This award-winning Memphis BBQ mop sauce manages to achieve that elusive balance of sweet, spicy, tangy, and salty. You probably don’t need us to tell you how to use it—though we’re going to anyways. Slather it liberally atop grilled chicken, ribs, brisket, burgers, chops during the final minutes before you pull them off your grill. And, though technically mop sauces are designed to be mopped onto something, you can also dribble this all-purpose sauce with pulled pork or shredded chicken for a memorable sandwich.

A white bowl with some Memphis BBQ mop sauce and a spoon in it with a bottle of sauce on the side.

Memphis BBQ Mop Sauce

4.67 / 3 votes
This Memphis BBQ mop sauce is an amazing yet simple concoction of everyday ingredients that captures that elusive balance of sweet, spicy, salty, and tangy. Slather onto brisket, chicken, ribs, burgers, and pulled pork. Here’s how to make it.
David Leite
Servings24 servings | 3 cups total
Calories29 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time35 minutes


  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1 /2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon natural hickory liquid smoke


  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all the ingredients except the liquid smoke and bring to a gentle boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Whisk in the liquid smoke until it’s incorporated and, if a mellower smoke presence is desired, simmer for a few minutes.
  • Let the sauce cool, transfer it to a jar, and refrigerate for up to a month. The sauce will thicken more as it cools.
  • To use the sauce, let it come to room temperature and “mop” it generously over anything you’re grilling during the final minutes over heat.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: You do want to be certain to mop grilled anything with this sauce until just minutes before taking things off the heat so the sugars in it don’t scorch.

Award Winning BBQ Sauces Cookbook

Adapted From

Award-Winning BBQ Sauces and How to Use Them

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 2 tablespoonsCalories: 29 kcalCarbohydrates: 7 gProtein: 1 gFat: 0.3 gSaturated Fat: 0.03 gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1 gTrans Fat: 0.001 gSodium: 371 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 5 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2020 Ray Sheehan. Photo © 2020 Ken Goodman. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Hits all the notes you want in a BBQ sauce. It’s very well balanced. Be patient, let it simmer slowly for the full 25 minutes, and you’ll be rewarded with a slightly thicker sauce with a tangy sweetness, a little spice, and just a hint of the smoky at the end. The combination of the spicy and the sweet with the vinegar adding a slight tang and finishes with the smokey flavor which balances it all.

Initially I was worried about the mustard. It seemed to overpower. As it cooked, it blended in better. Be sure to blend the liquid smoke carefully and let it cook a little longer (about 5 minutes or so). At the end of the cooking, I tested it again and the mustard didn’t quite disappear in the background but it was a little too much. If I was to make this again, without the liquid smoke, I would use about half the mustard. Once, you add the liquid smoke, the mustard is no longer the first thing you taste. The spice in the mustard blends well with smoke.

A stainless steel pot partially filled with Memphis BBQ mop sauce, and a whisk resting inside.

This recipe was easy and most of the ingredients are pantry staples. The flavor is a nice combo of sweet and heat thanks to the brown sugar and liquid fire. It paired perfectly with chicken.

This was a perfectly delicious BBQ sauce. I think it’s a real crowd pleaser, it has it all: sweet, spicy, tangy, salty. It delivered exactly what it promised. My husband is from Texas and is very particular about his sauce, his response was that he “didn’t hate it.” Which is about as big a compliment anything could get from him.

The timing on the sauce was perfect, I thickened it for 23 minutes. I used the sauce to glaze baby back ribs on the grill. It got sticky and amazing!

With its sweet heat and tang, this is a vinegar- and black pepper-forward BBQ sauce. The pepper gets you in the back of the throat. I might use slightly less black pepper next time. Thinner than your typical store-bought bottled sauce, it’s delicious drizzled over pulled pork, adding flavor and moisture to the meat. I’m going to use it to make an oven-baked BBQ chicken. It could be used as a basting sauce during the last minutes of cooking on the grill.

It has a good sugar content so be careful about it burning. I recommend using a non-reactive saucepan and stirring and scraping the sides of the pan with a heatproof spatula every few minutes while the sauce is simmering as it tends to thicken faster on the sides of the hot pan.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This sauce is just exquisite – I found myself putting it on all sorts foods. The recipe has a fair amount of heat. I did find that it mellowed just a bit over the next few days to the point of perfection. Very much appreciate you sharing this one with us!