Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Sauce (Recipe)

April 28, 2021

If you enjoy barbecue sauce but don’t like the typical preservative-filled ingredient list on bottled sauce, you’re going to love the simple ingredients and amazing flavor in this homemade version. It has a touch of sweetness, without being overly cloying. Plus, it offers a bit of heat but not so much that the spiciness overpowers the delicious flavor of the meat.

Most homemade barbecue sauce recipes start with ketchup, but I prefer crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce for several reasons. This recipe works fine with ketchup, but if your goal is to cut out the preservatives typically found in commercial sauces, make sure to check the ingredients on the ketchup. Also, crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce are typically more economical – and saving money is another great reason to make your own condiments!

Crushed tomatoes add some nice texture; tomato sauce makes a smoother version. If you’re avoiding refined sugar, you can replace the brown sugar with additional honey and molasses to taste. If you prefer more heat, you can add the optional cayenne!

This recipe is so easy, economical, and delicious that we like to make a double batch and keep it on hand in a quart mason jar in the fridge. It makes the perfect finishing touch for ribs, meatballs, burgers or meatloaf!

Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Sauce

Makes about 2 cups


1 ¼ C crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, or ketchup

½ C brown sugar

¼ C molasses

2 T honey

5 T apple cider vinegar

1 T worcestershire sauce

2 ½ tsp ground mustard

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 ½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

Optional: 1/8 tsp cayenne for additional heat


Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often. Allow to simmer for a few minutes. Use immediately or store in the fridge in a glass jar.

This sauce is the perfect finish for last week's Mouthwatering Spare Ribs recipe.

Bust out the napkins!

Charlotte Frederickson

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