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Sweet and Sour Barbecue Sauce

H?l?ne Dujardin
Prep Time:
5 mins
1/2 cup

Chef notes

Sure, it’s easy to buy barbecue sauce at the store, but if you’ve never tried making your own at home, you’re in for a treat. 

Like peanut butter and jelly and mac and cheese, barbecue is ubiquitous in American cuisine. While the history of barbecue sauce is a bit murky, it’s unanimously agreed that the first traces of this condiment date back to the 17th century. The first version of the sauce were developed by Dominican missionaries who created a sauce of lime juice and pepper to flavor meat. In the 18th century, multiple cookbooks reference vinegar as an added ingredient, which is more similar to the sauce we’re familiar with today.

Over the next 100 years, different ingredients were added to the sauce, and regions began developing their own styles. The Carolinas are known for a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, while Texas favors heavily seasoned sauces with chilies, cumin and pepper. Alabama is known for its mayonnaise-based white sauce, and Memphis relies on molasses as a sweetener. In 1909, The Georgia Barbecue Sauce company sold barbecue sauce commercially for the first time. In 1940, Heinz was the first company to sell it by the bottle. 

This sweet and sour sauce draws inspiration for various regions, as well as flavors typically found in Asian cuisine. To make it, combine sweet and sour sauce, ketchup, molasses, balsamic vinegar and chili paste together. It’s great brushed over ribs, smothered on pork shoulder or even as a dipping sauce for wings. 

Get Ingredients: If you don’t have everything you need on hand, you can easily purchase all of the ingredients (just click the orange button below that says ‘Get Ingredients’). You can pick and choose exactly what ingredients you need based on what’s in your pantry and they’ll be on your doorstep before you know it. 

Technique Tip: Barbecue sauce can be made up to one week in advance and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Make sure to let it come to room temperature before using. 

Swap Option: Balsamic vinegar works well in this recipe, but feel free to experiment with other kinds like red wine vinegar, Champagne vinegar and even rice wine vinegar.


  • 1/4 cup sweet and sour sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili paste (optional)
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In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients until combined. Serve alongside slow-cooker pork ribs.