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How to Make Your Own BBQ Sauce: 3 Ways

How to Make Your Own BBQ Sauce

Although good quality BBQ sauces are readily available in grocery stores, there is nothing quite like making your own, adjusting the spices and flavors to your personal taste. The best part is you will most likely have all the ingredients in your fridge or pantry, so you won’t even need to go to the store!

There is an array of barbecue sauces in the American south; the list is endless. I have focused on three regions in the south and created three very different barbecue sauces inspired by the local flavors or products that the area is renowned for. 

I like to add a bit of dry rub to my barbecue sauces to add an extra punch of flavor. If you already have a stash of dry rub on hand, add a tablespoon to any of the following recipes. If not, all of these barbecue sauces already have more than enough flavor if you wish to follow the recipes as written. 

If you store the sauces in sanitized jars (you can easily do this by using the hot cycle in your dishwasher), they will keep for around two to three weeks in the refrigerator due to their high vinegar contents. 

Ingredients and Tools

Equipment

  • Medium saucepan
  • Whisk 
  • Wooden spoon 
  • Box Grater
  • Fine-mesh strainer (optional)

BBQ SAUCE 1:
Carolina Mustard-Vinegar BBQ Sauce

(Yields about 2 cups)

Carolinia BBQ sauces differ depending on which state you are in. North Carolina is famous for its vinegar-forward, peppery sauces (the further inland you go, the more tomato-based sauces you will find). South Carolina, on the other hand, is known for its mustardy sauces, thanks to early German immigrants. This BBQ sauce takes the best of both north and south with a 50:50 ratio of mustard to vinegar. The finished sauce has a bright sunshine hue from the yellow mustard that is perfect for dipping barbecued sausages or for coating pulled pork

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup yellow mustard 
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (hickory)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½  tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper

Directions

Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat with ¼ cup water, whisking to combine to create a glossy sauce as the butter melts and reduces and thickens slightly; around 10 to 15 minutes, or until it reaches your desired consistency. Allow to cool. 

BBQ SAUCE 2:
Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce

(Yields about 2 cups)

This sticky, tangy BBQ sauce is probably the most common type of sauce which dominates the ready-made variety on supermarket shelves. It’s a much darker, heavier sauce than the others, and it’s perfect for basting ribs and goes incredibly well with all barbecued pork products. The richness and dark hue come from the soy sauce, molasses, dark brown sugar, and a generous amount of Worcestershire sauce.The recipe includes softened grated onion for sweetness and texture. 

Ingredients 

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder or ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder 
  • 1 tsp kosher salt 
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 ¼ cup ketchup
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ tbsp molasses 
  • 1 ½ tbsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 ½ tsp liquid smoke (hickory)

Directions

Peel and grate the onion on the large holes of a box grater. Melt 3 tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the grated onion and cook until softened, around 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 tbsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp chili powder (or ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper), 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp ground black pepper. Stir to combine and allow spices to meld into the onions for about 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Once the sauce begins to  bubble, reduce heat to low, and simmer for around 30 minutes until the sauce is jammy and thick. If you prefer a smooth sauce, you can strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Allow to cool.

BBQ SAUCE 3:
Kentucky Bourbon BBQ Sauce

(Yields about 2 cups)


This all-purpose barbecue sauce is much lighter than the others and has a slight fruitiness from the pineapple juice and a hefty kick of Kentucky Bourbon. This sauce is versatile and marries well with most proteins but goes exceptionally well with chicken. Due to its thinner consistency, it also makes a great marinade. If you like a richer sauce, you can add up to 2 tbsp tomato paste.

Ingredients 

  • 1 ¼ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup cider vinegar
  • ⅓ cup pineapple juice
  • ½ cup Kentucky Bourbon
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 ½ tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Directions

Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens and reduces slightly, about 20 minutes, or until it reaches your desired consistency. Allow to cool.

Suvie Cook Settings

For any of the above BBQ sauces, combine all ingredients in a Suvie pan and insert into the bottom of your Suvie. Set bottom zone of Suvie to slow cook for 4 hours on high, or until thick. 

Recipes to try

How to Sous Vide Pulled Pork

How to Slow Cook Pulled Pork

How To Sous Vide Pork Ribs

Kansas City Ribs

Sausage Rolls with Peppers and Onions

BBQ Fried Chicken Bowl

How to Sous Vide Sausages

How to Sous Vide Bratwurst

East vs. West: North Carolina BBQ

Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs

How to Make Your Own BBQ Dry Rub

How to Sous Vide Beef Brisket

FAQs

Can I freeze my BBQ sauce? 

Yes, if you store it in an airtight container or resealable bag, it will last in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Help, my sauce is too thin and runny!

No problem! Just continue to simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens and reduces slightly. 

What can I do if I’ve over-reduced my sauce and it’s too thick and salty?

This is easily solved! Just add water in 1 tablespoon increments until you reach your desired consistency and flavor. Adding a squeeze of lemon juice or a tablespoon of brown sugar can balance out the saltiness. 

Oh no, I’ve run out of Apple Cider Vinegar!

Fear not! Most kinds of vinegar will work in the recipes above. For the lighter sauces like the Kentucky Bourbon or Carolina Mustard, you could use white wine vinegar. Although non-traditional, balsamic vinegar would be a great substitute for the Kansas City-inspired sauce, complementing the sauce’s richness. 

CategoriesAmerican Sides
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