Barbecue Sauce {How to Make From Scratch!}

Want to see me get ultra riled up? Let’s talk about Barbecue Sauce. Today I’m going to be telling you how to make THE best BBQ sauce from scratch. This is an easy recipe that’s ready in 15 minutes. You can use it on sandwiches, ribs, or just lick the spoon. It’s that good.

Most basic homemade barbecue sauce recipes I’ve found are made with ketchup, which is actually quite high in sugar. Since that defeated part of my purpose, I decided to see how the recipe would turn out if I were to make this homemade BBQ sauce without ketchup instead, and you know what?


This bbq sauce is thick and rich and has smoky-sweet undertones from molasses. Without it my ribs, pulled pork, and BBQ chicken sandwiches wouldn’t be complete.

I know that once you try this simple and delicious homemade recipe, you’re going to want to keep a jar in your fridge at all times!

How to make BBQ sauce from scratch with no ketchup and delicious flavor

What is the Best Barbecue Sauce? Let’s Discuss.

Yep, I am going there. BBQ sauce is both regional and personal, and I do have a favorite.

I grew up on Kansas City barbecue, and every time Ben and I visit, grabbing a meal at a local BBQ joint isn’t an optional activity we try to squeeze in—it’s one of the first stops we make the moment we land at the airport.

I’ve had the pleasure of munching barbecue in different regions of the country, and while I respect and enjoy the different flavors and characteristics of each, Kansas City–style barbecue sauce is my forever favorite.

If you’ve had Sweet Baby Ray’s or KC Masterpiece brand BBQ sauce, you’ve experienced a hint of just how good Kansas City BBQ sauce can be. That said, as I’ve started reading more labels in recent years, the bottled barbecue sauce brands are LOADED with sugar (high fructose corn syrup is the first ingredient in many). 

Craving some barbecue but not wanting to rely on the the sugary stuff, I decided to see if I could make my own homemade barbecue sauce for ribs, pulled pork, and, as I quickly discovered while making and tasting this sauce, for licking right off the spoon!

Skip the bottled stuff. By using real, unprocessed ingredients, you’ll have an award winning barbecue sauce recipe that tastes, well, homemade.

Delicious sauce made without ketchup in a bowl for topping pulled pork, ribs, or chicken

How to Make the BEST Barbecue Sauce

Not only is making your own barbecue sauce from scratch infinitely more delicious than anything you’ll find at the store, it is EASY.

While this isn’t one of those 3 ingredient BBQ sauce recipes (a bi-product of that fact that it’s not a barbecue sauce recipe with ketchup), it is still super simple and its flavor is a dead ringer for the barbecue sauces I’ve tried at legit BBQ joints. 

Let’s break it down, BBQ-style.

The Ingredients

  • Tomato Sauce + Paste. For the tomato flavor, I used tomato paste and tomato sauce instead of ketchup. 
  • Apple Cider Vinegar. The vinegar adds some much needed acidity to our sweet and tangy barbecue sauce recipe. 
  • Maple Syrup + Molasses. To sweeten things up, I used a little maple syrup and molasses. I love the way the maple plays against the strong flavors in the spices, and both of these ingredients make the sauce rich and thick too. For a slightly different flavor, you can also make this barbecue sauce with honey instead of maple syrup (don’t skip the molasses though).
  • Worcestershire Sauce. Another key component in the quest to find the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and tangy. Worcestershire sauce is intensely savory and instantly adds a long-simmered flavor to the sauce.
  • Seasonings. Smoked paprika, dry mustard, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper results in a classic, balanced combination of flavors. While it’s optional, adding a dash of cayenne pepper gives just the right amount of heat. See below for tips on how to make your sauce extra spicy.

The Directions

  1. Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Stir. If you have a splatter screen, you might want to place it over the top. Otherwise, you can partially cover the pot with a lid. This BBQ sauce is quite chatty and likes to sputter.
  2. Call your mom. Hang out. Contemplate the universe. Enjoy your life for 10 minutes.
  3. Every few minutes, stir again. Barbecue sauce will thicken as it continues to simmer. Your kitchen will start to smell tantalizing.
  4. Stir. Taste. Adjust. Taste some more because SO GOOD.

The best homemade bbq sauce without ketchup in a jar

Recipe Adaptations

  • Homemade Spicy BBQ Sauce. The recipe as written is more spicy-sweet than truly spicy, so if you prefer a BBQ sauce with a serious kick, I’ve included the option to add some cayenne.
  • Homemade Honey BBQ Sauce. Simply swap the maple syrup for the same amount of honey.
  • Bourbon Barbecue Sauce. Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup bourbon whiskey with the tomato sauce (the more you add, the stronger the taste will be). Cook as directed, extending the simmer time for a bit if the bourbon flavor is too strong.
  • Jack Daniels Barbecue Sauce {Copycat}. You also can use a Tennessee whiskey like Jack Daniels (follow the above directions for bourbon bbq sauce) for your own version of this popular store brand.
  • Dietary Notes. As written this barbecue sauce is vegan, gluten free, and sugar free (meaning free of refined granulated sugar and brown sugar).

How to Store and Freeze Barbecue Sauce

  • To Store. Store leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for about 7 days. Since it is not loaded with preservatives, homemade barbecue sauce will go bad faster than store bought barbecue sauce.
  • To Freeze. Yes, you can freeze barbecue sauce! Place the sauce in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

How to Use Homemade Barbecue Sauce

The beauty of this easy sauce is that it can be used in any recipe that calls for premade barbecue sauce, or you can use it to spice up your favorite protein (try brushing it over a side of salmon then cooking the salmon according to the directions for this Baked Salmon in Foil!) or even salad. 

Recommended Tools to Make BBQ Sauce at Home

How to make the BEST homemade Barbecue Sauce from scratch! Easy recipe that’s ready in 15 minutes. Sweet, simple, healthy recipe without ketchup and naturally sweetened with maple syrup or honey. A great homemade BBQ sauce for pulled pork, for ribs, or for BBQ chicken sandwiches and marinades.

  • 1 can tomato sauce — (15 ounces)
  • 1 can tomato paste — (6 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper — optional but encouraged
  1. In a medium saucepan, stir together all of the ingredients: tomato sauce, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, molasses, Worcestershire, smoked paprika, dry mustard, garlic, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover with a lid slightly ajar so that the pot is mostly covered to deter splattering, but steam can still escape and the sauce can reduce. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Enjoy immediately or let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: American

Keyword: Easy BBQ Sauce Recipe, Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Nutrition Information

Amount per serving (2 tablespoons) — Calories: 51, Sodium: 218mg, Carbohydrates: 12g, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 10g, Protein: 1g

How to make the BEST Homemade Barbecue Sauce from scratch! Easy recipe that’s ready in 15 minutes. Sweet, simple, healthy recipe without ketchup and naturally sweetened with maple syrup or honey. A great homemade bbq sauce for pulled pork, for ribs, or on bbq chicken sandwiches. #healthy #barbecuesauce #bbqsauce #easy

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