Homemade BBQ Sauce
Great BBQ deserves great bbq sauce.
Most people buy the mass-produced brand-name stuff at the grocery store….and most store bought sauce is pretty dreadful!
More serious BBQ lovers may go the step beyond and buy more expensive, boutique labels bottled by celebrity pitmasters or popular BBQ joints. This is better – but you can do even better still…
Make your own bbq sauce –
It’s easy, it’s cheaper, and YOU control the ingredients. No MSG or high-fructose corn syrup, and you’re not paying for a name on a label. Making bbq sauce doesn’t require special equipment or cooking skills. All you need is a saucepan, measuring cup and spoons, and a few basic ingredients, many of which you may already have on hand. Homemade BBQ sauce recipes are also forgiving – nobody gets hurt if you use a little more of this or a little less of that.
Best of all, it’s a point of pride. Your friends and family will be even more impressed with your BBQ when you present it with your very own sauce.
There are many different types of BBQ sauce, mostly identifiable by the region they come from. Most of the popular store-bought sauces are in the Kansas City style, dominated by ketchup (and high fructose corn syrup). While many people associate BBQ sauce with that sort of thick, sweet-and-tangy taste, there are many other sauces with varying flavor profiles, consistencies and uses. BBQ sauce can be used as a marinade, to go on the meat during cooking, and as a condiment.
Almost every region of the country has its own unique type of bbq sauce. Different kinds of sauces to go with different types of meats.
Keep reading to learn about the various types of BBQ sauces and to explore the best homemade bbq sauce recipes from all over the bbq world.
Texas Style BBQ Sauce
We’re a little partial to Texas BBQ, so we’ll begin with some of our favorites.
Texas barbecue is usually dry rubbed (with salt and coarse pepper) and cooked low and slow. The sauce is served on the side and may be served warm. It’s tomato-based, but more spicy than KC-style sauce, and much thinner. The thinner sauce seeps into the meat, instead of sitting on top of it like the thicker, ketchup-y sauce. You can taste a Mexican influence in the Texas style recipes, with lots of hot peppers, chili powder and cumin. There’s also an influence from Southern freed slaves and their thin Carolina-style sauces. Vinegar is important for the tang, and some Texas recipes contain coffee or espresso.
Louie Mueller BBQ in Taylor, TX is an iconic barbecue spot that’s been serving customers since 1949. Louie’s sauce, passed on to two generations of family pitmasters, is not heavy, thick or sweet. It’s the perfect complement to their well smoked meats.
The current king of Texas BBQ is Aaron Franklin. People line up daily at his Franklin BBQ in Austin for at least 2 hours to taste what many say (and we concur) is the best BBQ in the country. Franklin makes 3 different sauces to complement his meats, the most interesting of which is an Espresso BBQ Sauce.
Franklin Espresso BBQ Sauce Recipe
Franklin BBQ Sauce Bottles
Mueller BBQ Sauce Recipe
Mueller BBQ Sauce Bottles (not commercially available)
Salt Lick BBQ Sauce Bottles
Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce
Kansas City is renowned for BBQ, and home to (at least) 3 world class BBQ restaurants; Gates Bar-B-Q, Arthur Bryants BBQ and Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ… who each make their own world-class homemade bbq sauces.
This region’s tomato-based sauce is thick, sweet and sometimes spicy. Vinegar is a key ingredient for tartness, and many recipes also call for Worcestershire sauce and garlic. If you use this sauce during cooking, use sparingly and only at the end – the sugar in the sauce can burn too quickly.
Here are recipes for 3 of the best Kansas City BBQ Sauces… and links to purchase bottles, if you want to sample the real thing:
Gates KC Bar-B-Q Sauce Recipe
Gates KC Bar-B-Q Sauce Bottles
Arthur Bryants KC BBQ Sauce Recipe
Arthur Bryants KC BBQ Sauce Bottles
Oklahoma Joe’s KC BBQ Sauce Recipe
Oklahoma Joe’s KC BBQ Sauce Bottles
Carolina BBQ Sauces
“I love South Carolina. It’s my home state, and it’s from that rich culture that I get my love of liberty, my personal values and my chemical dependency on barbecue sauce.”
— Stephen Colbert
In the tiny region encompassing North Carolina and South Carolina, there are 3 distinctly different styles of BBQ and BBQ sauce. Most American barbecue sauces can trace their roots to these four kinds of Carolina sauces.
Eastern Carolina sauce is a clear, thin, vinegar-based sauce, seasoned with ground black pepper and hot chili pepper flakes. Typically served on smoked pork, it’s often used as a mopping sauce to baste the meat while it’s cooking, and as a dipping sauce when it’s served.
It’s thin and sharp, and penetrates the meat and cuts the fats in the mouth. There is little or no sugar in this sauce. Its sharp taste has a cult following amongst people who live outside the region.
Western Carolina Dip (aka Lexington Dip or Piedmont Dip) is a lot like the East Carolina sauce, but has tomato paste, tomato sauce or ketchup added to it. The tomato tames the fierceness of the vinegar, and the hint of sugar balances out the acidity a bit. It’s still thin, though.
South Carolina Mustard Sauce The mustard-based sauce is found in BBQ joints from Columbia to Charleston, where pork is king. Mustard and pork go great together. The classic SC mustard sauce is a runny mix of yellow mustard, vinegar, sugar and spices. It’s especially good on pulled pork.
Eastern Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipes
Eastern Carolina BBQ Sauce Bottles
Western Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe (a/k/a Piedmont Dip or Lexington Dip)
Western Carolina BBQ Sauce Bottles
South Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe
South Carolina BBQ Sauce Bottles
Memphis Style Sauce
Memphis is one of the four predominant regional styles of BBQ in the USA. Memphis is renowned for ribs (wet/with sauce, or dry), and chopped or pulled pork sandwiches, doused in sweet tomato-based sauce. This sauce is a thinner version of the Kansas City style (sweet, ketchup-based), with molasses supplying the sweetness instead of sugar, and more vinegar added to thin it out and give it a little bite.
Memphis BBQ Sauce Recipe
Rendezvous Memphis BBQ Sauce Bottles
Amazing BBQ Sauce Recipes That Defy Regional Categorization
Some of our favorite homemade bbq recipes don’t fit neatly within traditional regional definitions. These are unique and delicious sauces, crafted by some of the best bbq chefs in the world – and easily replicated at home. We highly recommend you try these!
Adam Perry Lang BBQ Sauce Recipe
Tuffy Stone’s Competition BBQ Sauce Recipe
Alabama White Sauce
Not all BBQ sauce is red! North Alabama is known for its distinctive white sauce. It’s mayonnaise-based, and is used mostly on chicken and pork. The ingredients typically are: mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper. Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur, AL. has been the leading purveyor of Alabama BBQ for over 85 years.
Alabama White BBQ Sauce Recipe
Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book; Recipes and Secrets From a Legendary BBQ Joint
Tennessee Whiskey Sauce
The Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world. They have a sauce tasting, but with a twist: Jack Daniel’s whiskey must be in the blend. Lo and behold, whiskey-laced sauces have spread across the country. There are so many that it can be considered a legitimate category of barbecue sauce. Expect to find ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and molasses in the recipes, most of which resemble a KC-style sauce with a big serving of Old No. 7.
Tennessee Whiskey Sauce Recipe
Jack Daniel’s BBQ sauce bottles
Kentucky Black Barbecue Sauce and Dip
This obscure, curious but delicious sauce can only be found in a small area of Western Kentucky. It’s mostly a blend of white vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. It’s designed to go with slow-smoked mutton (mature lamb), a specialty of the region, but it is also used on chicken and other meats. It is used as a baste on the pit, and then as a finishing sauce.
Kentucky Black Barbecue Sauce recipe
INTERNATIONAL BBQ SAUCES
We may think that America has cornered the market on barbecue sauce (which is, of course, TRUE!), but people have apparently been grilling delicious meats all over the world for centuries, and some of those people used sauce on their meats. We American BBQ fans can explore new horizons through these sauces from other lands:
The sauce used on asado (barbecue in Argentina, Uruguay and other SA countries) is called chimichurri, a parsley-based green sauce. Chimichurri is used as a marinade, a grilling sauce, and a condiment on the table. It is put on beef, lamb, pork, goat, fowl, venison and root vegetables. The parsley is finely chopped, and garlic, olive oil, oregano and vinegar are added. Additional seasonings can include coriander, paprika, cumin, thyme, lemon and bay leaf. There is a red version of chimichurri that features tomato and red bell pepper.
Argentine Chimichurri Sauce recipe
Chimichurri Dry Mix
Hoisin sauce is a type of Chinese-style barbecue sauce, used on pork or duck. Ingredients of hoisin sauce include a starch of some kind, like wheat or rice, sugar, soybeans (toasted and mashed), sesame seeds, white vinegar, garlic and red chili peppers.
Hoisin sauce recipe
Tandoori chicken is a popular Indian dish in which the meat is roasted in a cylindrical clay oven. It is marinated in a yogurt sauce, which is seasoned with a piquant spice blend called tandoori masala. The blend can include cayenne pepper, red chili powder, turmeric and paprika; the spices in the sauce also give tandoori its fiery red color.
Tandoori sauce recipe
The Japanese use a sweet soy sauce marinade for their teriyaki, which is fish, chicken or duck prepared on a Japanese-style grill. That sauce is called teri or tare in Japanese; we westerners call it teriyaki sauce. The teri is traditionally made with soy sauce, sake or mirin (rice wines), and sugar or honey. It is boiled and reduced to the desired thickness. Ginger may also be used. In North America, sesame, garlic and pineapple juice are often added.
Teriyaki sauce recipe
Korean grillers use a ganjang-based sauce as a marinade for Kalbi, the grilled dishes made with beef short ribs. Kalbi can also be made with pork ribs or chicken. Ganjang is a Korean soy sauce; the Kalbi sauce also contains garlic and sugar. Variations include: sesame oil, rice wine, hot pepper paste, fruit juice, lemon-lime soda and honey.
Kalbi sauce recipe
In Australia, ‘barbecue sauce’ usually refers to a condiment added after cooking, not as part of the grilling process. It’s a close cousin of ketchup, but with a darker, richer and smokier flavor. It can simply be a blend of tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Here’s a classic Aussie BBQ sauce recipe from Australian Celebrity Chef Curtis Stone.
Curtis Stone’s Aussie BBQ Sauce Recipe
These various international sauces can bring an exotic twist to your usual barbecue, and are much better (and cheaper) prepared at home than bought commercially. The availability of some of the more unusual ingredients may be an issue for some people, but if you have access to international markets (or the internet), you can explore how your grilling counterparts around the world enjoy their meat.
We’re living in a DIY age, baby, and there are so many great reasons to make your own barbecue sauce. Don’t buy that swill at the grocery store – once you taste your very own sauce, you will never go back! It’s easy and fun, and your eaters will love it.