Master BBQ Sauce Recipe (Sweet Heat)

5 from 4 votes

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Today’s BBQ sauce recipe delivers a sumptuous dose of spicy sweetness to everything it touches. To make this sensational tomato-based sauce, we start off with bacon fat for an irresistibly salty, savory base. We then add brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, a host of spices, and more to create a beautifully bold flavor profile like nothing else you have tasted

close up of homemade BBQ sauce recipe on a brush over a jar


Whether you are looking to whip up a batch of spicy sweet hot wings or just looking for your new go-to condiment, this BBQ sauce recipe is one you definitely don’t want to miss. Similar to making your own Spice Blends, creating your own condiments is a fantastic way to become the master of your kitchen. 

This recipe is a semi-thick, tomato-based barbecue sauce that is perfect for a variety of different dishes. I’ve included some helpful links later in the post if you are looking for recipe inspiration, but honestly, this stuff is great on everything. This is the BBQ sauce recipe I’ve been working on for awhile and it was worth the wait.

close up of homemade BBQ sauce recipe on a spoon

If this isn’t the type of BBQ sauce recipe you are searching for, don’t worry. Check out my posts for North Carolina BBQ Sauce, Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce, Chipotle Peach BBQ Sauce, or this Alabama White Sauce. There is something out there for everyone!

INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS

  • Bacon Fat – Adds richness and a deep savory dimension of flavor. 
  • Sweeteners – A combination of brown sugar, honey, and molasses brings a rich, earthy sweetness reminiscent of caramel or toffee. 
  • Tomato Puree & Paste – Provides the traditional tomato base for our sauce and delivers a concentrated dose of tangy, acidic flavor. 
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – Adds another element of bright tanginess and acidity. 
  • Yellow Mustard – Just enough to add a pungent dash of tartness.
  • Worcestershire Sauce – Adds a potent blast of salty, savory, and umami flavors.
  • Liquid Smoke – This magical ingredient adds a deep, smoky flavor. 
  • Spices – Celery seed, onion, garlic, black pepper, red pepper, smoked paprika, and Curry Powder add a complex mix of vegetal, pungent, smoky, spicy, and earthy flavors.
a large pot with BBQ sauce cooking

HOW TO MAKE MASTER BBQ SAUCE RECIPE

1. Melt the Fat. Render the bacon fat over medium heat in either a large pot or a Dutch oven.

2. Add Other Ingredients. Toss all of the other ingredients into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low for about 30 minutes. You want to stir often as the sauce thickens. 

3. Puree Sauce. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender to puree, or use a hand immersion blender for a smoother sauce. 

4. Cool to Serve. Allow the sauce to cool adequately, then use it as you would any barbeque sauce. Enjoy!

food-safe brush wiping BBQ sauce on parchment paper

What Are The Keys to a Great Barbeque Sauce?

A great barbecue sauce should have a bold, yet balanced flavor profile. You want to find just the right balance of sweetness, sourness, acidity, and spiciness. 

This BBQ sauce recipe is a sweet heat variety with a tomato base. The tangy tartness of the tomatoes is balanced with sweet brown sugar, spicy red pepper, savory Worcestershire, and lots of pungent, aromatic spices.  

Of course, the right balance will change depending on what you are cooking and also on your personal preferences. If you prefer your sauce a little less sweet, feel free to cut back on some sweeteners. Want a bit more kick? Add a dash of cayenne or a bit more red pepper flakes. 

It’s also important to remember that not all homemade BBQ sauce recipes are made alike. In addition to traditional tomato-based recipes, there are vinegar-based, mayonnaise-based, and mustard-based varieties. Regardless of the variety, a great barbecue sauce will always add flavor while complimenting the natural deliciousness of the meat. 

What to Pair With This BBQ Sauce Recipe

The possibilities are endless but here are some of my top suggestions:

How Long Does Homemade BBQ Sauce Last?

The shelf life of this sweet heat BBQ sauce recipe depends on how you store it. 

Due to its acidity, this BBQ sauce recipe is stable at room temperature for up to 1-2 weeks if kept in an airtight container. 

If you think it will take you longer to consume it, I recommend storing it in the refrigerator. Homemade BBQ sauce can be safely refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1-2 months. If you see your sauce beginning to harden and/or turn dark, it is time to throw it out.

Freezing is also an option. Store your barbecue sauce in a freezer-safe container and stow it away in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight before using again.

baby back ribs with BBQ sauce on a grill
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Master BBQ Sauce Recipe (Sweet Heat)

5 from 4 votes
Whip up a batch of this master BBQ sauce recipe for a spicy-sweet flavor explosion. Perfect on wings, ribs, burgers, and more!
Servings: 64
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 42 minutes

Ingredients 

Spices

Instructions 

  • In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat melt the bacon fat.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often. Sauce will thicken. Puree in blender or use hand immersion blender if you prefer a smoother sauce.
  • Let cool before using.

Notes

Makes 2 quarts (8 cups). Serving Size 2 tablespoons. 64 Servings total.

Nutrition

Calories: 76kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 0.5g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 310mg | Potassium: 130mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 167IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: condiments
Cuisine: American, Southern
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): Master BBQ sauce (sweet heat)

Kevin

Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Exceptional BBQ sauce! Tangy with a solid after-taste. It works on all kinds of meats from bison to beef, pork and even poultry. This one is the family favourite.

    1. Due to its acidity, this BBQ sauce recipe is stable at room temperature for up to 1-2 weeks if kept in an airtight container. If you think it will take you longer to consume it, I recommend storing it in the refrigerator. Homemade BBQ sauce can be safely refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1-2 months. If you see your sauce beginning to harden and/or turn dark, it is time to throw it out.

    1. So glad you found me and the recipe Patrick. Enjoy! Lots of others to try here as well, take a look around. 🙂