Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce Recipe

I’ve always wanted to make my own barbecue sauce and I finally got around to it. I came up with this recipe that creates a sweet, spicy, and smoky barbecue sauce that is surprisingly well balanced. I chose to use tomato paste as the base rather than something like ketchup because I wanted to make sure I could control all of the flavors on my own and adjust them accordingly. This sauce is different than any store bought sauce I’ve tried, but it still definitely tastes familiar. I love this sauce and enjoy the idea that people usually can’t buy anything just like it! It goes exceptionally well with barbecue, grilled beef, pork, chicken, and even breaded items like chicken tenders.
Man Fuel Food Blog - Sweet and Smoky Barbecue Sauce

Recommended recipes to use with this sauce:

Makes about 1.25 cups of BBQ sauce at 5 calories per teaspoon.

Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce Recipe

  • Servings: 60
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Home Is A Kitchen – Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce Recipe – 1

Homemade sweet, smoky, and spicy barbecue sauce.


  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste (75 calories)
  • 1 cup water and 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons molasses (120 calories)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (90 calories)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (3 calories)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon smoked paprika (Note: This is a key ingredient. Regular paprika won’t work! You should really use smoked paprika.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch to thicken (30 calories)
  • Optional: 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper for heat
  • Optional, but unnecessary: 1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke (a little goes a long way, so be careful)


  • Small sauce pan
  • Spoon or rubber spatula
  • Cup, tablespoon, and teaspoon measurements
  • Container to store the BBQ sauce


  1. Bring 1 cup of water up to a medium simmer on medium-low heat.
  2. Add in the 3 tablespoon of tomato paste to the simmering water and dissolve it completely while bringing it back up to a low simmer. Man Fuel Food Blog - Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce from Tomato Paste
  3. Add the brown sugar and molasses and stir frequently to get the sugars dissolved.
  4. Add the rest of the spices (salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, and optional cayenne pepper) and stir the ingredients until they seem mostly dissolved. Keep the ingredients at a low simmer the whole time.
  5. At this point add in the apple cider vinegar and the optional liquid smoke. The liquid smoke is very strong on its own, but personally, I don’t think you even need it because the spices are smoky enough on their own. That is up to you though if you prefer more smoke flavor.
  6. While the sauce simmers a bit, combine the 1/4 cup of cool water with the 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in a measuring cup or bowl and mix thoroughly until completely dissolved.
  7. After letting the barbecue sauce come up to a simmer, add in the cornstarch mixture and stir everything thoroughly.
  8. Once again bring the sauce back up to a simmer and you should notice it thickening up fairly quickly. Simmer the sauce for 3 – 5 minutes more. Don’t simmer too long with the cornstarch in there or the thickeners could break down. Man Fuel Food Blog - Sweet and Smoky Barbecue Sauce Simmering
  9. Let the sauce cool to room temperature before using it immediately or storing it in the fridge for later. It will last a good while in the fridge. I suggest making the sauce ahead of time and letting the ingredients blend in the fridge for a day or so to get the best flavor results.
  10. Place the sauce in a squeeze bottle or just place some in smaller containers for serving. Man Fuel Food Blog - Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce


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34 thoughts on “Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce Recipe

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        1. Awesome! I’m psyched that you tried out the sauce and that you liked it. I’m pretty pleased with it because it tastes like BBQ sauce, but not really like any popular sauce you buy at the store. I appreciate the feedback.

      1. You were dead on about not needing the liquid smoke. I added it the first time and it was overwhelming.

        1. Right. I agree, Eric. The liquid smoke is overkill. Some people like that stuff, but it usually just tastes fake. I should probably just remove it from the recipe as an option. I left it there for people that want extra smokiness and who might be using the sauce on non-smoky food items.

    1. Awesome! One tip I can give you is that the sauce tastes even better after it sits for a day in the fridge. The flavors really combine and the sauce gets a great consistency. It’s good right away, but even better later on. Please let me know what you thought!

      1. We could not wait to try it. Your recipe was easy to follow and it turned out perfectly. And the taste? Superb! We are making your dry rub pork ribs tomorrow and using this sauce. We can’t wait to be the hit of the party!

        1. That’s great! I’m glad you like the flavor and I can’t wait for you to try the ribs. In my opinion, the sauce works very well with the dry rub because of the similar flavor profiles. Enjoy!

  1. I just made this sauce in preparation for my husbands bday party in two days. I’m also using your recipe for the baby back ribs. The bbq sauce tastes amazing. I added a little more garlic powder, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper which adds a nice heat at the end. So happy I chose this recipe. Thank you so much.

    1. That’s so great to hear, Daria! I love this sauce too. It’s a little different than store bought sauce. The even better news is that I believe this sauce gets better sitting in the fridge for a day. The flavors really take hold. If you like it now, you’ll love it by the time it’s your husband’s birthday!

  2. I made this sauce for my St. Lous style rack of ribs, and it was delicious. Thank you for putting a relatively simple BBQ sauce recipe out there that ISN’T based on ketchup. I don’t even keep that stuff in the house. I will be making this sauce again, and finding ways to tweak it in the future!

    1. Thanks so much, Melody! I’m so happy you enjoyed it. Enjoy tweaking it too because it’s versatile. I even did a variation that used tequila, lime, and agave to switch things up.

  3. Hi Man Fuel:
    Just made a batch of your BBQ Sauce for the first time and really love it. Not too sweet or spicy, just the right balance. So much better than store sauces. Will be eating this sauce forever. Tks, Roger and Karen.

  4. Looks like a great couple of recipes I’m making this right now BBQ sauce smells Devine now gonna make the dry rub thank you for sharing these reciepies

    1. Hi Marjorie. Are you asking because you don’t have tomato paste or because you don’t want to use tomato? If you have unseasoned, plain tomato sauce you might be able to use that instead of the tomato paste and the 1 cup of water (still keep the 1/4 cup of water for the cornstarch though). Then again, I’ve never made it this way. This is just an idea that I think might work.

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