What Seasonings Are in Barbecue Sauce?

A cookout barbeque or barbeque party simply wouldn’t be the same without plenty of barbeque sauce to go around. Many people love the smoky, sweet taste of barbeque sauce whether it’s homemade or in a store-bought bottle. However, many grilling and food enthusiasts swear by a homemade batch of barbeque sauce.

If you’re thinking of whipping up a batch of homemade barbeque sauce or just wondering what’s inside that bottle, you should read up on the ingredients. The basic ingredients include some sort of base, which could be tomatoes, vinegar, or mayonnaise. From there, one can add on the seasonings and flavorings they like, including liquid smoke, molasses, sugar, mustard, onion powder, black pepper, etc.


Thick steak with barbeque sauce

There are several different variations of barbeque sauce, which you can get by changing up the seasonings. Let’s look at the various advantages of making a homemade barbeque sauce, and then check out the various seasonings that go into your favorite mixture:

Why Go For a Homemade Barbeque Sauce

Homemade sauces are usually a better option in any case, even if you have to put some effort into them. This is mainly because they’re free of preservatives, chemical additives, and other harmful ingredients that the health-conscious would want to avoid.

If you’ve never tasted homemade barbeque sauce, you might not think the bottle version is bad at all. Such sauces are routinely served in popular restaurants and enjoyed with burgers, steaks, and even just fries.

Once you’ve had a roper homemade version of barbeque sauce, though, it’s unlikely that you’d prefer a bottled option again. Home cooking makes sure that the ingredients are fresh and under control, so you get a better-tasting experience out of it.

What’s more, you can also control what goes into a homemade sauce. Store-bought sauces are usually very high in sodium, which could have an adverse effect on our health. Since we’re already consuming a lot of red meat at these barbeques, it’s just as well to go for a healthier sauce when possible.

Some might also say that the bottled barbeque sauce is just too sweet. This is because they usually have a lot of high-fructose corn syrup in them. Along with sweetness not being everyone’s preference, the corn syrup is just another unhealthy choice.

A proper homemade sauce, on the other hand, can go between smoky, sweet, and spicy with a lot of flavors in the mix. You can add some vinegar to balance the taste and change up the sauce according to what’s being served.

Changing The Sauce

If you have some homemade or even store-bought barbecue sauce that doesn’t taste just right, there are a few ways in which you may change it up. There’s no shame in buying premade sauce if you don’t have the time or inclination for homemade varieties, but you can tweak the combination a bit. We’ll discuss some of the most common ways here:

Fixing Sweet Sauce

If you find a certain barbeque sauce tasting too sweet, we suggest adding some vinegar. That synthetic white stuff is not good enough, though, so you need to step it up with organic apple cider vinegar. This is a condiment that should be on hand in your home in any case, as it’s loaded with antioxidants and other benefits.

Apple cider vinegar will give your sauce a tart taste that will contrast well with the sweet experience. Rice vinegar might also be an option, but it has a milder and sweeter effect. Red wine vinegar might also be a good choice.

You’d want to start by adding just a couple of tablespoons to the sauce at first. Shake or stir the combination, then taste.

If you don’t want to add too much vinegar or if the sauce is extremely sweet, try cutting the taste with a bit of lime or lemon juice. Fresh juice will bring out the flavors of your barbeque sauce very easily.

Adding More Fire

Some folks love to have a spicy experience when they’re enjoying their barbeque. If you barbeque sauce needs a little kick, a dash of simple hot sauce would usually do the trick. Green or red would both do just as well. However, make sure you only add the hot sauce half a teaspoon at a time.

Sriracha sauce, tobacco sauce, and even buffalo sauce could come in handy here. However, you might not want to add hot sauce to one of those Mexican barbeque sauces. That would probably result in a hodgepodge of flavors, with none of them being fully experienced. If you are experimenting in this manner, separate some of a sauce in a small bowl and do a taste test first.

Enhancing the Flavors

Then again, your barbeque sauce might just be too bland for your taste. If that’s the case, you want to add in something like peppers, garlic, onion powder or cumin for varying the flavor profile. Mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and other seasonings might also be in order here. Mix in one ingredient at a time and perform a taste test to be sure of where you’re going. The sauce will gradually achieve more depth and varied flavor experience.

Toning Down the Tartness

Finding a store-bought sauce that’s too tart might be rare, but it does happen. Every individual’s taste is different, so you might also want to tone down a sauce for the kids’ table.

To accomplish this result, you’ll need to add something sweet to the barbeque sauce. This could include brown sugar, honey, or molasses. We don’t recommend using maple syrup, as it’s quite expensive and has a delicate flavor. You’ll have to pour in a lot to get proper results, so might as well save it for a sweet topping.  However, agave syrup has a stronger flavor and would proper be a good option.

Just adding some sugary stuff might not be all you need, as it’s necessary to round out a good sauce. You might want to add some onion powder, garlic powder, or even crushed garlic to make sure that your sweetener blends in properly. A bit of cumin and/or curry powder might also accomplish this blending trick.

Reducing the Smokey Flavor

Liquid smoke might give a very strong flavor to your barbeque sauce. Fortunately, you can adjust the results by adding some fresh fruit juice. As mentioned above, citrus juices like lime and lemon would work well. However, orange is the best flavor for combating smokiness.

If the smokiness level doesn’t go down after mixing in orange juice, you might want to try some sweeter options. Try mango, pineapple, or apple, just a little at a time.

In order to really balance out the smokey flavor, you’ll need something with a complex profile. Grated ginger might be great here, as is a sweetener along with a hot ingredient. Brown sugar with sriracha or honey plus tobacco might do the trick.

Choosing a Good Sauce

At the end of the day, you have to be a bit picky about the barbeque sauce you choose. Balancing out the flavor might work for some, but it’s also important to buy quality sauce right off the bat. There are several delicious and classy options available online, so take your time and get the most likely choice.

Of course, you might have to pay a little extra in order to get quality barbeque sauce. However, we’d say that the experience is well worth the price.

Other Important Seasonings

There are several seasonings that go into the complex flavor of a quality barbeque sauce. If you’re intending to make one at home, make sure you have some high-quality seasonings on hand.

Kosher salt is an easy means for increasing the saltiness of your sauce, but you can also have tamari or soy sauce for that purpose. For an even more complex flavor, use ripe olives or anchovy paste.

In order to get extra depth plus texture in your sauce, you need some aromatic seasonings. These include chopped onions, minced garlic, and bell pepper. Herbs might also be a good idea, especially if you’re using sage, rosemary, cilantro, mint, or basil.

For the spices, choose whatever will work with the kind of dish you’re going to put your sauce on. If you’re going for a sweet sauce, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon will work well. If you want a savory barbeque sauce, use curry powder, mustard seeds or powder, paprika, cumin, etc.

Finally, there’s a way to add a smokey flavor even if there’s no smoker or a fire pit on hand. This particular seasoning is known as liquid smoke, and you can actually get it in several flavors such as oak, hickory, and applewood.


The perfect barbeque sauce might not be available on the shelves of any supermarket, but you can certainly whip it up in your kitchen! Don’t settle for anything that’s bland or too sweet; there’s always a way to get the sauce just right for everyone’s tastes when you have the proper seasonings.