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Memorial Day Weekend, the start of outdoor dining season, is just around the corner. So, we’re taking this time to look at the history of one of the most crucial ingredients to any good barbecue, barbecue sauce! Plus, we’re sharing not only our recipe for Classic BBQ, but some delicious variations so you can keep your BBQ sauce exciting all summer long.

Today, the word “barbecue” has a wide variety of meanings. It can refer to a cookout, a cooking style, a sauce, even a grill. But back in the 19th Century, it also referred to a type of Southern eating establishment, which served up a culinary treasure: deliciously slow-cooked meats (served alongside vegetables), topped in a special sauce. From the Carolinas to Kansas to Texas, this sauce consisted of a few essential ingredients: a tasty base (either butter or rendered fat), salt, pepper and vinegar. It was vinegar that made “barbecue sauce” a revelation, giving it a tangy bite that cut the richness of the meat—ultimately transforming the condiment into its own institution.

In the 20th Century, various American regions began adapting the recipe to local produce and tastes. Additions like mustard, molasses, tomatoes and spicy chile peppers became state and city signatures. Now, there are almost as many variations as there are chefs. Here, we’re giving you a classically modern recipe for homemade BBQ. It’s easy to make: just simmer all of the ingredients together, then store the sauce in the fridge until you’re ready to use it as a dip, a marinade or a topping. But read to the end, because we’re also giving you a few suggestions for deliciously customizing the basic recipe yourself—as countless others have done around America and around the world, resulting in incredible concoctions.

Classic BBQ Sauce


2 cups ketchup
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons ground mustard powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup water

In a medium pot, combine all of the ingredients. Heat to boiling on medium-high. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 45 to 55 minutes, or until thickened and reduced in volume. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 21/4 cups

BBQ Sauce Variations

Blog bbq sauce

Our recipe for Classic BBQ Sauce can be adjusted in any number of ways. Aromatics, spices, sweet ingredients, and even a little alcohol can make exciting additions, perfecting the sauce for a variety of uses and unique tastes. These variations are four of our favorites. To make them, simply adjust the classic recipe, as instructed, and feel free to experiment with adaptations of your own!

Add ¼ cup of soy sauce and 2 teaspoons of minced ginger to the sauce before simmering. Once the sauce has finished simmering, stir in ½ teaspoon of white sesame seeds.

Add 2 tablespoons of chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, 1 teaspoon of ancho chile powder, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin and ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika to the sauce before simmering.

Maple Bourbon
Once the sauce has finished simmering, stir in 3 tablespoons of maple syrup and 3 tablespoons of bourbon. Simmer for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.

Roasted Garlic & Jam
Stir 2 tablespoons of raspberry jam and as much roasted garlic as you’d like into the finished sauce.

 Tell us – how are you using BBQ sauce this summer? Share your recipes in the comment section below!