Finger-Licking BBQ Sauce Recipe for Your Next Cookout

Close your eyes and picture a platter of perfectly smoked ribs or a juicy brisket, coated in a finger-licking, tangy and sweet BBQ sauce. Your mouth is probably watering just thinking about it. For me, southern-style BBQ sauce is the king of condiments. The perfect balance between salty, savory, sour and sweet flavors that makes it an irresistible addition to any meat dish.

Living in the South for quite some time now has exposed me to different variations of BBQ Sauce – from tomato-based whiskey-infused sauces to mustard and vinegar-based sauces. But among all of them, Southern Living’s Best BBQ Sauce Recipe takes the cake! Not only does it summon the very essence of southern BBQ culture but also it brings together a great blend of flavors that works perfectly for all types of meats.

This recipe includes ingredients like Heinz Ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, mustard and apple cider vinegar, combined with just enough spices like paprika and garlic powder to create an irresistible bbq sauce that can instantly brighten up any meal. This recipe captures the essence of southern-style bbq and has won over countless bbq enthusiasts over the years.

This barbecue sauce recipe will have you reaching for more at every bite! So gather your ingredients and let’s get started on a journey to discover Southern Living’s Best BBQ Sauce Recipe for a lip-smacking good time at your next cookout.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Southern Living's Best BBQ Sauce
Southern Living’s Best BBQ Sauce

Are you a fan of southern BBQ? Do you crave that tangy and smoky flavor that reminds you of homemade dishes from the south? Then Southern Living’s Best BBQ Sauce Recipe is the perfect recipe for you. This recipe guarantees to give you the ultimate mouth-watering taste that will leave you wanting more.

One reason why you’ll love this recipe is its perfect blend of ingredients. This sauce combines Heinz ketchup, Hunts tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, and molasses to create a rich and savory flavor that’ll make your taste buds dance with joy. Additionally, this recipe also includes Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, salt, and Tabasco sauce that give the sauce a spicy kick with just enough sweetness.

Another reason why this recipe is a must-try is its versatility. This BBQ Sauce Lillie Q is perfect for pairing with any southern-style meal. It can be used as a dip for fresh veggies or grilled meats and can also be used as a marinade for chicken or pork. Furthermore, this recipe provides variations such as adding Datil peppers for extra spice or even experimenting with cane syrup to create unique flavors.

Lastly, this BBQ sauce recipe has been a winner of many awards in various competitions such as The Ultimate Book of BBQ Sauce Recipes: The Very Best Marinades, Rubs, Sauces, Marinades & More!, which boasts ten award-winning southern BBQ sauces from North Carolina to Texas, and the Southern Living Ultimate Book of Barbecue: The Complete Guide to Grilling & Smoking by Chris Prieto.

In conclusion, if you want to taste the quintessential southern-style cuisine, then try Southern Living’s Best BBQ Sauce Recipe today. Its perfect blend of ingredients and versatility will leave your guests impressed at your next backyard BBQ or your family satisfied at dinner time.

Ingredient List

 A dollop of sweet and tangy heaven.
A dollop of sweet and tangy heaven.

Here’s what you’ll need to get your hands on for this award-winning barbecue sauce recipe:

Liquid Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Heinz ketchup
  • 1 1/2 cups Hunts tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  • 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cane syrup

Note that you can toss in half a cup of finely chopped onion to give the sauce an added depth of flavor. Make sure you have these ingredients at hand before starting, trust me, you won’t want to drop everything and make a run to the store midway through cooking!

The Recipe How-To

 The perfect finishing touch for your grilled favorites.
The perfect finishing touch for your grilled favorites.

Let’s dive right into making the Southern Living’s Best BBQ Sauce Recipe. This sauce truly captures the essence of southern-style barbecue, with just the right balance of sweetness and tanginess. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make it.

1. Combine the Ingredients

In a large pot, combine 2 cups of Heinz ketchup, 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of molasses, 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of Tabasco sauce, 2 tablespoons of Hunts tomato sauce, and a pinch of salt. Whisk all the ingredients together until well combined.

2. Bring to a Simmer

Place the pot on medium-high heat and bring it to a simmer while stirring occasionally.

3. Reduce Heat and Let It Cook

Once the mixture starts to simmer, reduce the heat and let it cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens.

4. Let It Cool

After 45 minutes have passed, turn off the heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature.

5. Blend the Sauce

Once cooled, pour the sauce into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. The consistency should be relatively thick.

6. Ladle into a Mason Jar

Use a ladle to pour the sauce into a mason jar or any preferred container that you will use to store your homemade barbecue sauce.

That’s it; your delicious Southern Living’s Best BBQ Sauce Recipe is now ready for consumption! You can store it in your fridge for up to one month or use it immediately for your next grill out session.

Substitutions and Variations

 One taste of this sauce and you'll be transported to the South!
One taste of this sauce and you’ll be transported to the South!

Looking to mix things up with your BBQ sauce recipe? Don’t let the ingredient list be too restrictive. There are many variations and substitutions you can make to tailor the sauce to your personal preferences.

If you’re looking for something with a little more kick, you can replace Tabasco sauce with datil pepper or add a bit of spice by throwing in some Memphis BBQ sauce. Molasses is one of the primary sweeteners in this recipe, but you could try using cane syrup just as well. On the other hand, if you want a tangy flavor, apple cider vinegar will deliver that perfectly.

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try something different than the classic tomato-based style, switch up your recipe with Carolina Mustard BBQ sauce, which uses vinegar and mustard as its base. You can also experiment with white barbecue sauce, which has its roots in North Alabama and is made with white mayonnaise instead of the typical tomato base.

Making substitutions and variations can make any BBQ sauce recipe more interesting and versatile. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients and flavors to create your own signature flavor profile.

Serving and Pairing

 A BBQ sauce that will have you licking your fingers clean.
A BBQ sauce that will have you licking your fingers clean.

This BBQ sauce is the perfect addition to any southern-style meal. It pairs especially well with smoked meats, grilled chicken, or pulled pork. It’s great brushed on ribs, poured over burgers or hot dogs, or used as a dipping sauce for chicken fingers.

For a true Carolina experience, try serving this sauce with a vinegar-based coleslaw and some hush puppies. The tangy acidity of the cole slaw perfectly balances the sweetness of the sauce, while the fried cornmeal balls add a savory crunch.

If you want to elevate things even further, consider pairing this BBQ sauce with a glass of whiskey or bourbon. The smoky notes of the spirits complement the rich depth of flavor in the sauce, making for a truly indulgent dining experience.

No matter what you choose to serve it with, this BBQ sauce is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. Its bold flavor profile and versatility make it an incredibly popular topping for all kinds of dishes, whether you’re hosting a backyard barbecue or just looking for something tasty to liven up your weekday meal rotation. So go ahead and experiment – who knows what delicious combinations you might discover!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 A harmonious blend of spices and tomato goodness.
A harmonious blend of spices and tomato goodness.

It’s always smart to plan ahead, especially when it comes to cooking. Luckily, this BBQ sauce recipe is perfect for making in advance. In fact, the flavors will develop even more if it’s allowed to sit for a day or two before using.

To make ahead, simply follow the recipe as directed and allow the sauce to cool completely. Transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. When ready to use, gently reheat the sauce on low heat until warmed through.

Storing homemade BBQ sauce is just as easy. If you have leftovers, transfer the sauce to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Be sure to label the container with the date made so you can keep track of how long it’s been stored.

When reheating leftover BBQ sauce, do so slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally until warmed through. Be careful not to overheat or burn the sauce, as this can cause the flavors to become bitter.

One tip for reheating that I’ve found is to add a splash of apple cider vinegar or Worcestershire sauce to help revitalize any lost flavors.

Overall, this versatile Southern-style BBQ sauce recipe is perfect for making ahead of time and storing for later use. Whether you’re using it as a marinade, glaze or dipping sauce, this sauce has all of the rich flavors you crave in authentic barbecue cuisine.

Tips for Perfect Results

 Your meat will beg for more of this sauce.
Your meat will beg for more of this sauce.

Making the Best BBQ Sauce requires patience, skills, and attention to detail. If you’re new to this recipe or aren’t used to cooking with molasses and apple cider vinegar, here are some tips to help you get amazing results:

Firstly, don’t overdo it with the salt. While salt is essential in cooking, it’s important not to go overboard or your BBQ sauce will taste too salty. I would recommend using kosher salt instead of table salt because it’s less processed and has a milder flavor.

Secondly, if you want to add heat to your BBQ sauce, use Tabasco sauce sparingly or a small amount of datil pepper. Remember that some of your guests might not like their food too spicy, so make sure to have an alternative if necessary.

Thirdly, experiment with different flavors to find your perfect blend. For example, you could try adding roasted garlic or a bit of cumin for more complexity.

Fourthly, don’t be afraid to adjust the sweetness level of the sauce. If the sauce tastes too sweet, add a little more apple cider vinegar or Worcestershire sauce. If it’s not sweet enough, add more brown sugar or molasses until it reaches the desired taste.

Fifthly, be sure to let the sauce cool completely before storing it in an airtight container. This will prevent spoilage and keep the flavors fresh.

Sixthly, keep in mind that BBQ sauces can vary depending on what region they come from. For example, South Carolina mustard-based BBQ sauce is different from Memphis-style sauce which is vinegar-based. Choose a recipe that resonates with you and experiment with variations as well.

Lastly, practice makes perfect! Don’t get discouraged if your first attempt isn’t spot-on. Try again until you get the balance of sweetness, tanginess and heat just right.

Follow these tips for making an excellent barbecue sauce that no one can resist. You might even end up creating your own award-winning recipe!


As we near the end of this recipe article, it’s important to address some frequently asked questions. Below are answers to some common queries that may pop up as you prepare your homemade barbeque sauce using Southern Living’s best BBQ sauce recipe. Let’s dive into them, so you can be better informed and equipped to create the perfect tangy or spicy barbecue sauce that suits your taste buds.

What’s the best BBQ sauce in the world?

In this recipe article, I’m going to share with you the ultimate guide to making the perfect southern-style barbeque sauce. From Smoke Kitchen’s sweet and tangy BBQ sauce to Kosmos Q’s spicy and fruity cherry habanero variation, there’s no shortage of mouth-watering flavors to choose from. Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a home cook looking to add some depth to your grilling game, this guide has got you covered. So grab your apron and let’s get saucin’!

What gives BBQ sauce its distinct flavor?

When it comes to barbecue sauce, there are a variety of ways that sweetness can be added to enhance the flavor. Brown sugar is the most common choice, but there are other options available such as blackstrap molasses, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, sorghum, and even sodas. Each of these ingredients can contribute to a unique flavor profile in barbecue sauce.

What are the keys to a great BBQ sauce?

When it comes to creating a harmonious flavor, adding a combination of paprika, brown sugar, ground mustard, black pepper, coriander, molasses, garlic powder, and oregano work well together. These ingredients work together to create a well-rounded and satisfying taste. Using just the right amount of salt can also enhance the sweetness of the sauce while reducing any possible bitterness.

Bottom Line

So there you have it, folks – Southern Living’s Best BBQ Sauce Recipe. This recipe is not just any ordinary barbecue sauce; it’s a culmination of the best ingredients and techniques from the southern BBQ traditions.

Whether you’re a fan of tangy, spicy, or sweet flavors, this sauce recipe has something for everyone. It’s versatile and can be used on a variety of meats like chicken, pork, and even fish. And if you’re looking to switch things up, this recipe provides substitutions and variations to help you make it your own.

So why not try making this award-winning sauce yourself? Impress your family and friends at your next cookout or barbecue party with the bold and delicious taste of Southern-style BBQ. With this sauce recipe, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain – experience the taste of the South with every bite!

One last tip: don’t forget to keep a jar handy in your fridge so that you can enjoy the rich flavor of this barbecue sauce all year round. Trust me; once you try it, this sauce will become a household staple in no time!

Southern Living's Best BBQ Sauce

Southern Living’s Best BBQ Sauce Recipe

Makes 1 Quart of the Best lip Smacking Sauce you Have Ever Tried! We use it on Pork BBQ, on Chicken, On Ribs and as a dip for Parties! This is Great Stuff!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Course Condiment
Cuisine American
Servings 1 Quart
Calories 143 kcal


  • 1 (16 ounce) can Hunts tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups A.1. Original Sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups molasses (Sorghum)
  • 3/4 cup Heinz ketchup
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (I use a real Lemon)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a full boil.
  • Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Makes 1 Quart of the Best Lip smacking Sauce you ever Tried!

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 91gCalories: 143kcalCarbohydrates: 36.6gProtein: 0.6gFat: 0.1gSodium: 517.8mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 28.9g
Keyword < 15 Mins, Easy, For Large Groups, Sauces, Spicy, Stove Top, Sweet
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Recommended Recipes Just For You

None found