Simple with a touch of intrigue works. That’s the lesson we learned with this honey barbecue sauce. Pantry ingredients. Less than half an hour of effort. Yet sufficiently complex to yield lasting returns. Consider it for ribs, wings, pulled pork, smoked or grilled chicken, burgers, anyplace you’d otherwise pull out the store-bought stuff, which we suspect you may banish after trying this.–Renee Schettler Rossi

A half-full jar of honey barbecue sauce with a spoon dripping excess sauce back into the jar.

Honey Barbecue Sauce

5 from 1 vote
This honey barbecue sauce is easy to make with a handful of pantry ingredients including ketchup, vinegar, molasses, honey, and spices. So long, store-bought sauce.
David Leite
Servings24 servings | 3 cups
Calories62 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time35 minutes


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses (NOT blackstrap molasses)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon smoked or hot paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder


  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, thoroughly whisk all the ingredients together. Bring to a gentle boil, whisking frequently.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer, still whisking frequently, until the sauce has thickened slightly and coats the back of a spoon, 15 to 20 minutes. The sauce will thicken even more as it cools.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: The mustard and ketchup may not look like they are blending correctly in the beginning, but don’t worry, by the end of the cooking time they’ll be fully incorporated.

  • Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature.
  • Transfer the sauce to a jar or other sealable container. Refrigerate for at least a couple days and up to 1 month before using.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: As with many things, this honey barbecue sauce becomes more nuanced and complex with time. If you can, make it at least a couple days before you intend to use it.

Award Winning BBQ Sauces Cookbook

Adapted From

Award-Winning BBQ Sauces and How to Use Them

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 2 tablespoonsCalories: 62 kcalCarbohydrates: 16 gProtein: 0.3 gFat: 0.1 gSaturated Fat: 0.01 gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.04 gSodium: 203 mgFiber: 0.2 gSugar: 15 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

I don’t have a grill any longer, but every now and then I will broil something in the oven. This recipe looked pretty easy to make and, as it was honey based over brown sugar, I figured it wouldn’t be so cloyingly sweet as some bbq sauces can be. Plus its healthier, as I’ll take honey over sugar or corn syrup every day of the week!

Instead of pulling something store-bought out of the pantry, in about 5 quick minutes, you’ll have this fantastic BBQ sauce on the stovetop and cooking away, ready to mop onto your ribs, chicken, or steak in less than half an hour.

It’s tangy-sweet and you get a faint hint of the mustard and molasses as well as a sharp finish with each bite. I used smoked pimento as my paprika. The consistency was perfect—not too thick or thin, as I did the back-of-the-spoon test and it had good viscosity. I had it over chicken. It’s a keeper.

I think my next batch will have a bit more Dijon, and I might try some apple cider vinegar to see how that works. This is a recipe I’ll keep starred in my collection, as it’s easily adaptable for you to customize to your own taste!

This has to be one of the best barbeque sauces I have ever tasted. I used it on beef back ribs during the last 10 minutes of grilling and it was absolutely delicious. The sauce was sweet but not too much with a hint of spice. All the ingredients in this recipe work well together, and once made, there’s enough sauce for several dishes. This week I’ll be grilling chicken and I’m hoping this sauce will work its magic on that too.

I used sweet Hungarian paprika. One change: I was out of onion powder so I did add 1/2 small onion diced to the sauce to avoid a trip to the store. However, I don’t think this change affected the overall taste of the sauce.

Excellent recipe that I’ll be making again.

Tangy, spicy, sweet. Tangy hit me first. This is a bold bbq sauce with lots of oomph from the three notes. It could stand a little refinement, but we liked this sauce.

This cooked until it thickened somewhat, but I think I would have liked a little thicker sauce. Hard to achieve that, though, with the amount of vinegar. I love vinegar, but this is not for the faint of heart.

I used smoked paprika. I think I would have liked fresh or dehydrated onion pieces in this instead of or in addition to powder.

We used this on baked chicken breasts and I’m planning to use some more in baked beans. And it looks like the photo, down to the way it drips off a spoon.

I have two weaknesses in life: handbags and condiments. I’m always on the lookout for new sauces (that maybe I can keep in said handbag for emergencies), especially for grilled chicken and for dipping all the things. Bonus points if I can make said sauce with things I already have on hand. Even better when I can throw it all together in under an hour using only 1 pan.

Here’s the thing about this sauce—it doesn’t really shine until about day 2 or 3. When you’re done simmering, don’t get discouraged when it just tastes like spiced ketchup. Let it cool and stash it in the fridge. You’ll be rewarded with a sweet and savory and slightly smoky (I used smoked paprika instead of sweet) sauce that works as well on grilled chicken as it does with your kids’ chicken nuggets.

This recipe halves easily with no changes in cook time. Speaking of cooking time, I simmered the sauce for 25 minutes instead of 15. It was awfully runny, and I do like a barbecue sauce that makes me want to sing Carly Simon songs when squeezing it from the bottle. You’ll find it does thicken upon standing into a thick and glossy barbecue sauce you can easily customize to suit any taste. Halving the recipe yields just over a cup when you simmer a tad longer.

We thought this bbq sauce was so much better than our favorite store-bought brand!

I made a half batch of this sauce since I didn’t want to have a ton leftover and served it as a dipping sauce for crisp chicken fingers. Wow, it was fabulous and we were eating it right out of the bowl!

I ended up with just under 1 2/3 cups sauce by halving all ingredients and wished I had made a full batch! My husband now wants to smoke a Boston butt to have with this sauce! Not bad, for a sauce that comes together in minutes with ingredients you probably already have on hand!

I tasted the sauce as it was just starting to simmer and it was very vinegar/mustard forward and literally opened up my sinuses! After cooling down, it mellowed to a more balanced sauce that wasn’t overly sweet but had a little kick at the end. Then, after a few hours in the fridge, it mellowed even further and developed into a flavorful, sweet, and smokey BBQ sauce that was heads and tails better than our favorite store-bought brand. I used smoked paprika to lend its smokiness to this sauce.

So easy, and so good! We’ll be making this BBQ sauce instead of buying it now!

I am by no means an expert on southern barbeque sauces, but this looks to me like a western North Carolina sauce as opposed to an eastern NC sauce. Both are vinegar-based, but the Western sauce has ketchup while the Eastern does not. There are so many varied preferences for BBQ sauces AND very specific regional differences that you should feel free to experiment with this recipe. If you follow the recipe precisely, it will produce a sauce exactly as described—a beautiful amber-brown color and a sweet, sticky honey sauce with a mild kick from the vinegar and mustard. But if your preference is for a slightly sweeter sauce, feel free to add a bit more honey. There is plenty of spicy “kick,” but if you want even more heat, you can always add some hot sauce, cayenne, or crushed red pepper flakes.

I let the sauce simmer for 20 minutes to get what I considered the right thickness, i.e., it will nicely coat the back of a wooden spoon and leave an indentation when you run your finger down the spoon. The sauce did thicken a bit more when it was completely cooled, so don’t worry if your sauce is still a bit thin when you finish cooking it. The mustard and ketchup may not look like they are blending correctly in the beginning, but by the end of the cooking time they should be fully incorporated. If you feel you want to incorporate them more quickly, try stirring with a whisk rather than a spoon or spatula.

Tip for adding honey: to avoid a struggle getting your honey out of the measuring cup, just spray the cup lightly with cooking spray before adding the honey and it will slide right out into the pan!

This sauce is so much better for us than store-bought (way too much sugar, sodium, etc.) and so easy to make with simple ingredients you probably already have sitting in your pantry.

I am planning to use this with grilled spareribs.

I don’t usually sing the praises of sauces, but this one is SO very good. Just the right amount of vinegar bite softened with the honey’s sweetness and the “Hmmmm what is that?” rich mystery of the molasses. It’s simple to make with pantry ingredients and created a sauce so good that my Mom asked for a jar to take home.

I used a sweet paprika as my family doesn’t like much spice, but adding a hot paprika could change that for a spicier taste. I bet a smoked paprika would change the flavor profile yet again.

I did let the sauce sit on the burner when it was turned off for a further 5 minutes to thicken a bit more, but it was pretty good at the 15 minute mark. However when it had cooled completely, it had thickened to the viscosity of a commercial barbecue sauce and was perfect. I would recommend making this early in the day you want to use it or even the day before.

This recipe, while simple, could be adapted in a multitude of ways to fit your personal taste. I used it on a pound of grilled chicken wings and some burgers for dinner. My Mom used some of hers for a trout fillet she baked the next day and called me to tell me how good it was. This is a barbeque sauce I will be making on repeat this summer and fall.

This is incredibly easy to make and you can use pantry ingredients. You don’t need to go out to buy anything, especially if you have a good spice cabinet. For me, it’s too much vinegar and too little honey flavor, but for my husband, he liked the vinegar taste.

I took an additional 5 min of simmering time because my husband didn’t think it looked very thickened. The sauce definitely thickened slightly more after but I wouldn’t call this a thick sauce.

This is a tangy barbecue sauce that’s great on shrimp, chicken, or ribs. The recipe couldn’t be easier and includes ingredients most families probably have on hand. It’s simple and needs just one pot and one measuring cup to get done, so there’s little effort and little clean up.

I used pimenton paprika that I brought home from a trip to Spain—spicy hot. We served it with shrimp and it was delicious.

Who knew such a tasty barbecue sauce could be made with ingredients you most likely already have at home! Ketchup, vinegar, molasses, honey, mustard, and pantry spices all effortlessly combine in a saucepan to create a tangy yet slightly sweet sauce that really livens up whatever you have in mind for dinner.

I cooked my sauce for 15 minutes and it was a lovely texture and had thickened slightly at this point.

I slathered this sauce on a braised pork loin, but I can see this being a hit with roast chicken, pulled pork, pan-seared salmon, or ribs. I used 1 1/2 cups with my 2-pound pork loin and am freezing the rest to use on a whole roasted chicken later this week. I served the BBQ pork with some home fries and roasted broccolini.

I really loved the flavor of this sauce and will dog-ear the recipe so I can revisit it again for a quick sauce idea.

Barbecue sauce is my desert island condiment and this recipe makes me wonder why I’ve never made it before. This honey barbecue sauce was incredibly easy, made with basic ingredients, and the final product is great.

I opted for Hungarian hot smoked paprika. I used the sauce on smoked chicken and for dipping roast potatoes.

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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