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Homemade Barbecue Sauce

This homemade barbecue sauce is a tantalizing blend of tangy, sweet, and spicy flavors and it’s so easy to make with simple pantry staples!

jar of homemade bbq sauce with spoon; text overlay "Homemade Barbecue Sauce".

Easy Homemade BBQ Sauce

This homemade bbq sauce recipe is a finger-licking blend of tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar, and spices. But aside from how amazing it tastes, the best thing about this recipe is how EASY it is to make!

You can whip up a batch easily on the stovetop! Unlike the BBQ sauces you find at the store, this homemade version is made from real-food ingredients. No fake smoke flavor and no high-fructose corn syrup!!

This recipe harkens back to the days when recipes were often closely guarded secrets. This homemade barbecue sauce was one of them.

Yesterday at the grocery store, I looked at the vast array of barbecue sauces you could buy. These days you can buy any type you can imagine, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in the day, there wasn’t much variety; I can only remember one brand that our family bought and used.

However, in our family there was a chef who had his own homemade barbecue sauces. One year, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of his secret recipe. I used to make it all the time!

Recently, I came across this recipe again and decided to make it for our family holiday dinner. I was making vintage appetizers and one of my children’s favorite appetizers was Lil Smokies in barbecue sauce. Every family get-together when my kids were little had a crockpot full of Lil Smokies in barbecue sauce. It was time to bring that tradition back.

Let me just say, when I put out the pot of Lil Smokies in this homemade BBQ sauce, they were gone before I knew it!

This barbecue sauce offers many options and substitutions, so you can often use ingredients that you have on hand. Based on what you use, your sauce may always be a little different. For example, you can use fresh celery or celery seed. Or you can use ketchup or tomato sauce. Depending on which way you go, you are going to have a slightly different sauce.

This barbecue recipe is great to have on hand because all the ingredients are common ones. You most likely have almost everything to make it!

Enjoy this easy homemade barbecue sauce on ribs, cocktail weiners, chicken wings, pork chops, barbecue sandwich, bbq chicken pizza, as a dip for French fries, or to sauce up a juicy burger. Seriously…it tastes amazing on everything!!

–Sara

jar of bbq sauce and a saucy spoon on countertop.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped or 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ cup celery chopped or 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of thyme
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups ketchup or tomato sauce

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Helpful Kitchen Tools

spoonful of homemade BBQ sauce.

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a large saucepan and stir to combine.
  2. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until desired thickness, about one hour.
  3. Yes, it is that easy!

Note: If needed, pour sauce into blender and puree until smooth. (The original recipe does not say anything about a blender, but if you use fresh veggies instead of garlic powder or celery seed, you may want to blend a bit to get rid of any small lumps.)

4 step photo collage showing how to make homemade bbq sauce.

Prep Tips

There are three places you can adjust this sauce to your taste: vinegar, sugar, and pepper.

When I made it the first time, I used fresh onions, celery, and garlic. I used 1 cup ketchup and a cup tomato sauce. I also used less sugar because ketchup usually has plenty of sugar.

The second time I made this barbecue sauce, I used all tomato sauce and reduced the vinegar and sugar amounts.

Below I’ll share my tasting notes as I tried this recipe a few times with different combinations of the ingredients:

  • Vinegar – The recipe didn’t specify what kind of vinegar to use. I tried it both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar and both tasted great.
  • Pepper – This  recipe calls for a teaspoon of pepper. At this amount, you will taste the pepper. I preferred less pepper and usually reduce the amount when I make my own sauce.
  • Ketchup vs. Tomato Sauce – The original recipe said to use either ketchup OR tomato sauce (not to be confused with tomato paste), so I tried both to see if there was a difference in the results.
  • Sweetness – The recipe as written has a lot of sugar. If you use ketchup, you will get a very sweet, shiny sauce. With the tomato sauce, you get a much less sweet sauce. So, if using ketchup you may want to start with a little less sugar, taste, and add if needed. If using tomato sauce and you like sweet BBQ sauce, you may want to add more sugar. For vinegar, I found that using about the same amount of sugar gives a balanced taste. You can create a sweeter or more vinegary taste depending on how much of each you use.
  • Storage – Because this homemade barbecue sauce does not contain added preservatives, it needs to be refrigerated. It can stay good for up to a week in an airtight container (a mason jar works perfectly!) in the refrigerator.

mason jar of homemade bbq sauce with a spoon inside.

 

More Homemade Sauces & Condiments

 

Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe (Printable Recipe Card)

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spoonful of homemade BBQ sauce.
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Homemade Barbecue Sauce

This homemade barbecue sauce is a tantalizing blend of tangy, sweet, and spicy flavors and it's so easy to make with simple pantry staples!
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword barbecue, bbq, condiments, sauce
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 81kcal
Author Sara Garska
Cost $5

Equipment

  • Medium sauce pan

Ingredients

  • 2 cups ketchup or tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery or 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 clove minced garlic or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • pinch thyme
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 to 1 cup sugar

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until desired thickness, about one hour

Notes

  • If you use fresh veggies for the sauce (vs celery seed and garlic powder) you may want to blend the cooked sauce in a blender, until smooth.
  • The recipe calls for a teaspoon of pepper. At this amount, you will taste the pepper. I preferred less pepper.
  • You can use either ketchup OR tomato sauce in this recipe. Ketchup is sweeter, so you will get a sweeter BBQ sauce unless you reduce the amount of sugar. Tomato sauce is less sweet.
Nutrition information is an estimate only.
 
 

Nutrition

Calories: 81kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.02g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 464mg | Potassium: 145mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 225IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 12mg | Iron: 0.2mg

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2 photo vertical Pinterest collage for a homemade BBQ sauce recipe.

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