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How to Make Barbecue Sauce from Scratch

How to Make Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Making homemade barbecue sauce is just a matter of combining ingredients and simmering it to blend the flavors. Choosing ingredients that combine well, with just the right touch of sweet, sour and spice, can be an art. Start with these flavor combinations and spice it up or down to fit your flavor preferences.

Can't claim credit for this cooking, my friend...
Can't claim credit for this cooking, my friend Paul was responsible. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Barbecue Sauce Ingredients

With the exception of the mustard based sauces favored in South Carolina, most American barbecue sauce begins with a tomato base in the form of ketchup. You can use pureed tomatoes or tomato sauce instead if you choose, but ketchup is the base most often used.

In addition to the ketchup, you will need to add a balance of sweet and sour as well as spices or heat to add interest. Let us look at each ingredient category.

For acidity or sour, some form of vinegar is commonly used. In addition, lemon juice and orange juice add additional tang and flavor, when included.

Balance the acidity with sweeteners in the form of molasses, honey, maple sugar or brown sugar. Some recipes even use cola or Dr. Pepper as a sweetener. The amount of sweetener used will depend on which sweetener you choose and how sweet you like your sauce. Start with less than you expect to need and taste your sauce as you add more to get the sweetness you prefer.

Additional flavorings are common and depend on your preferences. Common flavorings include sautéed onions and garlic, mustard powder or Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper, minced chili peppers or dried chili flakes and liquid smoke. Do not try to overload the sauce with all of these flavors. Start simply with the ingredients that you like.

Simmer your sauce for 20 to 45 minutes to blend the flavors and thicken the sauce. You can thin the sauce with water, orange juice, lemon juice, or sherry if needed.

Basic Barbecue Sauce Recipe

  • 1/2 cup of ketchup
  • 1/2 cup of vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of molasses
  • 1/2 cup of orange juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco sauce as desired
  1. Mix all ingredients together. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Spice it up with and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce to taste. Add more or less spice to your own tastes.
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes to blend flavors and thicken the sauce.

Southern Style Sweet Barbecue Sauce Recipe

  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • chili pepper, chopped and seeded
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • garlic salt
  • black pepper
  1. Mince the onion and sauté it in butter for a few minutes until translucent.
  2. Add a chopped and seeded chili pepper and stir for another minute.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients. Season the sauce with garlic salt and fresh black pepper to taste.
  4. Simmer for 20 minutes to blend the flavors.
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