicious outdoor grilling vibes to the table. Aka, it’s just what you need for your next summer cookout (or any time really).

Slather it onto cooked meats (like my grilled BBQ chicken), dip into it with fresh cut fries, or toss it with a chopped salad. Trust me, you’ll want to cook up a bottle or two of this sauce to have on hand for oh so many recipes.

Ingredients for BBQ sauce on a table

BBQ Sauce Ingredients

There’s super simple BBQ sauces, and then there’s extra complicated ones. This recipe is somewhere in between with a solid balance of richness, depth and spices. I’m usually all for simplifying, but the few extra ingredients in this recipe really make a difference for the best flavor.

  • Tomato Sauce & Tomato Paste: Lots of recipes use ketchup, but ketchup tends to have a lot of unnecessary ingredients (plus extra sugar). All you need is a blend of tomato sauce and tomato paste for the perfect tomato-y base.
  • Vinegar: For the perfect amount of tang, use apple cider vinegar.
  • Blackstrap Molasses: Molasses provides that natural, subtle sweetness, and deep, rich color.
  • Tamari Soy Sauce: Just one tablespoon is needed for a hint of umami flavor. You could also use coconut aminos or worcestershire sauce, but if you opt for worcestershire sauce just make sure to double check the ingredients – many of them aren’t gluten-free.
  • Spices: For a flavorful, spicy kick, a combo of smoked paprika, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, and black pepper will do the trick.

Find the printable recipe with measurements below.

How to Make BBQ Sauce

To meld all the flavors together, you’ll need to cook everything together on the stove. But don’t worry, this process only takes about 10 minutes. Then, it just needs a little time to cool before you’re ready to use it.

Mixing BBQ sauce ingredients in a pot

Mix and cook the sauce. In a medium saucepan, add all of the ingredients and whisk together. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over low heat (note: if your stove temperature is too high, it will splatter). Let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until slightly reduced.

Simmering BBQ sauce in a white pot

Let it cool. Turn off the heat and allow the sauce to cool. Once cooled, give it a stir and it’s ready to enjoy!

A glass jar of BBQ sauce on a plate

Ways to Tweak This BBQ Sauce

We all have personal preferences when it comes to BBQ sauces. Some may like it sweeter, spicier, or more tangy – which is why there’s SO many different types of BBQ sauces out there. But, I’d say this version is a good base to start off with!

  • Make it sweeter: Add one to two tablespoons of honey if you prefer a sweeter BBQ sauce. If that’s not enough, just add a smidge more and you should be good to go!
  • Make it spicier: For an extra kick, add ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or a few splashes of your favorite hot sauce.

Use BBQ Sauce for Everything!

This is one of those condiments where you can honestly use it for everything. But here’s a few starting points to make the most out of your first bottle.

  • Cook with it. Whether you’re grilling or pan searing, baste your meats with a layer of BBQ sauce towards the end. This tastes good especially with grilled chicken!
  • Toss with it. If you’ve got some pulled pork or shredded chicken, toss it with BBQ sauce! You can eat it on it’s own, or make stuffed sweet potatoes.
  • Schmear it. Slab a layer of it in sandwiches, wraps, or even as the base on a pizza for the perfect smoky saucy touch.
  • Drizzle it. This can go over salads, bowls, tacos, or even onto simple cooked meats if you don’t want it completely covered in sauce.
  • Dip into it. Nothing beats a giant bowl of fries with a side of BBQ sauce to dip into.
Dipping into a jar of BBQ sauce with a basting brush

Storage Tips

If you’re a BBQ sauce fanatic, you’ll be glad to hear this stores extremely well! You can use any sort of container you’d like or that’s convenient for you, depending on how you plan to use it. But I normally like to store it in this Le Parfait Jar.

  • To store: Pour the sauce into an airtight container or jar, and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
  • To freeze: You can freeze it too for up to 6 months in an airtight container. Once it thaws, it will need to be stirred again as some separation can occur.

More Tasty Sauces

Sauces just make everything taste better. So the next time you’re cooking up some fish, chicken, or a even a vegetarian recipe, these sauces will provide that flavor boost you’re looking for.

Once you make a bottle of this BBQ sauce recipe, let me know how you like it in a comment below!

BBQ sauce in a small glass jar

BBQ Sauce

5 from 5 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 10 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan


Now this is how you make a finger-licking homemade BBQ sauce! It's smoky, spicy, and perfect for slathering on everything at your next summer cookout.



  • Mix and cook the sauce. In a medium saucepan, add all of the ingredients and whisk together. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over low heat (note: if your stove temperature is too high, it will splatter). Let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until slightly reduced.
    A pot of BBQ sauce ingredients
  • Let it cool. Turn off the heat and allow to cool before serving or storing.
    A white pot simmering homemade bbq sauce

Lisa’s Tips

  • Serving size: 2 tablespoons


Calories: 56kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 0.4g | Saturated Fat: 0.05g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 475mg | Potassium: 384mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 482IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: dressing, sauce
Cuisine: American
Keyword: BBQ Sauce, BBQ Sauce Recipe, Homemade BBQ Sauce
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating


  1. It was so easy and best of all no ketchup which I do not like the taste. I like sweeter BBQ and added the two tablespoons of honey which was PERFECT. Will definitely use this again! Thank you:)5 stars

  2. A quick question from the U.K.
    I’ve never heard of blackstrap molasses so I assume it’s known by another name here ( if we have it at all ). We do have something called black treacle but I can’t be sure it is a suitable replacement.

  3. I’d never made my own BBQ sauce before but I made this to go with your slow cooker pulled pork and loved it! I personally like more heat but didn’t add much because our guests aren’t a fan of spice, so I’ll definitely add more cayenne next time! But still delicious without the spice!5 stars

  4. Made to prep for the bbq chicken recipe! Delicious and so simple. Best of all, no junk ingredients! My husband likes a more sweeter bbq sauce so I did add about 2 tablespoons of organic palm sugar and it really made it perfection! Lisa on downshiftology never disappoints and I can NOT wait for her cookbook! 5 stars

  5. Tried this recipe tonight and it was totally delicious. Hand in glove with the sweet potato and shredded chicken … also on this website … and it was amazing.5 stars

    1. It’s best to use blackstrap molasses as it’s the main ingredient for sugar in this sauce.

  6. I am excited to try this and get the flavors perfected with the hot sauce so that I can can it! I would love to have several jars of this available on my pantry shelf!

    1. Excited for you to make this as well Sharon! Let me know how it goes when you start tweaking it :)

  7. What if I don’t have molasses? I have everything else. What is an alternative? Thank you. 

  8. I have enjoyed several of your recipes, as I try to make healthier choices whenever possible. I decided to use this barbecue sauce recipe as inspiration, using what I had on hand since I didn’t have all the exact ingredients. I used regular soy sauce instead of tamari, since we are not gluten free, and regular molasses instead black strap molasses. It is just sweet enough. I also added about 8 drops of Cholula Chipotle hot sauce. It is delicious! So much better than our favorite barbecue sauce that lists high fructose corn syrup as the first ingredient, which I am trying to eliminate from our diet.

  9. I made this today to go over your slow cooker pulled pork and it was perfect! Everyone complimented it. I’m looking forward to trying it on chicken next. No more bottled bbq sauce for us! 5 stars

    1. Wonderful! I’m so happy you and your friends enjoyed the BBQ sauce, Michelle. Homemade really is best!

  10. Hi Lisa.  I LOVE all of your recipes and this bbq sauce looks like a real winner too!!! Thank you for all your hard work in developing all of these fantastic recipes. Just wondering if there is a substitute I can use for the molasses?  It’s not an ingredient I keep on hand.  Thank you!!!! 

    1. Hi Karen – for the recipe, I really think the molasses is needed. It just won’t have the same flavor or depth without it. Glad you’re enjoying all of my other recipes! :)