Tangy Memphis BBQ Sauce

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Have you tried homemade barbecue sauce? If you haven’t, it’s time to give it a try. And if you have but you haven’t found a recipe you love yet, this Tangy Memphis BBQ Sauce recipe just might be the one.

There are so many different BBQ sauces out there beyond the classics. This Sriracha Bourbon Barbecue Sauce is one that my husband Sean loves. Carolina Style BBQ Sauce is packed with mustard and Korean Barbecue Sauces which are in a league of their own.

It’s no wonder BBQ sauce is one of the most popular sauces and condiments around. There’s a style of sauce for every pallet and to suit every kind of dish!

This 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 and I’m thrilled to share it with you today!

Sweet and Tangy Memphis-style BBQ Sauce

This barbecue sauce was a fun change from our usual and definitely a sauce that I will make again. I knew I need to share it with you because it’s so easy to make, too. Every ingredient for this BBQ sauce is likely to already be in your refrigerator or pantry.

If you haven’t made a homemade BBQ sauce before, this is a terrific place to start.

In less than 15 minutes, you’ll have a homemade sauce at your fingertips that is likely to have you swearing off store-bought sauces forever.

How To Make Barbecue Sauce

Like lots of American BBQ sauce recipes, this one has a ketchup base. A generous portion of vinegar is added for tartness, along with mustard for extra tang.

Brown sugar, cayenne pepper and freshly ground black pepper help temper the sourness just a bit with Worcestershire adding a slightly aged, smoky dimension to the sauce. All the ingredients come together on the stove in just one saucepan making both prep and clean up a breeze.

Homemade BBQ Sauce is easier to make than you might think!

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

The resulting homemade barbecue sauce is a tangy, spicy, lightly sweet sauce that tastes great on all kinds of meat dishes. I love that it’s not cloyingly sweet like lots of commercial store-bought sauces and its natural rich red color is so appealing!

This sauce is fantastic on Oven Broiled Chicken, Pan Fried Chicken, and Shredded Chicken. It’s also good on Pulled Pork and Memphis Style Ribs.

If you’re after a homemade BBQ sauce that’s heavier on the spice, a bit sweeter, and a little bit thicker, check out this Sweet and Spicy Homemade BBQ Sauce – it’s reminiscent of Sweet Baby Ray’s sauces and my kids love it.

Tangy Memphis Style BBQ Sauce

Got spice lovers in your house? They’ll go nuts for my Homemade Spicy Barbecue Sauce recipe. It delivers plenty of mouth-burning heat with lots of Tabasco sauce and cayenne pepper. If you just want a simple classic, Homemade Barbecue Sauce is it.

For something a little less traditional but just as delicious, you need to try Tangy Peach Barbecue Sauce. Like this BBQ sauce, it’s ultra tangy and also has a subtle fruity peach flavor. (I especially love it on BBQ Chicken Stuffed Baked Potatoes.)

Tangy homemade barbecue sauce is a hit!

Storing Barbecue Sauce

Because this BBQ sauce has so much acidity from the vinegar, it keeps for a good long while. If you won’t be using it all right away, store the sauce in a jar or other airtight container in your refrigerator. Try this sauce on your next grilled chicken sandwich for a total win.

You can also can this sauce in a hot water bath or pressure canner!

Tangy Memphis BBQ Sauce

Whether you’re new to making a homemade barbecue sauce or a total sauce aficionado, I think you’ll be surprised by how much this sauce stands out from your everyday BBQ offerings.

Try it the next time you’re hankering for good barbecue and be sure to let me know what you think!

Make your own fantastic BBQ Sauce with just a few everyday ingredients!

Barbecue Sauce Recipe

  1. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan, over medium-low heat.

  2. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.

  3. Simmer 10 minutes and then remove from the heat. Use immediately or pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce is a dinner game changer!

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Tangy Memphis BBQ Sauce

4.85 from 33 votes
Sauce recipe slightly adapted from and with thanks to Cooking Light via Jenn's Food Journey
Pin Print Review
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 15 mins
Servings: 6 servings


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  • Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan, over medium low heat. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. 
  • Simmer 10 minutes and then remove from the heat. Use immediately or pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Enjoy! 


Calories: 95kcal · Carbohydrates: 21g · Sodium: 575mg · Potassium: 201mg · Sugar: 18g · Vitamin A: 275IU · Vitamin C: 2.6mg · Calcium: 27mg · Iron: 0.6mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @barefeetkitchen or tag #barefeetkitchen!

{originally published 8/7/12 – recipe notes and photos updated 7/3/20}

Tangy Memphis Barbecue Sauce is so much better than store-bought!

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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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  1. Donnie P says

    This BBQ sauce is the best we’ve tasted and we’ve tasted plenty store bought, restaurant prepared and homemade. Thank you.5 stars

  2. Shari says

    Love this bbq sauce! It is vinegar and pepper forward, like a good Memphis style sauce should be. I admit I increased the vinegar a bit, lol. Instead of cayenne pepper, I added some chili garlic sauce which yields a nice kick at the finish. Came together very quickly, and was great on a rack of baby back ribs. Thanks!5 stars

  3. Tristin says

    I’m out of BBQ sauce but not wanting to go to the store… So I know I could count on you for a solution! This BBQ sauce was delicious as you wrote it. Initially I followed the ingredients exactly, omitting only the cayenne pepper due to a spice averse guest.

    After letting it sit, I decided to add a bit more brown sugar and some molasses (as I was kind of after my own preferred profile) and got it right where I wanted! Easily adapted to my personal taste buds, but it was really delicious as you had it written also, and I wouldn’t have been as successful without using your recipe as a starting point. Thank you! I always know I can count on your site for good recipes.5 stars

  4. Michael Topper says

    So I’m confused, further up in the article it says due to the acidity in the vinegar it can be stored for a “good long while”. Then towards the end it says to refrigerate it “up to 3 days”.
    Seems like store bought bbq sauce can be in the fridge forever. Lol
    Either way, it looks like a great sauce, so I’m saving to try next time I’m in need of sauce.
    Thanx- M. Topper

    • Mary Younkin says

      Michael – I can understand your confusion. Homemade barbecue sauce is not going to contain the ingredients that preserve store bought so I personally don’t compare the two when it comes to shelf life. When making recommendations I tend to err on the side of caution. You will likely be fine going a week or so on this recipe but my personal preference is to stay in the 3-day range. I hope that helps. Do try the sauce it is delicious!

    • Tim says

      Every ingredient in this recipe is room-temp stable for months (if not years), there’s no reason to ever throw this out after 3 days.

  5. Brandy says

    I made this. but used Apple Cider Vinegar instead. I double all the ingredients and canned it. (15 min WB pint jars)5 stars

  6. Susan Ashwell says

    I just needed a small batch so I cut it in half. I added a fee drops of liquid smoke, and this turned out awesome. Thanks for the recipe.5 stars

  7. Shane says

    I was a pit master and later general manager of a Memphis rib house for several years. Memphis style bbq sauce is not made with ketchup (that’s TX, OK, and some KC style sauces). It’s made with tomato sauce and a little tomato paste as the base. I’m sure your sauce is good but it’s not Memphis style if made with ketchup.