Everything I Know About Barbecue Sauce

Jun 14, 2019 | Cooking Tips

In Canada when we think of barbecue sauce we generally only think of one thing. It is sweet, sticky, and thick. This is one of many types of barbecue sauce that is out there in the world. I’m here to tell you that if you are limiting yourself to just this one style you are seriously missing out.

Today we are going to take a look at multiple styles of barbecue sauces. We are going to look at the differences, similarities, when to use them and how to make them. Let’s get to it.

This is….

Everything I Know About Barbecue Sauce

The Standard Barbecue Sauce

The barbecue sauce that we are most used to using, Kansas City style, is generally a combination of vinegar, sugar, ketchup, and spices. That’s it. The different flavours come from different combinations, amounts, and varieties of these ingredients. For example, the vinegar used could be white vinegar, cider vinegar, balsamic, etc. The sugar component could be white sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, or fruit juice. And the spices could be just about anything.

A basic standard barbecue sauce recipe may look something like this…

Chef's Notes Logo

Standard Barbecue Sauce

A very basic barbecue sauce that can be used on almost anything.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Barbecue, Barbecue Sauce, BBQ
Servings: 1 cup
Author: Chef Ben Kelly


  • 1 mixing bowl
  • 1 Whisk
  • Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons


  • 1/2 cup Ketchup
  • 2 tbsp Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper


  • Mix all ingredients together.
  • Let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • Use as desired.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

There are alternative ways to make this basic barbecue sauce. You can sauté onion and garlic. Boil the Maple Syrup and Vinegar to concentrate their flavour. Use tomato paste rather than ketchup and adjust the vinegar and sugar to balance the flavour. You can use other spices like cumin, cinnamon, and mustard to add unique flavours to it.

If you really wanted to go crazy with the sauce you could roast or smoke garlic, tomatoes, and onion then use those as the base. Along with these, you would add vinegar, sugar, spices, maybe a touch of water.

The point is that even the most basic barbecue sauce can be elevated and elaborated upon to make something truly delicious.

Mustard Barbecue Sauce

Mustard based barbecue sauce is most typically found in South Carolina. Use specifically on pork, mustard barbecue sauce is a mixture of yellow mustard, brown sugar, and vinegar along with spices. The closest thing I can equate it to is a mustard glaze my mother used to make for ham.

The South Carolina mustard barbecue sauce is sweet and tangy and something considerably different than the ketchup-based sauce we are most familiar with.

Genius Kitchen has a recipe for it that I have used a few times. You can find that here.

Vinegar Based Barbecue Sauces

Although both of the sauces we have talked about so far contain vinegar, neither of them are classified as “vinegar-based”. Vinegar based sauces can be made in the same way as both of the above sauces with the exception that they have a much greater amount of vinegar.

Vinegar based sauces are generally known as “wet” sauces. These don’t coat the meat in the same way as a thicker sauce would. Generally, these are used for pulled pork.

To make a vinegar-based sauce use either of the above recipes but bump up the vinegar with 2 cups.

Another type of vinegar sauce, the most basic of all the sauces, is simply vinegar, black pepper, and chili flakes. This is typically used as a “mop sauce”. That means that as the meat, most often pork, is cooking it is mopped or generously brushed with the sauce. This too is most common with pulled pork.

White Barbecue Sauce

White barbecue sauce, commonly known as Alabama White Sauce is starting to become the “it” sauce of the day. It is made pretty much the same way as a Kansas City or standard barbecue sauce with one important change. Rather than using ketchup or tomato as the base, mayonnaise is used.

This white sauce hasn’t really hit Canada yet. I would imagine that within the next year or two, it will be in every barbecue and burger joint in the country.

International Sauces

America isn’t the only part of the world with a long tradition of cooking meat over burning wood. There are lots of places that barbecue and lots of different sauces from around the world.

You have more than likely heard of Teriyaki Sauce which is a type of Japanese sauce made of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. It’s very possible that you have also heard of Hoisin Sauce. If you read this blog regularly you definitely have. Hoisin can be used as a barbecue sauce on its own or used as the base for other sauces like Char Siu.

In India spices mixed with yogurt make a barbecue sauce for tandoori chicken. While in Argentina, herbs and chili mixed with vinegar and oil make Chimichurri.


The overall point that I want you to take away from this is that barbecue sauce is not one thing. It can be a lot of different things and you should try them all. You’ll never know you like something until you give it a shot.

As we get deeper into grilling season I highly recommend that you set aside a day or two to try a few of these different sauces. One just may end up being your new favourite.

What’s your favourite sauce or sauce recipe?



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