This homemade BBQ sauce has incredible flavor, with bold but balanced smoky, sweet, and spicy notes. It’s perfect with ribs, chicken, and other meats!
Why make BBQ sauce yourself when you can buy it from the store?
I have asked this question myself.
Because given the choice, I will ALWAYS buy the pre-made thing from the grocery store to save time, even at a premium.
But only if it’s as good or better than homemade.
And frankly, I’ve never had a bottled bbq sauce that’s anywhere near as good homemade.
(Yes, I’ve tried the really expensive artisanal ones that are nearly $10 for a small bottle).
I think it’s partially the freshness factor and partially the intensity of the ingredients in homemade.
Even the premium sauces at the store can seem a bit thin and watered down to me.
Making bbq sauce yourself is very easy, can be done in 20 minutes, and made to your own tastes.
The recipe I’m sharing in today’s post is quite punchy. It is not mild. It has a LOT of flavor going on, because that’s how I like it.
But, you can play with it to have just the right amount of heat, sweetness, smokiness, and zing, for you. More on that later.
How to Make BBQ Sauce:
To get started, cook chopped sweet onion in ghee (or butter) for about 5 minutes, until softened:
You can swap in your desired fat as you see fit, and you can also use red onion or yellow onion here instead of sweet.
Add a couple tablespoons of minced fresh garlic to the pan:
Stir this all around for about 30 seconds, to wake up the garlic.
Be careful not to brown the garlic, or it will give off a burned flavor.
Add ketchup, molasses, worcestershire sauce, ground chipotle chile, smoked paprika, honey, and apple cider vinegar:
I use blackstrap molasses here, but you may use regular if you prefer.
Blackstrap molasses has a less sweet and more bitter taste (in a way I enjoy), and also gives the sauce a much darker color.
Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes, until it has thickened a bit.
This is the sauce I love for my popular oven Spare Ribs recipe.
How to Adjust the BBQ Sauce to Your Liking:
- If the sauce gets too thick: Dilute to desired consistency either with water OR apple cider vinegar. Water will dilute without adding flavor, while the vinegar is a good choice if you taste the sauce and desire more tang.
- If you don’t want too much of a smoky flavor: Use regular paprika instead of smoked paprika. You will still have some smoked flavor from the chipotle chile, but this will cut it down.
- If you want less sweetness: Omit the honey, but more importantly, be really intentional about which ketchup you purchase for use in this recipe. Some store-bought ketchup is incredibly sweet, while some have no sugar at all (like Primal Kitchen’s paleo ketchup).
- If you don’t want it to be spicy: The heat here comes from the chipotle chile powder, which is smoked and ground jalapeño peppers. It has an absolutely incredible flavor beyond the spicy factor, so try to cut it in half before eliminating altogether.
Spicy, Sweet and Smoky BBQ Sauce
- 2 tbsp butter or ghee (or neutral cooking fat of choice)
- 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion (red or yellow onion also okay)
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 cup ketchup *
- 2 tbsp molasses **
- 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp ground chipotle chile pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter or ghee over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened.
- Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant but not brown at all.
- Add the ketchup, molasses, worcestershire, apple cider vinegar, honey, chipotle chile pepper, and smoked paprika.
- Simmer for 10 minutes on low heat (to prevent sputtering), until thickened.
- If the BBQ sauce becomes too thick for your liking, dilute with water or more apple cider vinegar until you get your desired consistency. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in July 2020 with new photos, copy, and slightly adjusted recipe. Originally posted in July 2011.