Sweet and Spicy Homemade BBQ Sauce

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This is a sweet and spicy homemade barbecue sauce with just enough heat to linger in your mouth. I’ve been slathering this sauce on darn near everything in my kitchen for a few weeks now!

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce

This barbecue sauce is tangy and sweet, it’s perfect on chicken, as a dipping sauce for potato wedges, with steak bites, and mixed into ranch dressing for a spicy kick.

Best of all, not only can you pronounce all the ingredients, but you can whip it together in your own kitchen in less time than it would take to check out at the grocery store.

As you know, I love a great homemade barbecue sauce, so whenever I find a new one to try and it’s a winner, I have to share it with you.

This particular recipe Sweet Baby Ray’s Copycat Recipe is lightly adapted from Half-Baked Harvest. And I’ve been told by many that this Sweet and Spicy Homemade Barbecue Sauce tastes just like Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce.

However, in all fairness to Sweet Baby Ray, I think this sauce blows the store-bought version away.

I actually went out and bought a bottle of the original sauce, just to compare the flavors. The store-bought sauce was really tasty, but the flavors here are deeper and I prefer them. (Of course, I can’t think of many instances where a homemade version won’t trump store-bought!)

Ketchup is, of course, the base but the combination of brown sugar, molasses, and apple cider vinegar really brings the sweet to this sauce. Hungarian paprika, known to be sweet and mild adds depth without being overly sweet.

Sweet and Spicy Homemade BBQ Sauce

My family really enjoys the spicy side of this sweet barbecue sauce. That said, I make it with the optional cayenne pepper. (For what it’s worth, my non-spice lover adores this sauce as well.)

However, if you are leery of the heat, taste the sauce before adding any cayenne and then add it very slowly, tasting as you go.

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce Recipe

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium-size saucepan. Whisk until smooth and then bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Let cool for a few minutes before transferring to an airtight container and refrigerating until needed. Enjoy!
Homemade BBQ Sauce is sweet, spicy, and absolutely perfect.

Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipes

For more homemade BBQ sauce recipes to try, be sure to check out a few more of our favorites.

Sriracha Bourbon Barbecue Sauce is a spicy, rich, slightly smoky barbecue sauce that works great with beef, chicken, or pork.

Peach Barbecue Sauce is a tangy-sweet sauce with a subtle peach flavor. Despite the fact that half of this recipe is purely peaches, the flavor remains in the background of the sauce. It’s a terrific combination.

Tangy Memphis BBQ Sauce is thinner and tangier than most barbecue sauces, especially the thick and smoky sauces typically available at the grocery store. I really like the ratio of tang to spice in this version.

Korean BBQ Sauce is a heck of a game-changer. This sweet, tangy, garlicky, slightly spicy sauce can go just about anywhere regular barbecue sauce can go, but is also wonderful with stir-fries, lettuce wraps, and fried rice; this sauce is an instant flavor boost to almost any food.

Spicy Barbecue Sauce with enough heat to bite the back of your throat and just barely sweet enough to balance that heat, this is the sauce for any fan of spicy heat.

This sauce literally melts into these Easy Ribs. Making your own barbecue sauces is so simple, and easy to adjust sweet and heat to your liking.

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Sweet and Spicy Homemade BBQ Sauce

Sweet and Spicy Homemade BBQ Sauce

4.84 from 6 votes
This is a sweet and spicy homemade barbecue sauce with just enough heat to linger in your mouth.
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Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 10 mins
Servings: 40 (1) tablespoon servings

Ingredients 

  • cups ketchup I’m partial to Heinz (or homemade if you have lots of tomatoes on hand!)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons hot Hungarian paprika or smoked paprika I’ve used both types.
  • ½ teaspoon granulated garlic powder
  • teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper optional

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a medium size saucepan. Whisk until smooth and then bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Let cool for a few minutes before transferring to an airtight container and refrigerating until needed. Enjoy!

Notes

We love love LOVE the spicy side of this sweet barbecue sauce. That said, I make it with the optional cayenne pepper. (For what it’s worth, my non-spice lover adores this sauce as well.) However, if you are leery of the heat, taste the sauce before adding any cayenne and then add it very slowly, tasting as you go.

Nutrition

Calories: 36kcal · Carbohydrates: 9g · Protein: 1g · Fat: 1g · Saturated Fat: 1g · Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g · Monounsaturated Fat: 1g · Sodium: 163mg · Potassium: 68mg · Fiber: 1g · Sugar: 9g · Vitamin A: 99IU · Vitamin C: 1mg · Calcium: 12mg · Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @barefeetkitchen or tag #barefeetkitchen!

{originally published 10/30/14 – recipe notes and photos updated 6/13/22}

This Homemade BBQ Sauce is sweet, spicy, and perfect for grilling.

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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    • Mary says

      To be safe, I'd say a week or two. (Although, I've kept barbecue sauce in my own fridge and used it without any problems at all for at least a month.)

  1. Anonymous says

    This has become my go to barbecue sauce. It's delicious! I like to use McCormick's Smokehouse black pepper in this (which is no longer in stores but I order it on line) which really puts it over the top. Thanks for another great recipe! Norma

    • Norma says

      Thought I’d follow up again because this is a recipe that I have used as my only barbecue sauce since 2015! It’s way better even than any we’ve tried at barbecue places (you know–the ones with 10 or 12 different sauces)! I often saute a finely chopped onion before adding the other ingredients if I have time–adds a nice extra subtle flavor. I also use both smoked paprika and Smokehouse Black Pepper and definitely include the cayenne. Only other change I have made over these years is to cut back some on the amount of brown sugar so it’s a little more to the side of tangy–but it’s excellent as is too. Thanks for such a winning recipe!5 stars

  2. Shari Kelley says

    This is the bar-b-q sauce I've been looking for! I am so happy to have found this recipe. I love that it is smokey and sweet with a kick. Thank you so much!

  3. Ed Matthews says

    I would like to give you and the rest of the folks looking at this recipe a big secret to make this even better. Instead of using the salt, try using 3 Anchovies. Yep…..those little salty fish’es in a little metal can. Try it………..You’ll like it.

    Semper Fi 66′ Ed in Tx4 stars

  4. Kelly says

    Can you please tell me how long will this recipe last if made and canned? Also if made the refrigerated? Ty very much .

    • Mary Younkin says

      Hi Kelly! Yes, this needs to be refrigerated. I’ve never “canned” it, so I can’t say if that is safe or recommended. I keep it in the fridge for a week or two. There isn’t really anything here that won’t last a while if refrigerated.

  5. audra says

    I variate my bbq sauce very close to this recipe. Mine must always be sweet and spicy. These are the same ingredients that I aspire to use (smoked paprika being the optional, cayenne pepper is a MUST) whenever putting my sauce together. Aside from honey, (another must for me) I will substitute or make do with sugars on hand when necessary. The ingredient list is simple. Make your own sauce variation from these and you will always be the reigning crowned BBQ Queen.

  6. Tiffany S says

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I just made it and it is EXACTLY how I like my bbq sauce. Very balanced flavors. I took your suggestion on sautéed onion.5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      You can certainly use an alternate sweetener, however, the taste won’t be quite the same. If you have dark brown sugar in the house, I’d swap that for both the light brown sugar and the molasses. If you only have light brown, I’d just use an extra 1/4 cup of that to sub for the molasses.

  7. Kris Marie says

    Just made this, Mary. Made the delicious crockpot pork and I’m going to make your pulled pork tacos with this BBQ for dinner tonight! I appreciate all your wonderful recipes. Tomorrow making your coleslaw to put on top of your pulled pork sandwiches! Have a great weekend!5 stars