3 BBQ Sauce Recipes You'll Want to Slather on Everything

On a (surprisingly!) sunny day in May, Giovanna Ryan joined us at Sous Chef founder Nicola's London garden to share her BBQ secrets. From tangy to smoky, sweet to spicy - Giovanna taught us how to make three BBQ sauces for any occasion. Come with us as we delve into the world of BBQ sauce, and explore the different flavours and textures you can achieve. Whether you're a seasoned pitmaster or a BBQ newbie, there is something to learn from Giovanna's expertise...

This article was written by Giovanna Ryan for Sous Chef UK





I adore hosting, particularly in the summer when I can throw a load of things on the barbecue to create a big spread of different items that people can choose what they like from. I love the casualness of trays of barbecued food on our rickety old trestle table that friends can chat around and dip in and out of. What I think brings it all together though, and which can sometimes be forgotten about, is the sauces. There are so many brilliant things about barbecuing - the unbeatable flavour, the char on vegetables, the crust of rendered fat on meat, the caramelisation on sausages - but what it doesn’t automatically give you is any kind of sauce like roasting, stewing or pan-frying can.  

Sauces, for me, cover anything that imparts both moisture and flavour. I’m talking anything from yogurt spiked with lemon and herbs all the way to a classic tangy, sweet barbecue sauce and so much more. In the recipes below I focus on the latter, in a few incarnations. I would strongly encourage you to consider making your own sauces for your next barbecue. Although there are plenty of excellent bottled sauces out there, you can’t beat homemade. Plus you get to bask in all the compliments!


BBQ Grilled Vegetables

What is BBQ sauce made of? (And why is it so good?)

What most people would recognise as “BBQ sauce” is made from a combination of tomato puree, a sweetener like honey, brown sugar, molasses or a combination of these, vinegar or another acid, spices (often paprika) and something like soy or Worcestershire sauce to add depth. This combination of flavours hits all the flavour bases that we crave - sweet, acidic and salty and is perfect, in particular, paired with barbecued meat. The great thing about making your own is that you can adjust it to your tastes and requirements. Want it sweeter? Increase the amount of your sweet ingredients. More tangy? Up the volume of vinegar. If you want a spicier sauce, add chilli flakes or a hot paprika. The world is your oyster (sauce).

The ingredients of BBQ sauce make it generally suitable for anyone who is vegan or gluten free, although you need to be careful with Worcestershire sauce, for example. Bottled BBQ sauces will often have hidden ingredients that make them unsuitable for vegetarians, vegans or those with various allergies. By making your own you can avoid this. Use tamari instead of soy for those with gluten intolerance for example.


Which BBQ sauce should I use for…..


Paring sauces and marinades with barbecued vegetables really depends on the vegetable itself. Something substantial like cauliflower or aubergine you can treat like you would meat. Cauliflower can really hold its own against strong flavours so something like a dark Korean-style barbecue sauce would work really well here. Tenderstem broccoli is excellent on the barbecue because the edges crisp up and blister to create a wonderful texture. Something like Vietnamese nuoc cham sauce is brilliant for marinating broccoli either before or after barbecuing or as a dipping sauce. Other vegetables like courgette, fennel or spring onions are best treated more simply when barbecuing with just a little olive oil and salt then served with smoky Romesco sauce.


Barbecued chicken is super versatile. It can handle a lot of flavour and there are actually loads of different sauces that work brilliantly with it as a marinade and as a condiment. Wings are the fattiest part of the bird so I would go for something quite high in acid but also sweet so you get that really sticky glazed finish. Chicken breast has the most delicate flavour so something milder is better here, perhaps something with a sweeter and smokier finish rather than a punch-in-the-face-type sauce. Chicken thighs are my ultimate favourite barbecue cut (always skin on and bone in). You can get away with quite a powerful sauce with thighs and I would go for something gochujang-based as a marinade. Its slightly fermented, hot sweetness is perfect and the sugar in it will caramelise on the skin beautifully.

Pulled pork:

Pulled pork cooked slowly for hours on a barbecue is a marvellous thing. For both marinating and as a sauce to accompany after cooking, you need something that is either quite acidic or spicy to offset the fat in the pork. A chipotle based sauce is an obvious choice here as it covers both bases. Chipotle chillies in adobo have vinegar in the sauce and the chillies themselves pack a real punch in the spice department.


Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipes

Jump to the recipes:


Smoky Spicy BBQ Sauce

This sauce is actually mostly made on the barbecue which is what gives it its smoky flavour. You can vary the amount of spice in it by using sweet paprika or spicy paprika. Do also check the spice level of your chillies because they can vary wildly. This makes around a litre of sauce which seems like a lot but it’s much easier to make it in a big batch and it can be easily frozen or bottled into sterilised jars if you’ve not got hordes of people coming round to eat.

Ingredients (for around 1 litre of sauce):


  1. Place the tomatoes, pepper, chillies, onion and garlic on a baking tray or in a bowl and cover with the olive oil. Mix well with your hands to make sure the vegetables are fully coated in the oil.
  2. Barbecue the vegetables over a high heat on all sides. Don’t be afraid to get them quite charred as this is where a lot of the smoky flavour in the sauce will come from. Once they are charred on the outside and soft throughout, remove from the heat and set aside. Make sure, in particular, that the onion and garlic are properly cooked before taking them off the heat.
  3. Put the barbecued vegetables in a blender along with the remaining ingredients. If you have a high-powered blender like a Nutribullet or a Vitamix, you can get away without peeling the chillies, tomatoes and peppers. However, if you don’t I would recommend getting most of the skins off as they will spoil the texture of the sauce. Always take the skins off the onions. Test the heat of the chillies before adding them to the blender. If they’re very hot, you might want to remove the seeds.
  4. Blend until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Taste and adjust sugar, salt and/or vinegar to your liking.
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This is a very versatile sauce and makes an equally good marinade as it does a condiment. Try using it to marinade cauliflower steaks, pork ribs or chicken thighs or serve as a sauce for hotdogs or burgers. If you’re feeling fancy, stir it through mayonnaise and serve with barbecued prawns for an incredible prawn cocktail.


Honey BBQ Sauce Agrodolce

Agrodolce literally means “sour-sweet” in Italian and has all the essential flavours of a classic barbecue sauce in a different incarnation. It’s less thick than most barbecue sauces so it works really well drizzled over barbecued meat and vegetables after cooking. The best use for it I have found so far is drizzled over thick slices of barbecued halloumi straight after they come off the grill.



  1. Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for around 10 minutes until syrupy. Allow to cool and set aside until ready to serve. It will thicken up slightly as it cools so don’t take it too far.
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Romesco Sauce

This sauce is a bit of a departure from the traditional BBQ sauces but it still follows the same basic sweet/sour principle and I make it for pretty much every barbecue I host. The addition of almonds and olive oil make it a rounder, more mellow sauce so won’t overpower more delicate vegetables or fish. It’s a brilliant sauce to serve underneath a pile of barbecued scallops or meaty white fish like cod, monkfish or red mullet. It also works really well with most barbecued vegetables like cauliflower, courgettes, broccoli and fennel and is great in a barbecue leftover sandwich the following day. You can grill and peel your own peppers for this recipe if you have the time and the inclination but if not, the ones you get in the jar are an excellent substitute.

Ingredients (for around 500ml sauce):


  1. If you’re using fresh peppers, place over a high heat on the barbecue and char well on all sides until the flesh on the inside is very soft. You’re looking for the skin to be pretty much black all over. Leave to cool slightly then slip the skins off and remove the stalk and seeds.
  2. Place the peppers and the rest of the ingredients in a blender and blend until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Taste and adjust paprika, salt and/or vinegar to your liking.
  3. Pour into an airtight container and place in the fridge to firm up a little before serving.
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How to store BBQ Sauce

All of the BBQ sauces above can be frozen. The best way to do this is into ice cube trays so that they can be defrosted in smaller amounts. They can also be stored in sterilised, airtight jars for up to three months.


Feeling Inspired? Take a look at all our BBQ recipes. Or browse all BBQ products and start cooking!

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