Homemade BBQ Sauce (no ketchup)

$1.16 recipe / $0.29 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 7 votes
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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.
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Homemade BBQ Sauce

5 from 7 votes
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!
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.
Servings 4 1/4 cup each
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 10 minutes
Total 15 minutes



  • 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).

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*Not black strap molasses. I used Grandma’s molasses, which is a light, unsulfured molasses.


Calories: 83.93kcalCarbohydrates: 19.78gProtein: 1.23gFat: 0.25gSodium: 521.93mgFiber: 1.28g
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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.
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  1. We love this BBQ sauce! My partner likes spicy BBQ sauce. What is the best way to increase the heat in this recipe?

    1. Just increase the cayenne pepper until it gets to a spicy level that you like. :) Since there’s so little in the original recipe, I’d try doubling it first and see how that tastes to you.

  2. If you use paste or sauce, it still tastes like catsup.  I use tomatoes from my garden or from my canning and it comes out tasting like home barbecue sauce.

  3. Do you have any idea about how long this sauce can be stored? Also, if I were to make it, since I can’t eat onion or garlic, I’d first sautee in a little bit of oil asafoetida (1/4 tsp? 1/2?), some anchovy fillets in oil (to replace the worchestershire sauce and add umami) until they dissolve, and the smoked paprika, then add everything else. I’d correct the missing acidity from worchestershire with just a hint of tamarind paste, but lacking that, I’d use balsamic vinegar. A little soy sauce if needed. Tweaking to taste…if I ever try, I’ll report back.

    1. I don’t have an exact length of time this sauce will be good in the refrigerator because it can depend on so many factors. In general, I try not to keep sauces for more than 5 days. For longer storage, you can freeze the sauce. :)

  4. I find this sauce to be not quite tangy enough for my taste for most uses, BUT it is absolutely the BEST barbecue sauce I have ever used when it comes to making a BBQ chicken pizza! The milder flavor doesn’t overpower the savoriness of the cheese as much as regular barbecue sauce.

    The recipe makes just enough to brush on the chicken as it cooks, sauce up the crust, and have just enough left over for dipping the crust, but it works best when the sauce is made right before making the pizza, as cooling the sauce will thicken it too much to spread easily on the crust.

    After multiple iterations the only change I have made to the recipe is the addition of approximately a Tablespoon of dehydrated onion flakes (mainly because I like the texture it lends to the sauce.)

  5. Made this recipe as written with the exact ingredients.  It’s very good and I like it a lot.  Added a few more drops of Worcestershire sauce and a shot of sriracha.  Next time will also add some coriander and a bit of clove and reduce brown sugar.  Love the earthy molasses flavor.  This recipe is perfect as it is for someone who prefers a milder, sweeter sauce.  My favorite cuisine is Indian so upping the spice content is normal for me.

  6. I made this as is… I was concerned when I tasted it “raw” before putting it on the stove. After 5 minutes at a simmer, it was TOTALLY delicious! I kept going back for more spoonfuls! Thank you for another great recipe.

  7. I need to make sauces with no garlic or onion. That would mean skipping the onion powder, garlic powder, and worcestershire. Do you think it is worth a try?

    1. Hmm, IMHO I wouldn’t make it without the onion, garlic, and Worcestershire. But that might be a personal call. You might Google “FODMAP BBQ sauce” to see if someone has had success making one without onion and garlic that actually tastes good. :)

  8. I like to make my own bbq sauce because I like a kick to it so I usually add gochujang sauce

  9. What can be used as a replacement for molasses? I’m studying abroad and I haven’t been able to get molasses here….

    1. You can use more brown sugar in its place, but the flavor of the sauce won’t be quite as deep or rich.

  10. Thank you for this. I was just frowning at the ingredient lists in bottle after bottle of bbq sauce the other day in the grocery store and thinking, “I should just make this instead,” and now I will!

  11. This looks great! I also dislike having to buy new condiments for one recipe then ending up with tons of half filled bottles.. and we don’t have ketchup in the fridge (we have homemade stuff) so I can’t use most recipes for BBQ sauce

    Question, though, what do you mean by “tomato sauce” – like a passata? I’m in NZ and “tomato sauce” = ketchup

    1. Well, that sent me to the search engines. It sounds like passata, which I had never heard of, is what you want–basically pureed tomatoes with a few seasonings. Pureed tomatoes here are also not quite as smooth textured as our tomato sauce, so would make a less silky barbecue sauce–not really a problem, IMO. The tomato sauce in the recipe is available here in the US in 8 oz cans, and tomato paste in 6 oz cans. The sauce is flavored up a bit–the internet says citric acid, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper–but the difference shouldn’t be significant in this recipe that contains lots of other ingredients including all of those except the citric acid which is added as a preservative and helps maintain color.

      This recipe is absolutely a classic American style barbecue sauce, and although perfect as is, will stand up to some minor variations, ie slight difference in sugar or hot pepper content, or maybe a few drops of liquid smoke. For instance when I made it Monday morning, I used a scant 1 tsp finely shaved canned chipotle pepper instead of the dry cayenne, but followed the rest of the recipe to the letter.

      Thanks, Beth–another perfect recipe!

    2. Tomato sauce in the U.S. is basically a cooked puréed tomato, with a touch of salt and maybe some garlic or onion powder, although you can’t really taste those. You’re right, the closest product in other countries is probably passata.

    3. There is spaghetti sauce (not what you want–has other spices in it), tomato sauce (pureed tomatoes with maybe only salt in it) and passata (not as pureed as tomato sauce).

      Personally, I find passata perfect for any recipe that calls for tomato sauce. It’s basically a blank canvas and seems to me to have a more “tomato-y” taste.

      Ketchup has other spices in it. It can be used but expect a different flavour profile again.