Homemade BBQ Sauce (no ketchup)

Written by Beth - Budget Bytes

It’s grilling season, so it’s only natural (and about time) that I make my own homemade BBQ Sauce! This sweet, smoky, and tangy BBQ sauce takes only minutes to make and will take your summer grilling to new heights of drooly deliciousness. While making your own BBQ sauce isn’t much less expensive than buying a bottled sauce, I love it for its deep rich flavor, the fact that I can make it on demand instead of having another half-used bottle of sauce hanging out in my fridge, and because I have control over every single ingredient that goes into it.

BBQ chicken breasts in a white dish, one sliced into strips, and a bowl of homemade bbq sauce on the side.

Why Use Homemade BBQ Sauce?

I have a chronic condiment problem. I tend to have waaaay too many bottles of half used condiments in my fridge, so when I can make a homemade sauce with pantry staples, I do. It’s not always less expensive, but the fact that I can use up what I already have on hand instead of buying something new is itself an advantage. Plus, there are no mystery thickeners, emulsifiers, or sweeteners in this version.

Can You Freeze This Sauce?

I purposely made this a fairly small batch (just over one cup) so there wouldn’t be much leftover, but if you do happen to have some leftover, this Homemade BBQ Sauce freezes very well! Pack it into any freezer safe container (a resealable Ziploc container, freezer bag, or even portioned into an ice cube tray), label it, and freeze. It should stay good for at least a few months in the freezer.

How to Use Your Homemade BBQ Sauce

If you’re a BBQ sauce fan then you know just how versatile this sauce is. If you’ve only ever had it when eating BBQ meat, you’re missing out! Here are a few of my other favorite ways to use BBQ sauce:

Can I Use Less Sugar?

BBQ sauce is by nature a sweet sauce. The sugar in this recipe (both the brown sugar and molasses) serve to sweeten the sauce, balance the acidity, and create a slight glaze-like texture. The amount of sugar listed in the recipe below is balanced to my taste buds, but you can always experiment with a lower sugar content to see if it’s palatable to you. Or try Googling a low sugar BBQ sauce to find a recipe that is already specifically designed to be balanced with a lower sugar content.

Two grilled chicken breasts coated in homemade bbq sauce with a dish of sauce and brush on the side.

Two grilled chicken breasts coated in homemade bbq sauce in a dish, one sliced into strips, and a fork dipping a piece of chicken into a bowl of sauce.
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5 from 6 votes

Homemade BBQ Sauce

This sweet, tangy, and rich homemade bbq sauce takes only minutes to make, uses no bottled ketchup, and is great for more than just grilling!
Author: Beth - Budget Bytes
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 15 mins
Servings: 4 1/4 cup each


  • 8 oz. tomato sauce ($0.25)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste ($0.10)
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar ($0.12)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.08)
  • 2 Tbsp molasses* ($0.35)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon ($0.05)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce ($0.02)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika ($0.10)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne ($0.01)
  • freshly cracked pepper (about 10 cranks of a pepper mill) ($0.02)
  • salt to taste ($0.02)


  • Combine all of the ingredients except the salt in a small sauce pan. Stir and heat over medium heat, allowing it to come up to a slight simmer.
  • Let the sauce cook and simmer lightly, stirring often, for five minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed (I did not add any).


*Not black strap molasses. I used Grandma's molasses, which is a light, unsulfured molasses.
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Calories: 83.93 kcalCarbohydrates: 19.78 gProtein: 1.23 gFat: 0.25 gSodium: 521.93 mgFiber: 1.28 g
Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclaimer here.

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Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Close up of homemade BBQ sauce being brushed onto a grilled chicken breast

Are you ready to see how fast and easy this is? Check out the whopping two step by step photos! 🤣

How to Make Homemade BBQ Sauce – Step by Step Photos

Ingredients for homemade bbq sauce in the pot

This sauce is so ridiculously easy to make. Simply combine all of the ingredients, minus the salt, in a small sauce pot: 8 oz. tomato sauce, 2 Tbsp tomato paste, 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp molasses, 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/8 tsp cayenne, and some about ten cranks of a pepper mill. (that’s ice on the tomato paste, I had some saved in the freezer.)

Close up of finished homemade bbq sauce in the pot with a spoon

Stir and heat the ingredients in the pot over medium heat. Allow the sauce to come up to a slight simmer, then continue to stir and cook for about five minutes. Make sure to stir often. After simmering for about five minutes, give it a taste and add salt if needed (I did not add salt). And that’s it! The sauce is ready to use.

Molasses Jar

P.S. This is the molasses I use. It’s a light (not black strap) unsulfured molasses. For more info on different types of molasses, check out Everything You Need to Know About Molasses, from The Kitchn.

Homemade BBQ sauce being brushed onto a grilled chicken breast in a white dish with a bowl of sauce on the side.