This bbq sauce recipe is the perfect combination of sweet and spicy with jalapeno peppers, bourbon and honey. It's tangy and flavorful and great on anything. Fire up the grill!
Homemade Spicy BBQ Sauce is the Best
We're making some homemade bbq sauce in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen today, my friends. Care to join me? Everyone needs a good homemade bbq sauce recipe, and this one delivers on all levels. It brings a nice balance of sweet and heat and overall flavor that's great on anything for the grilling and bbq season.
Plus, it's very easy to customize to your own preferences, from the heat factor to the level of sweetness to the seasonings used. Feel free to mix things up for a more personal experience.
My preferred version uses jalapeno peppers for a nice level of every day heat along with honey and brown sugar for sweetness, and bourbon for an extra special finishing flavor that we just love.
It's quite a bit like a Kansas City style bbq sauce, with a great balance of heat and sweet.
I like to make an extra large batch and keep it in the refrigerator for quick and easy grilling throughout the week. I'm ready to fire up the grill right now. How about you?
Let's talk about how to make bbq sauce, shall we?
Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce Ingredients
- The Peppers (and Veg). I'm using a couple of medium-sized jalapeno peppers for this homemade barbecue sauce recipe for a nice level of heat. Try it with spicier peppers for some serious heat. I also use onion and garlic for flavor and body.
- Tomato Sauce. Tomato sauce is key for the sauciness of the bbq sauce. Most recipes call for ketchup, which is totally fine to use, though ketchup usually has a lot of sugar, so be sure to adjust as needed.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. Apple Cider Vinegar brings the tangy element to the sauce, and is sweeter than white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar.
- Worcestershire Sauce. This is a great flavor builder and perfect for homemade bbq sauce!
- The Seasonings. I use cayenne pepper for extra heat and smoked paprika for a touch of smokey flavor, along with ground mustard and a touch of salt and pepper. You can try other seasonings to your preference, such as garlic powder. Feel free to experiment.
- The Sweet. Honey and brown sugar are perfect for bringing in not only our sweet element for this bbq sauce, but also a nice touch of flavor. If you feel the sauce is too sweet, use one or the other, or cut back on both of them. Maple syrup is a nice substitution.
- Bourbon. Bourbon carries oak and caramel flavors that translate wonderfully to the finished bbq sauce. This gives the sauce a distinctive finish.
- Hot Sauce. Use your favorite! You'll get even more heat, which is what I love.
How to Make Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce - the Recipe Method
Cook Down the Peppers, Onions and Garlic. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan to medium heat. Add onion and peppers and cook for 5 minutes to soften. Add the garlic and cook another minute, until garlic becomes fragrant.
Simmer the Sauce. Add remaining ingredients and stir until everything is combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to let the flavors mingle. You can simmer longer if you'd like.
Option 1 - Strain the Sauce. Strain into a serving container and use as desired.
Option 2 - Process the Sauce. Transfer the ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth for a thicker version. Use as desired, or strain to thin it out.
Serve it Up. You can serve this right away, or let it sit awhile to allow the flavors to more fully develop. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
Boom! Done! Your sweet and tangy and spicy homemade bbq sauce is ready to go! Use it on anything from the grill, from BBQ chicken wings to bbq chicken pizza, grilled pork chops, grilled chicken, pork ribs, all of your favorites.
Enjoy! Such a great bbq sauce recipe. One of our favorites for sure.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- The Heat Factor. Jalapeno peppers have a nice level of heat for most people, though more serious chiliheads can easily use hotter peppers to really heat things up. Try this bbq sauce recipe with serrano peppers for even more heat, habanero peppers for some serious heat, or ghost peppers for something truly spicy. Carolina Reapers, anyone? Oh boy!
- Bourbon Alternatives. I have made this bbq sauce with tequila and rum as well and loved them both. Give those a try for a nice variation!
- Non-Alcoholic Version. If you'd prefer to skip the booze, use a flavorful broth instead, or skip it entirely. You may need a bit of water to thin out the bbq sauce, though. Toss in some liquid smoke for a smoky pop!
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy my homemade bbq sauce recipe. Let me know if you make it. I'd love to hear how it turned out for you. Keep it spicy!
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce Recipe
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers diced (use hotter if you'd like, such as habanero)
- 1 small onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup tomato sauce (use ketchup for a sweeter version)
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup bourbon (try it with tequila or rum instead, or use broth or apple juice for a non-alcoholic version)
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon cayenne
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika (try it with ghost pepper powder for extra hot)
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey (maple syrup is a nice substitution)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (use less or omit for less sweet)
- 2 tablespoons hot sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan to medium heat. Add onion and peppers and cook for 5 minutes to soften.
- Add the garlic and cook another minute, until garlic becomes fragrant.
- Add remaining ingredients and stir until everything is combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes to let the flavors mingle. You can simmer longer if you'd like.
- Option 1: Strain into a serving container and use as desired.
- Option 2: Transfer the ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth for a thicker version. Use as desired, or strain to thin it out, plus more vinegar or water to thin as desired.
- You can serve this right away, or let it sit awhile to allow the flavors to more fully develop. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 4/15/22 to include new video and information. It was originally published on 7/21/14.