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This homemade barbecue sauce is tangy, tomato-y and just sweet enough. You’ll want to slather it on everything from meats to starches and vegetables. I made this sauce for my daughter’s birthday barbecue, and it was a hit!
Barbecue is thought of as an American cuisine, and it is, mostly. Just like all other American food, barbecue is heavily influenced by other cultures. Barbecue as we know it in the United States comes mostly from Caribbean, African, and Native American influences.
The History of Barbecue is Complicated
I’m currently reading The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty, in which he travels through the Southern United States in search of his culinary past. There is tons of information in there about barbecue, how enslaved people cooked on plantations, and the development of Southern food, as well as the enormous contribution of African American cooks to the American food landscape. I’m not finished yet, but it’s a doozy. I’ve already ordered 2 additional books (some of the earliest cookbooks by African American cooks, one of whom was enslaved), and I’m sure I’ll order some more before I come out of the rabbit hole. Stay tuned.
Barbecue sauce has its own complicated past. There are so many varieties of barbecue sauce. You have North Carolina vinegar sauce, Kansas City sweet sauce, Alabama white sauce, and many, many more. It seems that different immigrant populations influenced the sauce that developed in the regions where they lived. For example, in South Carolina, there was a large German population who had been recruited by the colony of South Carolina to come and farm in the area. Thus, we see mustard based sauces in South Carolina stemming from this German heritage. Here are some additional articles for more information:
- The South Carolina Barbecue Association – information about the 4 types of barbecue typically found in the United States.
- Regional Barbecue Sauces, Explained on Eater.
- The Evolution of American Barbecue – Smithsonian Magazine.
There is so much complicated history in the world of food, and nowhere is this more evident than in the history of barbecue. I’m not an expert yet, but I’m on the learning train!
So, What Kind of Barbecue Sauce Are We Making Today?
My favorite type of barbecue sauce is what I think the South Carolina Barbecue Association would call a “light tomato” sauce – maybe more of a medium tomato sauce, if that’s a thing. Not too heavy, not too sweet. I like a balance of vinegar, tomato, spice, and sugar.
I hesitate to say that this recipe would fit into any one region’s tradition, lest someone come after me, but it’s probably most similar to a North Carolina sauce.
This recipe is adapted from the all purpose sauce from the good folks over at Smoked Barbecue Source. Check out their post for the inspiration for this sauce, as well as 11 other barbecue sauces you can make at home.
Why Should I Make My Own Barbecue Sauce?
Making your own sauces makes you powerful. You are no longer bound by what is offered to you by commercial food producers. You are in charge, and can make your sauces exactly how you like them. Homemade sauces also have better texture and flavor than their jarred or bottled counterparts, not to mention the lack of preservatives.
Making your own barbecue sauces allows you complete control over the acidity, sweetness, and spice level in your sauce. Also, this sauce is so easy to make. I bet you have most if not all of the ingredients right now. I’m not saying there’s no place for a bottled sauce. I regularly buy Sweet Baby Ray’s from Costco, because it’s so cheap and convenient. I am saying, however, that given the choice between the bottled stuff and your homemade goodness, you’ll pick the homemade sauce every time.
If you need the Tony Chachere’s seasoning mentioned in the recipe, most grocery stores carry it, or you can get it here. Also, feel free to substitute your favorite spicy seasoning blend.
Will you please share this post with your barbecue loving friends? Also, please tag me in your pictures! I love to see them. Until next time!
Homemade Barbecue Sauce
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1 and 1/2 cups apple cider juice is fine, too.
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 5 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 3 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning Your favorite Cajun or Creole seasoning would work great here. Alternatively, you could add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
- In a medium sauce pot over medium heat, add all ingredients together.
- Whisk to combine.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low as soon as a boil is reached.
- Simmer for 30 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached.