Homemade Spicy Sweet Barbecue Sauce

Hosting a barbecue for friends? Knock their socks off with this easy Homemade BBQ Sauce recipe. This tangy, a little sweet and a little spicy, this barbecue sauce is perfect with chicken, pork and beef barbecue! Makes 32 servings.

Barbecue sauce spills over the top of a jar, shown with a spoon

2023 Update: This recipe was originally shared in September 2011. I have included measurements by weight for the ingredients. The post has been updated to include new photos, as well as more tips and tricks. I hope you love this sauce!

When I began tossing around the idea of a huge barbecue feast in celebration of Winston’s completion of the bar exam, I talked to my mother.

She told me that she went to a party with friends years ago and tasted the best barbecue sauce she had ever tried. (And that’s saying something – the woman lives in Memphis, one of the barbecue hotspots in this country!)

Lucky for me, she had the recipe, and she sent it my way.

Why I love this recipe:

Well, in true Erin fashion, I misread the recipe my mother sent me and ended up making a Sweet SPICY BBQ Sauce recipe. (Fun fact: Red pepper flakes are not the same thing as cayenne pepper.)

After adding a bit more brown sugar, we were in business, and everything tasted good… spicy and sweet and tangy, just the way a good barbecue sauce should be.

It makes a huge pot full, too. So if you’re not making a ginormous barbecue feast, you could half this or even quarter this and have more than enough sauce.

Dishes to use this BBQ sauce on: Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Nachos | BBQ Nachos | Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Nachos | Grilled BBQ Chicken Flatbread | Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Mustard Coleslaw

Looking for more recipes to serve alongside a barbecue? Check out my Outdoor Entertaining Recipe Index!

Ingredients to make homemade BBQ sauce in bowls and containers on a marble countertop with a blue buffalo check napkin

What you need to make this recipe:

The Speckled Palate participates in affiliate programs. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please refer to my disclosure page for more information about these affiliate programs.

Let’s talk ingredients!

In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.

Here’s what you need:

  • Tomato juice — you’re going to need an entire bottle of this. Make sure it’s 100% tomato and not mixed with carrots or other vegetable juices.
  • Soy sauce — we like to use a low-sodium soy sauce here.
  • Worcestershire sauce — use your favorite! There are gluten free Worcestershire sauces, as well as vegan ones, if you want your barbecue sauce to be vegan.
  • Ketchup — use your favorite brand for this. It’s going to add more tomato flavors with a bit of sweetness, too.
  • Apple cider vinegar — this is not the same thing as apple cider. We need the vinegar punch in the BBQ sauce. If you don’t have ACV, you can use the same amount of white vinegar.
  • Brown sugar — you may use light or dark brown sugar. Either works! It provides a lovely sweetness and molasses flavor to balance out the heat and vinegar.
  • Lemon juice — grab two whole lemons from the store so you can juice them fresh!
  • Spices and herbs — you might have several of these in your spice cabinet already. We’re using cayenne pepper, dried mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, ground allspice, ground ginger, dried basil and black pepper. The combination is just… amazing!

Variations and substitutions

Make it gluten free. Use tamari in place of soy sauce, and be sure you’re using gluten free worcestershire sauce, too!

Make it vegan. Use vegan worcestershire sauce.

Cut the heat. If you’re concerned this BBQ sauce will be too spicy, cut the amount of cayenne pepper in half… or leave it out altogether!

How to make Homemade Barbecue Sauce

The part of this recipe that takes the most time, other than the simmer, is the measuring of all the ingredients. I recommend getting them all out of the cabinets and fridge before you begin.

Mix all the liquid ingredients in a large Dutch oven.

Add the spices and herbs. Stir to combine.

Heat the Dutch oven over medium-low heat, and cook for 2-3 hours, or until the sauce has cooked down by half.

The easy barbecue sauce recipe will have thickened significantly, and the ingredients will be combined instead of lumpy, as they are in the beginning.

Pro tip!

You can do this over higher heat, though I do not recommend that because the sauce will splatter all over your stovetop and backsplash as it bubbles.

Once the sauce is cooked down, let it cool.

Once cooled, transfer the sauce into jars, and refrigerate.

Serve at room-temperature (or cold) with your favorite slow-cooked meats and sides.

Close up of boiled down barbecue sauce in a large dutch oven
Cooked down BBQ sauce

Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

We love to host a backyard barbecue in the summertime and to have friends to eat BBQ with us throughout the year!

If you’re planning on making this homemade barbecue sauce, here are some ideas for you:

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the basics of BBQ sauce?

Barbecue sauce tends to have some tomato elements, some vinegar for tanginess and punch, brown sugar for sweetness and a lot of herbs and spice to bring in other flavors.

Is BBQ sauce just ketchup and brown sauce?

No. BBQ sauce has a lot more than ketchup and brown sugar. It also involves some vinegar, for tanginess, more tomato and a lot of herbs and spices to round out the flavors.

Is BBQ sauce always made with ketchup?

Not always. Ketchup adds a wonderful sweet-tangy element, but other ingredients can be used, too. This Pumpkin Barbecue Sauce uses pumpkin puree instead of ketchup.

A jar of homemade BBQ sauce in front of a purple Dutch oven

Quick tips and tricks to the best homemade BBQ sauce

  • Half the recipe if you don’t want to have nearly as much sauce.
  • Don’t rush the BBQ sauce. It needs to simmer on the stovetop for a few hours so it thickens up. If you rush it, you could burn the bottom of your pan or have it splatter everywhere.
  • Let it cool before you put it into airtight containers and refrigerate it. Let it cool some in the Dutch oven before transferring to mason jars or other containers.
Overhead view of barbecue sauce in a glass jar next to a spoon

What to eat with BBQ sauce:

Got leftover barbecue sauce? You lucky duck!

Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy it!

Check out how to make it below, and enjoy!

Glass jar of sauce next to spoon
Yield: About 9 ½ cups BBQ sauce

Homemade Sweet Spicy Barbecue Sauce

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 5 minutes

Hosting a barbecue for friends? Knock their socks off with this easy Homemade BBQ Sauce recipe. This tangy, a little sweet and a little spicy, this barbecue sauce is perfect with chicken, pork and beef barbecue!

Ingredients

  • 46 oz. 100% tomato juice
  • 1 ¼ cups low sodium soy sauce (10 fl. oz.)
  • 1 ¼ cups Worcestershire sauce (10 fl. oz.)
  • 3 cups ketchup (825g)
  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar (730ml)
  • 3 cups brown sugar, packed (640g)
  • 2 medium lemons, juiced (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (5g)
  • 2 teaspoons dried mustard (7g)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (4g)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (3g)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (3g)
  • 1 teaspoon ground all spice (2g)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (3g)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (2g)
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper (3g)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large Dutch oven.
  2. Heat over medium-low heat, and cook for 2-3 hours, or until cooked down by half. It will have thickened significantly, and the ingredients will be combined (instead of lumpy, as they are in the beginning.) You can do this over higher heat, though I do not recommend that because the sauce will splatter all over your stovetop and backsplash as it bubbles.
  3. Let cool, then transfer to jars. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. Serve at room-temperature with your favorite slow-cooked meats and sides.

Notes

This recipe makes a TON of barbecue sauce. (Once cooked down, it will yield about 9 ½ cups of BBQ sauce.)

You should be able to half it if you don't need a lot. However, if you do make the whole batch and don't use it all, freeze what is left over in an ice cube tray for later use!

The serving size is ¼ cup.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

38

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 99Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 660mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 1gSugar: 20gProtein: 1g

Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

How much did you love this recipe?

Follow me on Instagram for more content, and share a photo of your creation with the hashtag #speckledpalate!

Similar Posts

5 Comments

  1. Yum. We’re big fans of barbecue sauce here! I once made my own and started with a can of Dr. Pepper. It was actually a really delicious sauce. I think I may try that again!

  2. So first order of business when you move to Dallas will be to have a cookout! Drew will grill and you can bring the sauce 🙂

  3. Your article mentions a confusion between “red pepper” as cayenne pepper (and not red pepper flakes). The ingredient list mentions only cayenne pepper. Did you use both or just the cayenne pepper? Thanks much. The sauce sounds awesome and want to try it soon.

    1. Enzo, I only used cayenne pepper in this recipe due to the confusion… and it has QUITE a kick. Can’t wait to hear what you think of it! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *