Saucing before or after cooking—that is the question. It’s all a matter of taste. Serve this tangy sauce on the side after grilling or smoking brisket, chicken, bbq meatballs, or pork shoulder. Brushing the sauce on the meat at the end of grilling will create a sweet and spicy caramelized finish.–Matthew McCarry and Stacy Toth


Texas barbecue is all about the beef. And what you put on that beef. Traditionally, Texas barbecue sauce is a well-seasoned mixture of tomato, spices, celery, onions, and garlic, and it’s thinner and less sweet than Memphis and Kansas City sauces. Also, it’s generally used to marinate or baste meat, rather than as a condiment.

A platter of ribs covered with Texas-style barbecue sauce, and a glass of extra sauce on the side.

Texas-Style Barbecue Sauce

4.50 / 4 votes
We’ve spent years testing Texas Style barbecue sauces, and this tomato-based version is our favorite by far. We keep the spices mild, but the depth of flavor is no less intense.
David Leite
Servings40 servings | 2 1/2 cups
Calories8 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Total Time1 hour 50 minutes


  • 1/4 cup lard
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup natural ketchup, (use a sugar-free ketchup if you do the Paleo thing)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder


  • In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the lard. Add the onions, garlic, and celery, and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Add the ketchup, vinegar, water, Worcestershire, and black pepper and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • Spoon a few tablespoons sauce into a small bowl. Add the chili powder and stir until smooth.
  • Stir the chili powder mixture into the rest of the sauce. Remove from the heat and let stand for 1 hour.
  • That's it. You're done. The slightly chunky sauce is nice as is, but for a smoother consistency, purée it in a blender or with an immersion blender. This sauce is best served warm or at room temperature but it stores really well in the fridge for up to 5 days.
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Serving: 2 tablespoons, approximatelyCalories: 8 kcalCarbohydrates: 1 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gSodium: 97 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 g

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2013 Matthew McCarry and Stacy Toth. Photo © 2013 Aimee Buxton. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

We served this sauce with the smoked spare ribs. The sauce was nice and chunky with deep flavors that perfectly complemented the ribs.

I think 1/4 cup lard is more than is actually needed; 2 tablespoons would probably be just right. While the sauce was simmering, it appeared to be quite oily and I skimmed about 2 tablespoons of oil from the top of the sauce. There was still some oil left on top, but it seemed to incorporate into the sauce as the sauce rested.

I chose to make this recipe because my entire family loves barbecue pork. This BBQ Sauce recipe was a HUGE hit! Even my 4-year-old grandson loved the meat! Super easy and quick, about 20 minutes to prep. The sauce was a perfect match with ribs. All the rich, earthy flavors went so well together. Everyone ate everything on their plates and even wanted more.

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Really, really good!” That was my 12-year-old nephew’s assessment after he demolished a rack of baby back ribs doused with this barbecue sauce. Just a few minutes prior, my nephew had asked me to “not glop on the sauce,” as he had yet to try it and wasn’t certain if he’d like it. But at the table, he was slathering crazy amounts of extra sauce on each rib. Meanwhile, my husband nodded his agreement at my nephew’s proclamation, his mouth full of ribs.

I understand why. The sauce has a velvety texture from the lard and a remarkably cohesive and complex taste despite the fact that it calls for just a few everyday ingredients and is on the stove for just minutes. I was particularly grateful that the recipe had kid appeal even though the only sugar of any sort comes from the ketchup—and I was careful to use natural ketchup without any high-fructose corn syrup.

I used ground ancho chili powder rather than standard supermarket chili powder. Since then, I’ve made this numerous times, once with standard chili powder and we prefer the more mellow heat of ancho. I’ve also taken to using bacon drippings in place of lard just because it’s more economical and we always have it on hand for barbecue sauce emergencies, of which there’ve been a few since this recipe landed in our laps.

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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  1. I would like to make this but where can I get “good tasting” lard? I tried the supermarket but it didn’t taste fresh. Any suggestions? Thanks.

    1. Peggy, try the butcher. Also, oftentimes Latin grocery stores have good lard. Barring that, using bacon drippings. Loaded with flavor.