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22 May 2020

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!

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.

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 we make this homemade bbq sauce recipe, shall we?

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce in a bowl

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. 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 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.

Cooking down peppers, onions and garlic to make homemade bbq sauce

Simmer the Sauce. 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.

Simmering all of the ingredients in a pan to make bbq sauce

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.

Processed bbq sauce in a food processor

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.

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce on a basting brush

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 grilled pork chops, grilled chicken, pork ribs, all of your favorites. Enjoy! Such a great bbq sauce recipe. One of our favorites for sure.

Spreading homemade bbq sauce onto grilled chicken wings

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.

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce on a spoon, ready to serve

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!

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce on a spoon

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
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce Recipe

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!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Main Course, sauce
Cuisine: American
Keyword: bbq, bbq sauce, grilling, recipe, spicy
Servings: 6
Calories: 123kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2-3 jalapeno peppers diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 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 for a non-alcoholic version)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.
  • 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.

Notes

Makes 2-1/2 cups unstrained.
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.

Nutrition

Calories: 123kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 390mg | Potassium: 301mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 1148IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 1mg

NOTE: This recipe was updated on 5/22/20 to include new photos and information. It was originally published on 7/21/14.

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce Recipe

14 comments

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Linda, this will last a month or longer, covered, because of the vinegar content. You can also freeze it. I hope you enjoy it.

  1. Bill Hawkes

    Have you ever tried this recipe using spiced rum? If you have, what did you think about it?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Bill, absolutely. Rum would be great here. It’s also good with tequila or whiskey/bourbon. Let me know how it turns out for you.

  2. 5 stars
    Hi Mike,
    Dad’s jalapeno peppers put to good use again!!
    Hunters chicken for dinner tomorrow using this BBQ sauce.
    Son-in-law doesn’t like BBQ sauce but tried this one and was very impressed .
    Thank you

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Yes! I love to hear it, Leigh. Awesome. Glad you enjoyed it!!

  3. Hi
    Just wondering what mustard are we talking about, English, Dijon, American Yellow,….. ?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Jayne, the recipe calls for ground mustard, which is a typical mustard powder made from ground mustard seeds, usually yellow seeds. You can use a bottled liquid mustard, though. I would use spicy brown, but any will add some nice flavor. Let me know how it turns out for you.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Jeff, you can definitely water bath this, but check the pH first. For home preserving, it’s best to shoot for 3.5 or lower. Otherwise, you can use a pressure canner.

  4. can I do something else instead of the ketchup ? I try to use mostly home grown but, I don

    This sounds yummy

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Yes, use tomato sauce instead of ketchup, or fresh tomatoes. You may want to adjust some of the sweet if you’d like.

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