Friday, July 3, 2009

Classic Homemade Barbecue Sauce

I went to pick up some barbecue sauce at the grocery store the other evening, and I was absolutely appalled by the selection. When you have dietary restrictions, it's important to read the back of the bottle carefully, just to make sure, you know, there's nothing in it that will kill you. I spent almost an hour in the barbecue sauce isle reading the backs of bottles, trying to find something I could eat. My criteria was simple: no gluten (so no soy sauce, mysterious "modified food starch," or barley malt syrup) and no corn syrup. I don't know about you, but slathering my barbecued ribs with corn syrup doesn't exactly sound appetizing to me.

There were only about a million different brands and flavors, but I could only find one sauce, that was gluten-free and corn syrup free. Only one! And almost every sauce had corn syrup as the first ingredient, meaning there was more corn syrup in the sauce than tomatoes, vinegar, or any other flavoring.


And that ONE sauce that was gluten-free and not made out of corn syrup? I kid you not, it cost $7 for 1.5 cups of sauce. Even the mom and pop brands contained gluten, corn syrup, and a host of other preservatives. I bought that $7 sauce because it was the night before our father's day barbecue, and I didn't have any other options at that point, but I knew there had to be a better way.

And oh, there is a better way.

A much, much better way.


In retrospect, making your own barbecue sauce is a no-brainer. It's simple, it's delicious, it goes together with minimal effort, and it costs a fraction of price of those inferior, corn-syrupy sauces. And did I mention just how powerfully tasty it is? This sauce is so good, it had me licking the spoon... and the bowl.

This recipe is a fantastic starting point for different flavors - mix a little honey into it and BBQ over hickory chips, and you honey hickory sauce. Mince some chipotle peppers, and you have spicy smoky chipotle BBQ sauce. The possibilities are endless.


Classic Homemade Barbecue Sauce

This recipe makes about 6 cups of sauce - more than enough for one barbecue. You can can or freeze the leftovers, or mix in new flavorings and save it in your fridge for your next grilling session. That is, if you aren't caught standing in front of the fridge, slurping it out of the jar. Not that I've done that. Since yesterday. I promise.

4 cans (14 oz) fire roasted, diced tomatoes
(you can use regular canned diced tomatoes, but I think the fire roasted kind just add a whole other dimension of flavor)
3 medium yellow onions (about 3 cups chopped)
6 garlic cloves
1/3 cup vegetable or safflower oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup unsulfered molasses
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcester sauce
4 teaspoons salt

Chop 3 yellow onions.

Mince 6 garlic cloves.

Heat 1/3 cup vegetable or safflower oil in a large cast iron pot, and add the onions and garlic. Saute until softened and beginning to brown.

Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt,

and 1 teaspoon chili powder,

and 1/4 teaspoon cumin, and another 1/4 teaspoon coriander.

Finally, add 1/3 cup molasses...

... and 1/3 cup dark brown sugar.

Mix them all up together, and boil for 3 minutes.

Open up your 4 cans of tomatoes...

...and get 3/4 cup of apple cider vinegar.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer on medium low for 2-3 hours...

... until sauce has thickened and darkened.

Add 1/4 cup white vinegar...

... and 2 tablespoons Worcester sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper (about 1 tablespoon of each).

Place sauce in blender, add 2 cups of water (more if needed) and puree until smooth.

Store in a few jar... slather all over some BBQ... slurp it out of a jar... enjoy! 


  1. This looks delicious! And I like the way it can be customized.

  2. Perfect for my Burgers,Looks so Tasty~
    Thanks for sharing your Recipe!

    and if you can visit me I can visit you!

    Have great Day~

  3. Absolutely the idea to add chipotle. Smoked chipotle would make it nirvana for me. We don't get molasses here. Do u think I can give that a miss? Any thoughts??

    1. nope,i dont think you can

  4. I think the molasses is for a sweetness balance, so you should maybe use something else sweet in its place - maybe a dark honey could be used (that's probably healthier actually!) :)

  5. Love this and will be making it this weekend. I just did the same thing at the grocery store with all the BBQ sauce. We don't do HFCS so it was a real shocker to me...

  6. Becks - very nice formula! Will definitely give it a whirl. We're totally with you on reading the labels - we've got a couple of family members with anaphylaxis to food items - so we read the fine print - a LOT!

    It's not a bad thing, though, really - cause we get to have stuff that's SO MUCH better tasting in the long run! :)

  7. I found you through Food Renegade's blog carnival. and I take turns hosting one on Wednesdays (Real Food Wednesdays), I hope you'll join us sometime!

    This looks really good, I love the idea to use molasses for part of the sweetener. The only thing I'd do differently is I'd use butter or some no-flavor coconut oil to avoid vegetable oils. (They're high in omega 6 and bad for the heart.)

    I stumbled you! :)


  8. Love the recipe. It looks like my own homemade BBQ sauce, except that I -- like Kelly above -- switch out olive oil to avoid the veggie oils.

    Thanks for sharing this in today's Fight Back Friday carnival.

    (AKA FoodRenegade)

  9. looks like a great recipe. i'm bookmarking it so i can make some

  10. Deeba: in your area of the world, probably golden syrup or date syrup would be available and would work.

    You might have to cook it a little longer to get the same flavor or perhaps carmelize the onions more thoroughly before continuing on, in order to get the same flavor.

  11. I love your pictures. I have bookmarked this post. Thanks!

  12. My goodness. This is the most delicious looking barbecue sauce I've ever beheld.

  13. This looks so good that I'm making it right now! It smells delicious already. Just FYI, some Worcestershire Sauce has soy sauce in it, which means this isn't gluten-free if you're using one of those. Even so, I can't wait to slather this over some ribs tomorrow!

  14. Looks Great! But is it 3/4 Cup cider vinegar or 1/4 Cup?

  15. Whoops! It's 3/4 cups. I went back and fixed that mistake :)

  16. What a beautiful blog! You have a great eye. Food stylist?

    Preparing the ribs now....

  17. Do you think this could be "canned"...bottled and processed like when I "can" tomatoes? Just wondering if I could make a mega-batch and have it on my shelf when I needed it.

  18. Hey Michelle! I don't see why not, especially since the tomatoes and the vinegar make it fairly acidic and botulism wouldn't be a problem in such an acidic environment. I think if you wanted to be extra-safe you could can it in a pressure canner, but I don't see why normal processing would be a problem, so long as the jars seal properly. I haven't canned any myself, but I am definitely planning on doing so next year!

  19. I made this today, with golden syrup and honey instead of the molasses, and I threw in some fresh tomatoes, bell peppers and zuchini instead of some of the canned tomatoes. Then I baked it in the oven with some chicken pieces for an hour. OMG it was fantastic, thanks so much for the inspiration!

  20. Thank you so much for the homemade bbq sauce recipe. Tastes really great. Now we dont have to go out and wait for long queue if need to eat BBQ pork ribs.

  21. I used a teaspoon Stevia powder to sweeten and then a few handfuls of coconut flakes to thicken and somewhat sweeten. Gives a definite coconut tone and is quite tasty.

  22. Thank you so much for this recipe, I am in the midst of preparing it exactly as your recipe instructs. My question is, when beginning the 2-3 hour simmer, is the pot to be covered or left open?

    By the way, even at this stage of the cooking, the sauce is already delicious! :)

  23. OMG! This is literally simmering on my stove right now and I understand the bit about slurping it out of the jar if the smell is anything to go by...

    Mine is quite a bit darker than your pictures but I already know this is my new BBQ Sauce. I will never buy store bought BBQ Sauce again.

    Oh and also, your site is my new favorite. I have already found quite a few recipes that I will be trying in the next few days or weeks.


  24. Hoooley mooooley! This is on the stove as we,, read -- oh anyway it's on the stove right now and smells a-frickin'-mazing!!! I didn't have any fire roasted tomatoes, and The Hubs looked at me funny when I asked him to get some at the store, and he just looked and looked at me until I realized oh for godsakes I've got like nine hundred tons of fresh tomatoes from the garden! So, I used six or so of those instead (they're BIG!) and added in some oven-dried cherry tomatoes I'd done earlier today...I think the substitutions were close enough and I can't WAIT to spread it on those ribs!!! AND, I'm lucky enough to have one of those immersion blenders (my sister gave hers to me, completely unused!) so I'm going to use that to blend it all up -- I do the same with my homemade ketchup. I have a feeling that at some point in the middle of the night I'm going to come back to bed with a guilty barbecue sauce mustache...

    Thanks again for a great blog and great recipes! The Hubs and I just realized like an hour ago that it's actually our one-year anniversary today, so how lucky that we are going to be having a fantastic rib dinner to celebrate!

  25. Hi,
    I stumbled upon this recipe while checking out your delicious looking GF thin mints that I'm going to have to make for my wife.

    As a Texan, I've been grilling and smoking and making my own BBQ sauce since I was a kid. I'm not going to critique your sauce too much as everyone has their favorite recipe, and I'm sure people have been shot over BBQ sauce. And yours is very similar to my tomato based sauce. I will say that I've never seen a recipe that called for canned (or fresh) tomatoes. For a tomato based sauce (popular in Texas as opposed to mustard or vinegar based sauces popular in the south and Carolinas) we universally use tomato paste and/or ketchup. I like to finely chop the onions and garlic and not puree anything, since it leaves a little texture, which you won't find in a store bought sauce.

    As for store bought, I've always been a fan of Stubbs brand (not sure of it's nationwide availability, but it's in all of the chain grocery stores in Texas). I gave up on it for a while after the misses went GF, but I recently saw it with a "Gluten-Free-All Natural" stamp on the label, and sure enough, it seems they have figured out a way to mass produce their product without all the fillers and chemicals present in other processed foods. And it's reasonably priced. So I keep a bottle on hand for emergencies. I can throw together a quick dinner of chicken breast, asparagus, squash and zucchini in about 20 minutes all on the grill, and it's fresh and natural and the kitchen isn't a mess!
    Bon apetite, y'all!

  26. Had to amit best sauce ever thanks
    Greetings from malaysia
    Instead of white viniger i replace it with Black Viniger and it still supperbeb
    BTW how long will it last at the shelf?

  27. Nice post, I'm going to try this with a variation of blueberries tonight :)

  28. I wanna give this a try for some ribs.

  29. Looks like a great recipe. Going to try it tonight!

  30. In the ingredients it says 4 tsp salt but it says 1 tsp in the directions. Which is correct?

  31. Just a note veg. oil is CORN oil and Worcestershire sauce has CORN syrup in it.

  32. this recipe looks amazing. I wanted a recipe for fresh tomatoes and this looks perfect. Can i can it though? has anyone done this?