Do you have ketchup, mustard and brown sugar? You have to try this best EVER Basic Homemade BBQ Sauce. It’s a simple base for starting your own BBQ sauce deliciousness, then add and customize from there.
There are several ingredients that I always think I have on hand, but sometimes I go to start cooking and it turns out I don’t have them. This happens a lot with barbecue sauce, which I definitely need on hand when grilling season starts up again. This is my go-to recipe for when this happens!
I always think I have a few bottles of BBQ sauce in the pantry. I go to grab one, and there aren’t any. Because of this, I’ve developed a quick, basic barbecue sauce base. It uses simple ingredients that I always have and it only takes a minute to whip up.
It’s made out of ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar. That’s all you absolutely need, but I’ve got suggestions for more ingredients to make it extra tasty.
Video: BBQ Sauce Base + How To Doctor It Up!
Adaptable Homemade Barbecue Sauce
The beauty of this sauce base is that you can change it if you’re in the mood. You can use honey or molasses instead of brown sugar, you can use Dijon mustard instead of the regular yellow mustard, you can use tomato sauce for some of the ketchup. There are lots of ways to vary the base.
And then you get to add other ingredients to deepen it more, things like Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, garlic powder, smoked paprika, or all of the above!
Finally, optionally make it more complex by adding in additional spices like cumin, chili powder, or cayenne pepper. Really the options are endless. Soooo good. You’re going to love making this easy staple and doctoring it up in new ways.
The reason this simple sauce works is because of the flavor balance. You have salty and sweet flavors in the ketchup, more sweet from the brown sugar or honey, and then a good tang from the mustard. It’s also great because the sugar content in the sauce makes it caramelize on food when it’s cooking.
Using Barbecue Sauce
I love using this sauce when I’m grilling chicken, beef, or pork. To make really great barbecue chicken drumsticks, I follow the basic method for Easy Make Ahead Chicken for a Crowd. I love it because you pre-cook the chicken in the oven so you know it’s done, then add the sauce and grill it all up once guests arrive.
You could also use this for Pulled Pork Sandwiches or to dip French fries in.
If you don’t want to start with a BBQ sauce base and add to it with your own ideas, here’s my recipe for a fully done BBQ sauce. It’s a sweet, spicy, smoky BBQ sauce that still only uses ingredients that I usually have on hand, but it gets simmered on the stove.
More Delicious Sauce Recipes
I’m a firm believer that a great sauce can transform a meal. That’s why I’ve come up with over 40 delicious sauce recipes, which you can browse through over here. I’m also going to link to a few of my favorites for you, for extra inspiration:
- The Best Cheese Sauce Recipe
- Homemade Cocktail Sauce
- Creamy Horseradish Sauce For Prime Rib
- Gravy Made Without Drippings
- Garlic Butter Sauce
- Chili Garlic Sauce
Podcast Episode About Making Easy BBQ Sauce
Listen to me explain briefly about how to make this BBQ sauce, along with some other great tips, by clicking the play button below:Print
Do you have ketchup, mustard and honey? You have to try this best EVER Basic Homemade BBQ Sauce. It’s a simple base for starting your own BBQ sauce deliciousness. Mix up the ingredients below and you’ll have a mild-tasting sauce. Then, if you’d like, add in some pantry favorites like smoked paprika, cumin, and chili powder to really bring in the flavor.
RECIPE UPDATE: A lot of people in the comments below really love this sauce as is, as does my family. However, a lot of people found it too bland. I therefore retested the recipe and adjusted it. The original recipe, in case you loved that, was 1 and 1/2 cups ketchup, 1/4 cup yellow mustard, 1/4 cup honey, a pinch of salt. The revised recipe is now given below. It’s still very basic and can still be used as a sauce base but it has some more flavor elements to start with. Enjoy! -Christine xo
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. hot sauce
- Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Stir until sugar dissolves.
This post originally appeared in August 2015 and was revised and republished in June 2022.