Tangy Memphis BBQ Sauce

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Tangy, sweet, Memphis bbq sauce is so much tastier than anything store-bought! (And you can make it with just a few pantry ingredients!)

Have you tried making 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 Memphis-style barbecue sauce recipe just might be the one.

Sweet and Tangy Memphis-style BBQ Sauce

Memphis BBQ Sauce

This is a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce with a hint of spicy heat. The memphis-style bbq sauce is thinner and tangier than most barbecue sauces, and I prefer it to the thick and smoky sauces typically available at the grocery store.

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I really like the ratio of tang to spice in this version and I’m thrilled to share it with you today. If you want something a little different next time you’re grilling or when you’re pulling together a quick weeknight dinner of BBQ Chicken Stuffed Potatoes, take five minutes and stir together a batch of tangy bbq sauce to make it even better.

There are many different BBQ sauces out there beyond the classic flavors. This Sriracha Bourbon Barbecue Sauce is one that my husband and oldest son love.

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.

Got spice lovers in your house? They’ll go nuts for this spicy barbecue sauce with enough heat to bite the back of your throat. It delivers plenty of warmth with lots of Tabasco sauce and cayenne pepper. If you just want a simple classic, Homemade Barbecue Sauce is it.

Carolina Style BBQ Sauce is packed with mustard and then there are Korean Barbecue Sauces in a league of their own.

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.

During peach season, I make it as often as I’m able to get my hands on fresh peaches. (I’m guessing it will work fine with frozen peaches too, but I haven’t tried that myself.)

It’s no wonder barbecue 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!

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Tangy BBQ Sauce

This Tennessee 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 barbecue sauce before, this is a terrific place to start.

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

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

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!

Sweet and Tangy BBQ Sauce

The resulting sauce is a tangy, spicy, lightly sweet sauce that works well on ribs, pulled pork, grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, you name it and I’ve probably dipped it into or drizzled it with this sauce.

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

Tangy Memphis Style BBQ Sauce
How to Store BBQ 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.

While my assumption is that this could be canned without any issue, I’m not an expert on canning and I can’t guarantee the food safety of it. If you’re more expert than I am, go for it.

Because I like to have this sauce on hand, I often make a triple batch and portion it into containers for the freezer. It thaws quickly and works well in any recipe.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce is a dinner game changer!

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

Try this tangy bbq sauce recipe the next time you’re craving barbecue and be sure to let me know what you think!

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Tangy Memphis BBQ Sauce

4.85 from 40 votes
Tangy, sweet, Memphis bbq sauce is so much tastier than anything store-bought! (And you can make it with just a few pantry ingredients!)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6 servings


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ 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 3/14/23}

recipe slightly adapted from and with thanks to Cooking Light via Jenn’s Food Journey

Tangy Memphis Barbecue Sauce is so much better than store-bought!
Tangy homemade barbecue sauce is a hit!

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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.

  8. Helene says

    Thanks for a tasty recipe. In order to make it lower carbohydrate and lower sodium I used 1/2 cup no salt added ketchup and 1/2 cup no sugar added ketchup. I subbed the brown sugar for Swerve brown sugar. I used apple cider vinegar in place of the white vinegar and subbed smoked paprika for the cayenne pepper and ground black pepper and omitted the salt.
    Nutrition for 1 tablespoon serving is:
    calories 27, net carbs 5.1 grams, protein .4 grams, fat .1 gram5 stars

  9. REESE says

    This recipe has a great flavor, but I should have known it would be very spicy/hot with the cayenne 🌶. I wouldn’t call this tangy sauce but sweet and spicy. Next time I will not use any cayenne when I make it.4 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      Everyone’s spice tolerance is different; I’m glad you were able to figure out what’s right for your kitchen, and that you still loved the sauce. I hope it turns out exactly as you like it next time. Enjoy!

  10. Derek Riddle says

    I think this is a really good base and starting point for people to start to make their own sauce (it is also fantastic as is) –

    I added a bit more chili (homemade arbol and ancho powder) and some Spanish smoked parika and dried mustard –

    really really good = thanks for the inspiration5 stars