Spicy Smoky Barbecue Sauce

Everybody needs a good barbecue sauce in their pantry. It’s easy to say, but that can be as hard to find as the perfect pair of jeans. Barbecue sauces on store shelves tend to be sickeningly sweet, anemically flavoured, glorified ketchup. Homemade barbecue sauce  is almost inevitably better than what you can buy, but is often close to the last thing you want to be making right before grilling or barbecuing extravaganzas. What you need is that great jar or bottle of something extraordinary that is ready to go whenever you feel the undeniable urge to slather barbecue sauce on something. Boy. Do I have the solution for you or what?*

*The answer is that I do indeed have the solution for you, but I was raised in Northern Michigan and that’s just how we talk. You are now able to book your fudgie vacation with a calm mind. (Oh, er, Fudgies are tourists in Northern Michigan so named for their frequenting of the local fudge shops. NOW you can go cross the Big Mac. As in the Mackinac Bridge? Never mind. You shouldn’t go. You should just stay here and make barbecue sauce. Michiganders. We’re an enigma.)

I received a jar of barbecue sauce from my friend, Melissa, as part of the Pay It Forward homemade gift exchange.  We popped open the jar and dipped our pinkies in for a taste. Then we dunked in our index fingers. Then we grabbed spoons. It was good. Really, really good. Melissa had the recipe posted on her blog, so I knew a batch of this was in my future. As I set about making my batch I made a few changes based on both a lack of certain ingredients and an exhausted food budget. It turned out so well that I kept the changes even when the budget and pantry were both refreshed.

Let me tell you about this sauce.  The first thing that will hit you when you taste it is the spicy smokiness followed by a vinegar tang with garlic and onion. It is tomato based, but that is balanced, almost equally, by the presence of smooth, pungent Dijon mustard. It is a hybrid, really, of the best of Kansas City and South Carolina styles. It is smooth and thick, brushable, spreadable, spoonable. In short, it’s great stuff. This is easily my favorite barbecue sauce right now for everything from dunking fried chicken to dolloping on hamburgers to brushing on chicken at the tail end of grilling.

…And bonus on bonus? You can can this! Make a big old batch, jar it up and process it using your choice of boiling water bath or pressure canning. No desire to can? No problem.* Just put it in the clean jars, put the lids on tight and shove it into your refrigerator for up to a month. You could even freeze it for up to six months if you really wanted to do so.  In my book, though, canning it and stashing it on my shelves next to my Candied Jalapenos (Hey! Did you enter the giveaway?) is just this side of Nirvana.

*No problem, for now. You will be assimilated. The desire to can is strong in you. (Jedi hand wave) I sense this.

All this boils down to just one crucial point. Make the sauce.


Make. This. Sauce.

If not today, then very, very soon. Memorial Day and grilling season are upon us. You will be a rock star when you serve this. Also? People will tell you you’re beautiful. You may get marriage proposals. Or book proposals. Or whatever. Just make it. Okay?

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spicy Smoky Barbecue Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Spicy, smoky, smooth, spoonable, pourable, dunkable, brushable; this barbecue sauce is everything a great barbecue sauce should be.
Recipe type: Condiment, Sauce
Serves: 6 pints
  • 3 yellow onions, chopped
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 cups tomato paste
  • 2 cups Dijon mustard
  • 1½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups molasses
  • 1 cup raw or brown sugar
  • 1½ cups hoisin sauce
  • 1 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¾ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons ground New Mexican chili powder (this is simply ground New Mexico Chiles. *See notes for help finding it.)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  1. Add the oil, onions and garlic to a heavy-bottomed stockpot (to help prevent scorching) over medium low heat.
  2. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and mostly translucent. Do not brown the onions and garlic.
  3. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  4. Bring to a simmer (gently bubbling state) and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool slightly before blending until smooth, using either a stick (immersion) blender or a standard blender.
  6. You can either split into 1-cup portions to freeze, transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid for refrigerator storage, or proceed on to canning the sauce...
To Boiling Water Bath Can the Sauce for Shelf Storage:
  1. Fill sterile canning jars to within ¼-inch of the top.
  2. Wipe the rims with a paper towel dipped in vinegar.
  3. Lay clean, new lids on the jars and screw on the rings to finger-tip tightness.
  4. Place in a canner with water to cover the lids by 2-inches.
  5. Bring to a boil, with the lid in place, and boil for 30 minutes for pint jars and 40 minutes for quarts.
  6. Turn off the heat and let the jars rest in the water for 5 minutes before carefully transferring jars to a cooling rack to rest for 24 hours.
  7. Remove rings, wipe jars, label and store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
To Pressure Can the Sauce for Shelf Storage:
  1. Fill sterile canning jars to within 1-inch of the top.
  2. Wipe rims with a paper towel dipped in vinegar.
  3. Place lids on jars and screw on rings to finger-tip tightness.
  4. Place in a pressure canner according to your manufacturer's instructions.
  5. Process at 10 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.
  6. Allow the pressure canner to come back to atmosphere naturally. (Do not cool canner by pouring water over it.)
  7. Transfer the jars to a cooling rack to rest for 24 hour hours.
  8. Remove rings, wipe jars, label and store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
If you opt to freeze the sauce, be sure to do so in serving sized portions. It doesn't do you any good to have a ¾ gallon block of rock-solid, frozen barbecue sauce in the freezer! *If you're having difficulty finding Ground New Mexico Chile Powder, see the Pantry Builder link below the recipe.


Foodie With Family Pantry Builder:

(In the interest of disclosure, please know that these links take you to Amazon.com. If you buy something I link to, I get a very small commission from Amazon. It does not increase your price at all. This is the same price I pay for it because I buy it from Amazon, too.)

New Mexico Chile Pepper, 1.9-Ounce Jars (Pack of 6)New Mexican Chili Ground, 16-Ounce Jars (Pack of 3)



  1. Paula says

    That looks divine! So dark and rich in color! I’ve been meaning to try it, now I’m convinced. P~

    • says

      Paula- It IS dark and bricky. It’s nice and thick. I do so recommend it. (I like the molasses in here a lot…)
      Ranee- I have not tested this, but I found this Hoisin sauce substitute online. It looks pretty good! Homemade Hoisin Sauce

      4 tablespoons soy sauce
      2 tablespoons black bean paste or peanut butter
      1 tablespoon honey or molasses
      2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
      1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
      2 teaspoons sesame oil
      20 drops hot sauce
      1/8 teaspoon black pepper

      Combine all ingredients together.

      • Wesley says

        I am looking for a BBQ sauce and this sounds perfect but I need it to be really low in sodium. I know I can sub the tomato paste with a no salt added option but I am not sure about the hoisin, worchesterhire an the soy sauce…even reduced sodium sauce is high in sodium. Any help with this?

        • says

          Wesley, I am at a bit of a loss, honestly… Salt helps preserve canned goods and I’m not at all experienced with low sodium canning! I think your best bet might be to contact your local cooperative extension and let them know what you’re looking for. If you want to try something in the meantime, I’d say experiment with your flavours and then freeze it in small amounts thereby eliminating the concern over salt’s preservative properties. Let me know what you end up coming up with, would you?

          • Violet says

            You don’t need any salt if you’re pressure canning the BBQ sauce. That’s one of the joys of PC’ing things!

  2. says


    Nice BBQ sauce recipe!!!!! This is very similar to one I use. Molasses I think is the key ingredient.

    Two things:

    1. I really like chopped onions in the sauce because they add texture.

    2. To make it a little more smokey, liquid smoke could be added.

    I mainly use this sauce on ribs that I cook in a smoker.

    What type of meat do you put the sauce on?


  3. Kali says

    Hi there! I want to make this BBQ sauce but I don’t enjoy spicy foods. Which ingredient(s) can I leave out to make it a low-end on the spicy chart BBQ sauce? Or maybe just less of something?


    • says

      Because this one relies so much on the chiles both for texture and for flavour, you may want to try a different barbecue sauce. Have you considered this one? It’s a lot more adjustable for heat!

  4. Scratch Cook says

    Your Spicy Smoky BBQ Sauce sounds great, but there’s one thing wrong with your instructions. You say to sterilize the canning jars. That’s what my mom always said, too. But according to the USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the jars only have to be washed and clean. The canning process sterilizes both the food and the jars at the same time.

    • says

      There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with the suggestion to sterilize the jars even if it isn’t the current recommendation. Had I said to smear muck in them, I’d say it would be wrong, but an abundance of caution is just that. 😀


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