Smoky Bourbon BBQ Sauce is tangy, with smoky flavors, spicy and sweet! An easy, quick and totally mouthwatering BBQ sauce recipe for all your saucin’ needs. This recipe is vegetarian and vegan friendly and easily gluten free.
This post was updated June 2019 with new photography and additional notes.
Homemade BBQ Sauce is the Best!
Have you made homemade BBQ sauce? I wasn’t a believer, until I tasted it and then learned how to make BBQ sauce from scratch.
I have my standard go-to store-bought sauce… and it’s a good one when in a pinch. However, I found that I can control the flavors and ingredients easily when I make homemade barbecue sauce. And, I really love a sweet and spicy, whiskey BBQ sauce.
Hey, my Texas roots are showin, y’all!
And it’s so easy to whip up a batch of barbecue sauce, so why not? IMO, homemade BBQ sauce is the best BBQ sauce!
How to Make Homemade BBQ Sauce from Scratch
It takes a few pantry staples and 15 minutes of simmering for saucy BBQ sauce heaven to be made. In summary, here’s how to make this smoky BBQ sauce (see recipe card for details):
- First, in a sauce pan, whisk the ketchup, brown sugar, adobo sauce, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Balsamic vinegar, liquid smoke, yellow mustard, apple juice, Bourbon whiskey (see note***) and salt.
- Second, bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat down.
- Third, simmer the mixture for 15 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken.
- Last, remove from heat and it’s ready to be used, or chilled for later.
The mixture will be smooth and will thicken as it cools. Use right away in your favorite BBQ recipe or store in the refrigerator or freezer for later.
A Combination of Mouthwatering Flavors
My favorite part of this smoky BBQ sauce recipe? The whiskey and smokiness of the adobo and liquid smoke. Although the alcohol cooks off, the bourbon flavor remains. Combine the interest of bourbon with the smokiness adobo sauce and liquid smoke, the subtle sweetness of apple juice and brown sugar, and the tang from vinegar, you’ll be slathering this on anything to savor this mouthwatering Smoky Bourbon BBQ Sauce.
A spoon will work too, if inclined…
How Long will Bourbon BBQ Sauce Last?
A long time, unless you devour it all! I typically double batch and freeze for later. It’s really nice to have BBQ sauce on hand when you need it.
- Store BBQ sauce in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- Freeze barbecue sauce for up to six months!
Can Vegetarians and Vegans Eat BBQ Sauce?
Absolutely yes! But if following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, you’ll need to pay attention to the ingredients. For this recipe, one ingredient in particular.
I’ve formulated this Bourbon BBQ Sauce recipe to be vegetarian and vegan friendly with only one easy swap: vegetarian Worcestershire instead of traditional Worcestershire because traditional Worcestershire has anchovies in it. That’s the only ingredient that needs special attention if vegan or vegetarian! Vegan BBQ sauce tastes just as delicious as its original self.
A Few BBQ Sauce Recipe Notes
- Worcestershire sauce: the original is not vegetarian because it contains anchovies. So, to be sure you’re making vegetarian and vegan homemade barbecue sauce sauce, look for vegan friendly Worcestershire sauce. I like Annie’s and Wizard’s. Their flavor is remarkably similar to the original!
- Coconut Sugar may be used instead of brown sugar in this recipe. However, the sauce will not be quite as thick, and it’s a little less sweet.
- Find chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in the Mexican ingredient section of the grocery store. It comes in a 7 oz can. Look for gluten free if needed. The leftovers freeze beautifully!
- If gluten free, make sure the Worcestershire is gluten free. Wizard’s is.
- This barbecue sauce freezes with ease. I typically make a double batch and freeze for use through the summer. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight when ready to use.
Things to Slather Smoky Bourbon BBQ Sauce on
- Grilled BBQ Cauliflower Ranch Bowls
- Portobello BBQ Sandwiches
- Black Bean Burgers with Saucy Onions
- Vegetarian BBQ Baked Beans
- TOFU BBQ with Summer Veggies
- Black Eyed Pea Collard Rolls
- Black Eyed Peas with Smoky Collards
Smoky Bourbon BBQ Sauce
- 1 C (175g) Light Brown Sugar*
- 2/3 C (160) Apple Juice
- 2/3 C (195g) Ketchup
- 1/3 C (65g) Bourbon Whiskey (see note for gluten free)***
- 3 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
- 2 TBS Worcestershire Sauce vegetarian & vegan friendly, gluten free if needed
- 2 tsp Adobo Sauce** look for gluten free if needed
- 2 tsp Yellow Mustard
- 1 1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke optional but bumps up smokiness!
- 1/4 tsp Tabasco optional - to turn up the heat!
- In a small saucepot, whisk together the brown sugar, apple juice, ketchup, bourbon, vinegar, salt, worchestershire, adobo, and mustard together on medium-high heat. As soon as it starts to boil, turn the heat to medium-low and bring the sauce to a simmer. This sauce will boil over and make a mess if left to boil, so watch it closely.
- Simmer for 15 minutes. Whisk as needed to incorporate all the ingredients. The sauce will start to thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool. It will continue to thicken. Add the optional liquid smoke and tabasco. Adjust Tabasco heat to taste.
- Store for up to two weeks in the refrigerator in a lidded container or up to six months in the freezer (be sure to leave at least a 1/2" head space if freezing).