There are approximately 185,573,202 bottles of store-bought barbecue sauce available at the grocery store and no, that’s definitely not an exaggeration. Most are a generic version of Kansas City-style sauce – thick with a viscosity much closer to ketchup than vinegar, and sweetened, probably thanks to brown sugar, honey, or both. And yes, there are variations like smoky or spicy (or, again, both!). There are many delicious grocery store barbecue sauce brands (read our ranking of the best here) and they’re great for backstock or picking up in a pinch. But what I love (almost) as much as a plate of pulled pork sandwich with a side of macaroni and cheese and cornbread is homemade barbecue sauce, preferably one I can smother on said sandwich .
So I read the backs of dozens of bottles of barbecue sauce (because reading 185 million bottles would just be too much) to figure out which components were essential to a classic Kansas City-style sauce and which were optional. Most started with a tomato base – specifically tomato puree, to get a really smooth texture (who ever heard of thick barbecue sauce, anyway? If you have that, we need to talk. I have questions.)
All contained a combination of ground spices – some were minimal, containing only black pepper, paprika and chilli or cayenne pepper, while others also contained onion powder, garlic, celery powder and secret seasoning blends. For added depth of flavor, some brands have also used liquid smoke and tamarind concentrate, the latter being a highly concentrated syrup that offsets the otherwise sweet sauce with its sour side.
I landed on what I thought was a responsible number of ground spices for my BBQ sauce recipe – ground mustard, ground smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.
How to make homemade barbecue sauce
Making barbecue sauce is then easy, promise – you need one pan, a whipand a jar to store it. Mix the tomato purée, brown sugarhoney, liquid smoke and ground spices in a medium saucepan and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat until bubbles burst on the surface, which takes about two minutes. Continue to cook for an additional 5-7 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the spices have completely dissolved, whisking frequently so the sauce doesn’t burn. Cool completely before transferring to an airtight container or mason jar. You can safely store homemade barbecue sauce in the refrigerator for up to seven days.
Recipe: Best Kansas City BBQ Sauce