This is a photo of homemade all-purpose BBQ sauce with garlic cloves, tomato, red onion, and parsley on a plate.

Homemade All-Purpose BBQ Sauce

In Blog, Food by Megan Hodge3 Comments

This BBQ sauce recipe was a labor of love… I finally got it right on my sixth try.  Balancing the vinegar, tomato, and sweetness is a work of art.  I applaud BBQ joints for developing their unique sauces. This is a photo of homemade all-purpose BBQ sauce with garlic cloves, tomato, red onion, and parsley on a plate.

All of the other sauces I made were very good, but tasted like they were meant for certain meats or types of BBQ.  While there was nothing wrong with that, I was on a mission to create a wonderful all-purpose sauce that I could use in Ian’s BBQ Bacon Cheeseburgers.  I almost gave up, but I am so glad I didn’t.

Ian and I grew up in two different BBQ worlds.  He is a Texan born and raised where tomato based sauce and brisket are king, and I am kind of a Heinz 57.  Growing up, I was a Navy brat.  My dad served for 21 years of active duty service in the Navy.  During this time, I was born in Coronado, California, moved to Alexandria, Virginia shortly after, then we made our final move to Houston, Texas when I was five years old.  Somehow, my parents managed to have our family stay in Houston until my dad retired.

Despite living in Houston for a majority of my life, my parents took us to visit extended family every summer.  I have family in Arkansas, Florida, and Alabama, and BBQ was always on the menu.  I grew up eating the classic pulled pork and vinegar based sauce.  It’s what I know and what I love.  Texas BBQ just never stuck with me.  I would choose pulled pork with vinegar sauce over brisket any day, but this is coming from a girl who abhorred ketchup and put mustard on everything.  Vinegar is just in my blood.  My taste changed overtime to appreciate ketchup, but the strong zing of vinegar still ignites my taste buds and takes me back to fun, childhood memories.

This BBQ sauce was frustration in the making.  I wanted to combine the best of both worlds as well as Ian’s and my BBQ worlds to find the perfect balance between a tomato based sauce and vinegar based sauce.  The first sauce I made is perfect for brisket.  The second would be fabulous with pulled pork, but they were not what I was going for.  Finally, I landed on this all-purpose sauce.  I’m not sure I will ever create a BBQ sauce Ian completely loves because his tastes are still geared toward Texas, but he has been telling me I have greatly expanded his pallet to enjoy veggies, grains, and new foods he has been too fearful to try.  I love to prepare meals that are gourmet, yet simple.  And, Ian has grown to love it. This is an up close shot of two garlic cloves in front of homemade all-purpose bbq sauce with red onion, tomato, and parsley in the background.

This sauce still has that vinegar taste I love, but tomato paste adds the perfect balance.  It also has a nice touch of sweetness from brown sugar and molasses, and a melody of various spices that work in harmony to accent the base of this sauce.  This sauce also mixes wonderfully with my Fresh Herb Buttermilk Ranch Dressing.  Get a salad with black beans, corn, red onion, diced tomato, Colby jack cheese, fried onion strings, and top it with that BBQ Ranch sauce.  Oh man, that’s some good eating right there.  Before I get carried away with ideas, here is the recipe:

All Purpose BBQ Sauce

Total time: 20 minutes

Makes 1 Cup of Sauce


1 Clove Garlic minced

1 tsp Olive Oil

1 C Water

½ C Distilled White Vinegar

2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1/3 C Light Brown Sugar

1 Tbs. Molasses

1 tsp Liquid Smoke

1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Pepper

¼  tsp Paprika

1/8 tsp Chili Powder

¼ tsp All Spice

2 tsp Arrowroot Powder or Corn Starch


  1. Place small sauce pan with 1 tsp Olive Oil over low medium heat.
  2. Place 1 clove minced garlic in the pan.
  3. Sautee until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add 1 C Water, ½ C Distilled White vinegar, 2 Tbsp. Tomato paste, 1/3 C Light Brown Sugar, 1 Tbsp. Molasses, 1 tsp Liquid Smoke, 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce and whisk together in sauce pan.
  5. Add all the spices and whisk together. Turn heat up to medium high and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to bring sauce to a low boil and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. After 10 minutes, stir in 2 tsp Arrowroot Powder of Corn Starch and whisk until dissolved.
  8. Continue whisking for another 2 minutes.
  9. Take off heat and allow to cool.
  10. Enjoy with BBQ, sandwiches, dips, and more!

BBQ sauce is pretty simple to make at home, and you can easily change up the ingredients to suite your taste preferences.  Add more tomato paste if you want a stronger tomato flavor and less vinegar.  If you like a super sweet sauce, add more brown sugar.  The possibilities are endless!  Just have fun, play with ingredients, and see what suits your taste preferences.

The benefit of at home BBQ sauce is that it does not contain any weird ingredients like high fructose corn syrup or thickening agents (besides the corn starch or arrowroot powder), and you know exactly what you are putting in your sauce.  You can also try using maple syrup or honey in place of the brown sugar!  It will not be as thick, but you can adjust by either boiling longer to reduce the sauce or add more arrowroot powder or corn starch.  I like the slight hickory taste this sauce has from the addition of liquid smoke.  I grew up on hickory smoked BBQ, so this is fabulous to me.

This sauce will be featured once again with Ian’s BBQ Ranch Bacon Cheeseburgers.  All the recipes I have posted come together to form all the elements of Ian’s burger recipe.  My next post will explain how to work with yeast when making homemade bread.  If you are scared of working with yeast in baking, that’s ok!  I used to be timid to try it too, but once you understand the basics, bread making becomes so much fun and enjoyable 🙂

What kind of BBQ sauce did you grow up eating?  Are you a house divided like ours? This is a photo of homemade all-purpose bbq sauce with tomato, red onion, and parsley on a plate.

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