This Sweet and Tangy BBQ Recipe is the BEST homemade barbecue sauce! It is a little sweet, slightly smoky and it has a tangy element too!
I've tried many different brands of BBQ sauce from the store and most I am not impressed with. My favorite store-bought sauce is Sweet Baby Ray's original. This isn't a Sweet Baby Ray's copycat recipe, but there are some very similar flavors to Sweet Baby Rays. I kept going back and forth between mine and theirs to see what mine was lacking.
After adjusting the herbs and spices a million times I finally made a pretty dang good barbecue sauce!
Use this Best Homemade BBQ Sauce for ribs, pulled pork, and grilled chicken. The BBQ sauce is also great on grilled shish kabobs and grilled pork chops. Next time you need sauce, give this perfect bbq sauce a try!
I also have two fall-off-the-bone ribs recipes! The first recipe is delicious BBQ Baby Back Ribs.
Next, are these Oven Baked St. Louis Style Spare Ribs. They are so tender you can pull the bone right out of the meat!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- This homemade bbq sauce recipe has a well-balanced sweet, spicy, and tangy flavor.
- Making your own bbq sauce is super easy and has the perfect flavor.
- It is the perfect base for ribs, pulled pork or bbq chicken.
You'll need the following ingredients to make Sweet and Tangy BBQ Sauce.
Ketchup is the base of the sauce. I've used Heinz Ketchup and Heinz Simply Ketchup. I'm not sure if using a different brand may create a slightly different BBQ sauce, but give it a try!
Apple Cider Vinegar gives it that tangy aspect. A little apple cider vinegar goes a long way. I experimented on different amounts of apple cider vinegar to find a perfect balance.
Soy sauce adds a salty umami flavor. I have also successfully substituted coconut aminos for the soy sauce.
Brown Sugar and Honey are the sweet flavors in the sauce. They each bring their own version of sweet.
Garlic Powder gives it a slight garlicky taste without the harshness you find in raw garlic.
Onion powder is a great way to add a punch of essential onion flavor.
Dry Mustard Powder adds a tangy heat to the BBQ sauce and it really escalates the complexity of the sauce.
Celery seed tastes a lot like celery, but it also has a bit of savory flavor as well. I wouldn't have thought to use celery seed in my sauce, but Sweet Baby Ray's has it in theirs and if you taste the sauce and try to isolate the individual flavors you can definitely taste it!
Smoked Paprika is the easiest way to add a bit of smoky flavor to the sauce. A little goes a long way with smoked paprika! Make sure you measure this ingredient carefully.
Black Pepper is essential to this sauce and gives it a little kick. Don't leave out the pepper. It is a huge flavor profile in Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce! My BBQ sauce is a little less "peppery," and I like that I could customize that!
Salt brings out the depth of flavor of the entire sauce.
Cayenne Pepper is an optional spice that will add quite a bit of heat. I usually leave this out, because my family doesn't love the extra spice.
How to Make Homemade Sweet and Tangy BBQ Sauce
Here are some quick visual instructions. The full recipe with ingredient measurements is below!
Add all the ingredients to a medium saucepan. Mix them together well on medium heat.
Turn it down to low heat and allow it to thicken and turn a deep brown color.
Allow it to cool and use it immediately or store it in the fridge.
Use on ribs, bbq chicken or pulled pork.
Recipe Tips & Tricks
- If using this sauce on raw meat, make sure it is cool before brushing it on the meat.
- A silicone brush is a great way to spread the sauce and very easy to clean.
- Storage: Keep the bbq sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 7 days. A mason jar works great for storage.
Additions and Substitutions
- Dark brown sugar can be substituted for light brown sugar.
- Coconut aminos can replace the soy sauce.
Try a few of these variations to change your barbecue sauce into a new unique flavor profile!
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes or a little extra cayenne pepper.
- Hawaiian Style - add ¼ cup of pineapple juice to the sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Adding acidity to your recipe in the form of ketchup, apple cider vinegar or lemon can all add a tangy element to your BBQ sauce. It is best to balance the tanginess with notes of sweet, savory, and spicy.
You can add brown sugar or honey to heighten the sweetness of the bbq sauce. You can also reduce the amount of ketchup or apple cider vinegar that the recipe calls for.
- 1 cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon celery seed
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- Mix all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat on medium heat until it begins a light simmer.
- Reduce heat to low, stirring every few minutes. Cook on low for 15 minutes.
- Store the barbecue sauce in the refrigerator or serve on ribs, pulled pork, grilled chicken, bbq chicken sandwiches etc.