What You Need to Know About Homemade Barbecue Sauce: A Beginner’s Guide

What You Need to Know About Homemade Barbeque Sauce: A Beginner’s Guide

No matter where you go for barbecue a sauce is a staple to go with any smoked meat. It really is hard to imagine great barbecue without a great sauce to accompany perfectly smoked meats.

Many backyards and restaurants will serve store bought barbecues sauce. However, creating a custom homemade barbecue sauce is so easy. The best part of a custom sauce is you can add one pinch at a time of your favorite seasonings until you dial it into your perfect balance.

In this article we will go over all the different types of barbecue sauces you will find in the United States and which sauce will be specific to that particular region. We will also teach a couple of really easy barbecue sauces you can make at home that will blow you away with flavor.

Note: most links in this article are Amazon.com Affiliate links, see Affiliate Disclosure, thank you.

What is Barbecue Sauce?

Simply put, a barbecue sauce is a sauce that is eaten with barbecued food that typically has a spicy profile. Barbecue sauce can be used as a glaze, marinade, or basting fluid for various barbecued or grilled foods.

However, barbecue sauce is also widely used in many other cuisines and is also a favorite condiment or dipping sauce for things like chicken fingers, French fries, and other fried foods. While it is prevalent in the barbecue community, barbecue sauces differ depending on their used or created region.

The type of barbecue sauce depends on the starting base of the sauce. And of those types, there are many different variations created. Not all barbecue sauces even taste the same or even have the same consistency. The way the sauces are used also plays a significant role in how the sauce is created.

What are the Main Ingredients in Homemade Barbecue Sauce?

The main base ingredients in barbecue sauce could be ketchup or mustard. Secondary components include Worcestershire sauce and Apple cider vinegar. It is common to have a sweet element like brown sugar and spices like garlic and onion powder.

Most barbecue sauces are a perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and the base to bring it together. The sweeter elements usually help to cut the acidity of the base ingredients. Adding herbs, spices, and seasonings is the way a sauce gets its secret personality.

In all honesty, there are so many different variations of barbecue sauces. Some people like to add sweet fruits like mango, blueberries, blackberries, and peaches to their sauce in place of the sweeteners. In contrast, others like to add alcohol to the sauce to bring a depth of flavor like whiskey, rum, or tequila.

Base ingredients

  • Tomato
  • Ketchup
  • Vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Mayonnaise

Secondary ingredients

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • hot sauce or tabasco
  • liquid smoke

Sweet ingredients

  • white sugar
  • caster sugar
  • brown sugar
  • molasses
  • maple syrup
  • honey
  • corn syrup

Spices and seasonings

  • Garlic granules
  • Onion granules
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • smoked paprika
  • coriander
  • ground cumin

How to Make a Homemade Barbecue Sauce

When you start to make a barbecue sauce, you usually need to start with a base ingredient. These base ingredients can include tomato sauce, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, or even mayonnaise. Usually, depending on the region you live in or where the sauce is from will determine the sauce base.

Once you have a base ingredient, many other ingredients are added to the base ingredient. They are then heated or cooked over low heat for an extended period of time to slow cook so that all the flavors of the components will meld together nicely to create a bold barbecue sauce.

For the most part, the sauce is then removed from the heat and cooled down or placed in the fridge. Many say barbecue sauce will only get better as it sits for a couple of days before using, kind of the same way with chili. Once the sauce has cooled, it is ready for consumption or used in some way during the cooking process.

Click here to read our Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill Smoker Review

Check out the price on Amazon.com

How Should I Use a Barbecue Sauce?

Barbecue sauce is commonly used as a basting sauce, glaze, or marinade during the cooking process. However, many people use barbecue sauce primarily as a condiment for dipping food items like chicken nuggets or spreading on a hamburger bun.

Basting your food with barbecue sauce adds the flavor combination to your foods and helps to prevent drying out. Many pitmasters add apple cider vinegar to make a loose vinegar barbecue sauce.  They cover the meat as it smokes to keep it moist and bring on a heavy depth of flavor. The sauce is called a “mop” sauce and is applied using a mop-like brush.

Applying barbecue sauce as a glaze is a great idea. The barbecue sauce adheres to the meat, and the sugars will caramelize, developing more flavor as it cooks. Apply the barbecue sauce when your meat is almost fully cooked to reduce mess and prevent flare-ups if grilling.

Mixing a cup of barbecue sauce and a ½ cup of oil in a ziplock bag is a great way to make a marinade. Add your meat to the bag and place it in the refrigerator for an hour. For an even better result, leave it overnight.

Now we think barbecue sauce is an excellent condiment, but it is far more versatile than that.

Traditional Barbecue Sauce

This is a very basic barbecue sauce that uses a tomato-based ingredient and is very easy to make. Even though it is straightforward to make, you can use it as a condiment, glaze, or basting ingredient for all your barbecue needs.


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp. Brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. Dark molasses
  • 2 tbsp. Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp. Tabasco sauce
  • ½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. Black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. Garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. Onion powder


  1. Using a medium pan with a lid, whisk all the ingredients together well.
  2. Heat on medium-low with the lid on for one hour.
  3. Let cool for one hour.
  4. Then use to cook, serve, or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce

This is another very basic barbecue sauce but uses a mustard base and is very popular in the Carolinas to be used as a basting sauce. It can also be used as a condiment and is very different from tomato-based sauces.


  • 1 cup yellow mustard
  • 4 tbsp. Clover honey
  • 2 tbsp. Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Black pepper
  • ½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tsp. Garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp. Brown sugar


  1. Using a medium pan with a lid, whisk all the ingredients together well.
  2. Heat on medium-low with the lid on for one hour.
  3. Let cool for one hour.
  4. Then use to cook, serve, or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

We found this great little youtube video for honey barbecue sauce, it is simple quick, and easy, check it out.


So, we hope that this beginner’s guide to making homemade barbecue sauce has helped you to get started making your own sauces at home. The recipes we provided are very simple and involve very little cooking.

There are plenty of other sauces out there that will include many fresh ingredients, which may be a route you should think about in the future. As many say, what makes a great barbecue, is the barbecue sauce.


How do you get barbecue sauce to stick to ribs?

To get barbecue sauce to stick to the ribs, apply the sauce near the end of the cooking process or after they have been cooked. However, you most likely will want to add a dry rub to the ribs to gain an extra level of depth in flavor. Also, a good way to get the dry rub to stick to the ribs is to first rub a base of either yellow mustard or honey all over the ribs, then apply the dry rub all over the ribs. Consider using the same base as in your barbecue sauce or a light coating of the sauce as a binder.

Why do some people use a “mop” sauce when smoking pork?

The reason a vinegar-based mop sauce is applied to smoked meats during the cooking process is majorly to add flavor to the meat as it cooks, just like a barbecue sauce would. The mop sauce will also keep the meat moist and stop it from drying out when smoke at low temperatures for long periods of time. The best way to apply the mop sauce is with a small hand mop and apply generously. But some people will also use a spray bottle to apply the mop sauce.

Tips for Better Barbequing - Pioneer Smoke House - January 31, 2022

[…] cook your meat, feel free to marinade or dry rub with your favorite seasonings. However, if you put barbeques sauce on your meat combined with the drippings can cause large […]

Comments are closed