Be the Sauce Boss: Making BBQ Sauce at Home

There are so many great barbecue sauces out there, but you could spend an eternity looking through the different types, brands, and ingredients. What about making your own BBQ sauce? Making your own sauce means you get to top your smoked meat with the perfect BBQ sauce every time. Today, we’ll go over the different categories of BBQsauce and three of our favorite sauce recipes.

Traditional American BBQ Sauces

The United States loves BBQ, which is why we have so many festivals and competitions dedicated to this art of deliciousness. If you’ve never been to a barbecue festival (GO!!), there are usually several categories involving different cooking methods, meats, and sauces.

BBQ sauces are very different depending on the area. Sauce categories normally include Kansas City, Carolina (South and West), St. Louis, Texas, Memphis, Alabama. Below are some of the characteristics of each areas sauce. You can choose to follow their guidelines or just go crazy and make a sauce that’s entirely your own.

the various barbecue sauces in glass bottles

Kansas City

Kansas City BBQ is the most well-known barbecue sauce, with its sweet and tangy flavor and thick consistency. These sauces can contain over 15 different ingredients, but the base is always tomato or ketchup and is sweetened with brown sugar or molasses. They suggest that you wait until after the meat has been cooked to use Kansas City sauce.

South Carolina

South Carolina BBQ is another tangy, love it or leave it kind of sauce. This BBQ will look different than most because instead of a ketchup base they use mustard. South Carolina has German roots, so they use mustard for the base and cane sugar for the sweetener.

West Carolina

South and West Carolina BBQ are far from the same. West Carolina sauce is probably the thinnest of all traditional American BBQ sauces. Instead of a ketchup or mustard base, they use vinegar to give is a noticeable twang. Plus, they usually like to mix in a bit of heat from chili flakes or cracked black pepper.

St. Louis

St. Louis sauce is like a cousin of the Kansas City version, which makes sense seeing as they are so close geographically. The main difference is that St. Louis BBQs are thinner, so more can be added while cooking the meat instead of afterward. Like the Kansas City sauce, St. Louis BBQ is tomato based.


When it comes to smoking meat, you can’t forget Texas. Texas BBQ sauce is another thin variety, but it packs a punch with the flavor. This BBQ is usually packed with ingredients like hot sauce, chili powder, pepper, and sometimes meat drippings. Texas sauce is applied directly to the meat while cooking to give it a rich, powerful flavor.


Over the years, the Memphis barbecue sauce has changed a bit. Old Memphis sauces would be very basic with maybe only vinegar and pepper. They focused more on the meat than the sauce. As times changed, more people started ramping up their sauce and created the more modern version, which contains a tomato base with brown sugar sweetener. However, it maintains it’s heritage by clinging on to that bit of vinegar and thin texture.


Alabama BBQ sauce is probably the easiest sauce to pick out of a lineup due to its color. In Alabama, their BBQ sauce is white because it has a mayonnaise base. This BBQ is used to marinate and baste meat, and it’s not uncommon to see this sauce at the table as a condiment.

Our Top Three Sauce Recipes

BBQ Sauceboiling homemade bbq sauce from scratch

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 4 tablespoons distilled vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash salt

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, being careful not to burn them. Reduce the heat to low. Add the ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, chipotle peppers, vinegar (or less to taste), Worcestershire sauce and salt and stir. Allow sauce to simmer for 20 minutes.Taste after simmering and add whatever ingredient it needs (more spice, more sugar, etc.). Place your sauce on the grill on the smoke setting or warm heat (170 degrees) for 1 hour to provide the smoky taste.

Sweet Soda BBQ Sauce

making bbq sauce at home

  • 1 can (12 ounces) Dr Pepper
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 30-35 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Place on grill on the smoke setting or warm heat (170 degrees) for 1 hour to provide the smoky taste.

Sweet & Spicy BBQ Sauce

  • 1 medium onion, choppedbbq sauce in a jar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

In a large saucepan, sauté onion in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in the chili powder, cayenne, and pepper; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and pepper sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes or until sauce reaches desired consistency. Cool for 15 minutes. Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, discarding vegetables and seasonings. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Use as a basting sauce for grilled meats. Place sauce on your grill on the smoke setting or warm heat (170 degrees) for 1 hour to provide the smoky taste.

What’s Your Favorite Kind of BBQ Sauce?

We would love to hear your opinions on BBQ sauces. Have you tried all of the traditional sauce types? Which BBQ sauce is your favorite? Let us know in the comment section below.

Find more recipes and grilling tips on our Grilling and Recipes category. Grilling Adventures provides new content every other week, so make sure you check back with us to learn more!