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July 20, 2022

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Our simple homemade BBQ sauce is a perfect balance of tangy & sweet, with a little hint of spiciness that takes any dish from ordinary to e-x-t-r-a. Extraordinary that is!


homemade bbq sauce being scooped with a spoon out of a glass jar
Photography by Gayle McLeod

What is Traditional BBQ Sauce Made of Anyway?

In the quest to make the perfect at home BBQ sauce we have to ask the question, where does traditional barbecue sauce come from? In America we celebrate many different types of barbecuing including the cooking methods, variety and cut of meat, and variations of sauce. The origins of the name “barbecue” come to us from the Arawak, who were living in the Caribbean and Florida at the time of Spanish colonization. They slow cooked meat over wood grills, a method referred to as “babacots.” Spanish colonizers adopted this style and it traveled to the U.S. South, calling it “barbacoa,” which is translated in english to barbeque.

ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire, chili powder, salt, garlic, powder, paprika and pepper in bowls

Where There is Heat, Let There be Moisture!

With the adoption of this slow cooking method came the addition of sauces for moisture and flavor preferences! Lime or lemon juice, salt, and hot peppers were the humble beginnings of “sauce” added to slow cooked meat in order to bring more flavor. Later the use of mustard and vinegar became common. Here’s a little cheat sheet for the other styles of BBQ sauce and where they hailed from!

  1. Eastern North Carolina - Vinegar and Spice

  2. Lexington Style - Light Ketchup

  3. South Carolina - Mustard based

  4. Texas Style Mop Sauce - Stock + Vinegar

  5. Kansas City Style - Heavy Tomato-Ketchup base (our recipe below falls under this category)

  6. Alabama Style - Mayonnaise (white bbq sauce)

ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire and spices in a saucepan to make homemade bbq sauce

So How Do You Make Your Own Barbecue Sauce? Let’s Dive In!

This homemade bbq sauce with ketchup comes together effortlessly, you might even have all the ingredients on hand-how satisfying is that? Worcestershire sauce and unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV) are a few key ingredients. Here’s the skinny on why they’re essential!

Worcestershire sauce - Not only does Worcestershire sauce bring a hit of umami to our homemade bbq sauce, it also contains sweet, salty and tart ingredients as well! Worcestershire sauce is the unsung hero in many recipes. Here are some of our favorites: Grilled Romaine Caesar, Classic Cheese Burger with Secret Sauce, Beef Stroganoff, and Chicken Fajitas.

Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar - If you get a little kick in the back of your throat when you eat a bbq sauce, it’s likely the vinegar you’re experiencing. Without it, bbq sauce with a ketchup base will often be overly sweet and too tomato forward. Why unfiltered? For many, it’s a personal preference of taste or price. But you will only ever see us using raw (unfiltered) apple cider vinegar! Unfiltered ACV maintains the natural occurring sediments and isn’t pasteurized. In other words, it’s less processed. Some even claim that raw ACV is really good for you! That's just one of the reasons we love unfiltered ACV! If you have the filtered kind on hand, you can still use it!

homemade bbq sauce being stirred with a whisk in a sauce pan

Here’s All You Need to Make Easy Homemade BBQ Sauce!

  • Ketchup

  • Brown sugar

  • Unfiltered apple cider vinegar

  • Worcestershire sauce

  • Chili powder

  • Salt

  • Garlic powder

  • Onion powder

  • Paprika

  • Freshly cracked pepper

*Pro tip - If you know you like to highlight certain flavors, try slightly increasing the amount of that particular ingredient to suit your taste. If you love vinegary sauces, add a little more, if you like a little extra spice, be sure to up the ante!

homemade bbq sauce being scooped out of a glass jar

Tools You’ll Need to make Homemade BBQ Sauce

Do You Love BBQ Sauce As Much As We Do? Try some of our other favorite recipes using BBQ sauce!

homemade bbq sauce being scooped out of a glass jar

There are Many Ways to Spell Bar-B-Cue (8 in Fact!)

Seeing is believing when it comes to yummy food. We’d love to see what delicious meals (and creative spellings) you're cooking up with your special sauce. Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Happy eating!

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Homemade BBQ Sauce

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  5 min
  • Cook Time:  5 min
  • Calories: 100


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper


  1. In a medium saucepan, set over low heat, combine the ketchup, sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and pepper. Whisk together to combine.

  2. Increase the heat to medium and bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the sugar has completely dissolved and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from heat, transfer to a heat proof jar and let cool completely. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories100
  • Protein1 g
  • Carbohydrates25 g
  • Total Fat0 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol0 mg
  • sodium507 mg
  • Total Sugars21 g

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Cody

    Why isn't this able to be canned if chili is able to be canned?

    This recipe is not specifically designed for canning so we would say no to be safe. In order to can you need high acidity to avoid botulism. It will stay good in the fridge for 2 weeks or you could try freezing it.

  • Darlene

    Can this sauce be canned?

    This recipe is not specifically designed for canning so we would say no to be safe. In order to can you need high acidity to avoid botulism. It will stay good in the fridge for 2 weeks or you could try freezing it.

  • Courtney

    Can I freeze this once cooled? And what is the fridge shelf life? This is my favorite bbq sauce but I only need a few tablespoons and hate to waste any of it!

    It will stay good for 2 weeks in the fridge and yes you can freeze it in an air tight container! Glad to hear it's your favorite!

  • Eric

    I used this on the oven pork rib recipe. I almost always use Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce-- it's hard to beat. But I was game to try homemade. I don't know if this beats Baby Ray's it but it was very good. For my personal taste, the paprika came across a bit too dominant. So I may reduce that next time- but for sure there will be a next time.

    Thanks for trying it out Eric, we are glad you enjoyed it and will try it again!

  • Davis

    Really great bbq sauce. I made your pulled pork and used this as the sauce and the whole thing was just fantastic!

    That's great, thanks! So happy you loved it!