Summer is grilling season and that means barbecue. BBQ sauces are a much needed ingredient in summer, but even if it’s raining or cold, you can make awesome BBQ dishes indoors, on a grill pan, or in the oven. I used to buy bottled barbecue sauce until I realized just how easy it is to make my own. Seriously! There are only a few basic ingredients and then you can change up the recipe to make each sauce unique and delicious. You can make sauces that are hot, spicy, sweet, smoky, citrus-flavored or ethnic. The combinations are endless.
Slather your homemade barbecue sauce on tofu, tempeh, seitan or vegetables. Check out these 15 Savory and Saucy BBQ Dishes. Use it as a condiment on sandwiches. Trust me, once you see how easy it is to make your own barbecue sauce, you’ll never buy the bottled stuff again. Here is how to make amazing BBQ sauces with 7 ingredients or less (not counting salt and pepper).
1. The Basic Ingredients
Barbecue sauce is really easy to make. The basic recipe is a combination of a tomato base, an acid, a sweetener, and seasoning. Once you know the basic formula, you can mix and match ingredients to create new and exciting BBQ sauces. You can adjust the amounts of the ingredients if you prefer your sauce more tomato-y, more vinegar-y, sweeter, spicier or smokier. Sauces should simmer for about an hour but I have been known to throw it together in a bowl and just pour it over food in a pan for quick caramelization.
The tomato base can be ketchup, tomato paste or fresh tomatoes. The acid can come from apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar and/or citrus juice. Sweeten the sauce with agave nectar, sugar, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, dates or stevia. It’s up to you. The seasoning part is where you can play most by adding the ingredients that will give the sauce its unique personality.
2. Easy BBQ Sauce
My go-to Easy BBQ Sauce recipe is 2 cups ketchup, 1 ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, ¾ cup maple syrup, 3 minced garlic cloves and 1 tsp. black pepper. Combine it all in a saucepan. Stir and heat over medium heat until it comes to a bubble. Lower the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes until it thickens. Add salt to taste. Once you have this basic sauce recipe, you can change up the ingredients, adding spices and flavors to make it your own.
3. Add Fruit
For a barbecue sauce with a bright fruity citrus flavor, just add in the juice of an orange. I usually add in the zest and pulp too so it’s well-infused with orange-y goodness. To make Orange BBQ Sauce: In a saucepan, combine 2 cups ketchup, 1 ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, ¾ cup maple syrup, the zest and juice of one orange, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 tsp. black pepper. Stir and heat over medium heat until it comes to a bubble. Lower the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes until it thickens. Add salt to taste. If you prefer, you can add in fruits other than orange. Try mango, papaya or cherries.
4. Add Heat and Spice
When I want a BBQ sauce that has a lot more kick and richer, deeper flavors, I go for this one that gets extra heat from red onions and chiles. Using balsamic vinegar in addition to apple cider vinegar adds a rich, syrupy flavor that is just incredible and it balances the heat perfectly. To make Spicy Balsamic BBQ Sauce: In a small saucepan, combine 1 ½ cups ketchup, 1 cup apple cider vinegar, ¾ cup balsamic vinegar, 3 Tbs. brown sugar, 1 minced red onion, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 Serrano chile that has been seeded (if you want less heat) and minced. Stir and let simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes until the sauce thickens. You can also add hot sauce or Sriracha to give it as much heat as you can handle. Check out our 6 Tips for Cooking Spicy Food the Right Way and then Try the New Food Trend: How to Combine Sweet and Spicy Flavors in Your Recipes.
5. Make It Asian
For Asian barbecue dishes, you can quickly whip up a sauce that is sweet, salty, thick, and tangy. Add lemongrass and peanut butter to make it Thai. Add a bit of teriyaki sauce to make it Japanese. To make Chinese BBQ Sauce: Combine ½ cup hoisin sauce, ½ cup ketchup, 2 Tbs. minced ginger, 2 Tbs. brown rice vinegar, 1 Tbs. agave nectar, 2 tsp. Sriracha (or more to your liking), and 1 minced garlic clove. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened. It should take about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir the sauce occasionally. Add salt to taste.
6. Add Booze
For a barbecue sauce with a boozy punch, mix alcohol like bourbon or whiskey with a sweet fruity taste like peach preserves. To make Peachy Bourbon BBQ Sauce: In a saucepan, combine ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, ¾ cup Dijon mustard, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 1 cup peach preserves. Heat over medium heat until the jam melts, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 Tbs. bourbon. Add salt to taste. Always be sure to add the alcohol after you remove the sauce from the heat.
7. More Recipes
These are just examples of simple barbecue sauces you can make in half-an hour or less. For a sauce that combines barbecue sauce with Buffalo sauce, try this recipe for Buffalo BBQ “Chicken.” For a tangy sauce with an abundance of hot pepper, this Triple Thread Barbecue Sauce will blow your mind. Or try The World’s Healthiest Barbecue Sauce for a sauce that’s good for your body and your taste buds.
Homemade barbecue sauce is fast, easy and much healthier than any store-bought brands. You get to choose what does and doesn’t go into your sauce (and your body) and nothing tastes better than that.
Lead Image Photo: The World’s Healthiest Barbecue Sauce