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4 Basic Styles of Barbecue Sauces

Okay, the basics of making your own barbecue sauce are easy. Below I’ll get you started with 4 basic recipes. From there you can build anything you like. There are really only 4 basic styles of barbecue sauce. Sauces from other countries are different but in America, you’ll see what I mean once you get into looking at a lot of recipes and thinking about what you’ve eaten over the years at restaurants and what’s available at your local supermarket.

The 4 Basic styles

  • Vinegar and Pepper
  • Mustard
  • Light Tomato
  • Heavy Tomato

Basic Tomato Based BBQ Sauce

Tomato BBQ Sauce

The most popular style by far is the tomato-based sauces.  So, for a simple starting point, here you go!

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup water

Pour the oil into a saucepan, add the onions and fry for 3-4 minutes until the onions are translucent.  Be sure to chop the onions finely as you don’t want chunks of onions.  Stir in the tomato purée and then add the rest of the ingredients.  Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

It’s important to stir the tomato purée in separately in order to get a smooth barbecue sauce. If you just add it with the other ingredients it’ll just forms as red lumps in the barbecue sauce and you’ll have no fun at all trying to smooth out the sauce.

Basic Vinegar & Pepper Based BBQ Sauce

Vinegar BBQ Sauce

Okay, now let’s try a really simple Vinegar based sauce.  I’ll have to admit, me personally, I’m not a big fan of the Vinegar based sauces.  I think they are great on things like Hot Wings or for other situations where you are looking for a hot sauce.  That’s just my opinion.  

  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

Throw all the ingredients into a saucepan, warm over a gentle heat and stir until all the sugar has melted.

Basic Mustard Based BBQ Sauce

Mustard BBQ Sauce

The basic mustard-based BBQ sauce is one that originated in North and South Carolina.  According to history, it was heavily influenced by the German immigrants in that area.  This sauce has traditionally been best for pork.

  • 200ml / 8 fl oz mustard
  • 100ml / 4 fl oz balsamic vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Just mix the ingredients together in a saucepan and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.

Traditional Kansas City BBQ Sauce

Kansas City BBQ Sauce

Now to illustrate two well known regional styles we’ll compare a traditional Kansas City BBQ Sauce with a St. Louis Barbecue Sauce recipe. This variation of the traditional Kansas City BBQ Sauce is a thick sweet sauce with a touch of heat to give it a little kick.

  • 1 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir constantly for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be thick. Allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.  Refrigerate.

St. Louis Barbecue Sauce

St Louis BBQ Sauce

The St. Louis Barbecue Sauce is thinner and has more of a tangy flavor than its Kansas City cousin. Being at the crossroads, St. Louis style barbecue has many influences, so there are a number of ways of making this style sauce.

  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over low heat.  Stirring occasionally and simmer for 20 minutes. The sauce should be thin, but not watery. Allow to cool. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate. The sauce is better if allow to sit for a day.

Well, your basic training is over!  Now it’s time to get fancy and start playing with some advanced recipes or try your hand at your own once you have made a few.  If you end up whipping up a batch of sauce that you are absolutely wild about, then TELL US ABOUT IT!  Don’t keep it to yourself.  Email us and I’ll get your recipe up for everyone to try and comment on.

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