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Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce Recipe

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Our sweet and spicy BBQ sauce has the right amount of heat and sweet for a perfect balance for your taste buds. Made with sweet brown sugar, this sauce gets its spicy kick from chipotle chili powder. 

If you’re anything like us, then you also love a good homemade bbq sauce recipe. It’s guaranteed to come out better than what you’d get at the grocery store and you can customize it to your personal taste preferences!

Spicy not your thing? Be sure to try one of our other delicious sauce recipes: Peach BBQ Sauce, Alabama White BBQ Sauce, and Vinegar-Based BBQ Sauce

This spicy sauce has a tomato base and the right amount of sweet from brown sugar, molasses, and honey. It’s the best sauce and perfect addition for grilled meats like chicken legs, chicken thighs, and ribs. 

You can taste as you go and adjust the sweetness, acidity, and spice levels to your preference. Add more honey or brown sugar for sweetness, or more vinegar for tanginess. For extra heat, add a teaspoon cayenne pepper or more chili powder.

Try this sweet and spicy barbecue sauce recipe today and let us know how it turns out!

What you’ll love about this recipe:

  • HOMEMADE BARBECUE SAUCE – Make the best barbecue sauce right in your own kitchen with simple pantry staples.
  • FLAVOR – This sweet sauce gets its spiciness from the natural flavor of chipotle pepper. Adjust to your personal preference.


  • Sweet Onion: Adds a mild sweetness to the sauce.
  • Unsalted Butter: Provides a buttery flavor, smooth base, and helps to sauté the onions until they are caramelized. Salted butter is ok to use, just be mindful when adding salt to taste at the end.
  • Ketchup: Offers a sweet tomato flavor that forms the base of the sauce.
  • Tomato Sauce: Adds body and a deeper tomato flavor. If you ran out of tomato sauce, get the same tomato flavor by mixing tomato paste with water for a similar consistency. 
  • Brown Sugar: Sweetens the sauce. Light or dark brown sugar is fine to use. 
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Provides acidity to balance the sweetness and enhances the overall flavor.
  • Molasses: Contributes a rich, dark sweetness and deepens the sauce’s color and flavor.
  • Honey: Adds a natural sweetness and helps to thicken the sauce slightly.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Introduces umami and a savory depth that enriches the sauce. We love Bear & Burton’s America’s Worcestershire W Sauce. 
  • Yellow Mustard: Adds tanginess and a slight sharpness that complements the sweetness.
  • Chipotle Chili Powder: Brings heat and a smoky flavor, adding a spicy kick.
  • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper: Enhances the overall spice profile with its bold, pungent flavor.
  • Granulated Garlic: Infuses the sauce with a robust garlic flavor that melds well with the other ingredients. Sub with half the amount of garlic powder.
  • Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt: Enhances all the flavors and pulls it all together.

Sweet & Spicy Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe

  • Start by melting butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Throw in the chopped onion and cook until it turns all soft and clear, about 5-7 minutes. 
  • Then, stir in all the good stuff like ketchup, tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, molasses, honey, Worcestershire sauce, and yellow mustard. Don’t forget the brown sugar, chipotle chili powder, black pepper, and garlic powder—mix that all in and let it come to a nice boil. 
  • Once it’s bubbling, lower the heat and let it simmer away until it’s thick enough for your liking. Stir it every now and then so it doesn’t stick. When it’s done, pour it into some clean jars and let it cool down before you seal them up. Easy peasy!

Recipe Tips & Tricks

  • Adjust the Heat: If you prefer a milder sauce, reduce the amount of chipotle chili powder. For extra heat, add a teaspoon cayenne pepper or more chili powder.
  • Balance the Flavors: Taste as you go and adjust the sweetness, acidity, and spice levels to your preference. Add more honey or brown sugar for sweetness, or more vinegar for tanginess.
  • Use Quality Ingredients: High-quality ketchup, tomato sauce, and spices can make a significant difference in the final taste of your BBQ sauce.
  • Simmer Slowly: Allow the sauce to simmer gently. This helps the flavors meld together and develop depth.
  • Consistency: If the sauce becomes too thick, thin it out with a bit of water or apple juice. If it’s too thin, continue simmering until it reaches your desired consistency.
  • Strain for Smoothness: For a smoother sauce, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve.

What to Serve with Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce

Some of our favorite ways to pair this sweet and spicy barbecue sauce include:

How to store Leftover BBQ Sauce

Once your leftover BBQ sauce has cooled to room temperature, transfer it to a clean, airtight container or jar and store it in the refrigerator. Leftover bbq sauce should keep for up to 2 weeks. 

If you prefer to store the BBQ sauce for an extended period, consider canning it using a water bath canning method. Be sure to follow safe canning guidelines to process the jars. Properly canned BBQ sauce can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. 

We do not recommend freezing this sauce.


This spicy bbq sauce recipe is much better than store-bought sauce, made with sweet brown sugar and spicy notes from chipotle pepper. 

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Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce Recipe

  • Author: Krysten and Marrekus Wilkes
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 cups 1x
  • Category: sauce
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: american, barbecue, southern


  • ½ sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar, packed (light or dark brown sugar)
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic (cut in half is using garlic powder)
  • Diamond Crystal kosher salt, to taste


  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
  2. Sauté onion until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Stir in the liquid ingredients: ketchup, tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, molasses, honey, Worcestershire sauce, and yellow mustard.
  4. Add light brown sugar, chipotle chili powder, black pepper, and granulated garlic. Mix well to combine.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and simmer.
  6. Simmer until the sauce reaches your desired thickness, stirring occasionally.
  7. Once the sauce is ready, pour it into clean jars and allow it to cool to room temperature before sealing.

Keywords: sweet and spicy bbq sauce, spicy bbq sauce, homemade barbecue sauce, spicy sauce

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