The Best Barbecue Sauces for Grilling

Searching for the best barbecue sauce is a quest involving a whole cast of characters. With so many styles and ingredients at play, there are innumerable versions, all touting unique flavors, ideal applications, and sometimes tried and true recipes that go back multiple generations.

Is it Texas- or Kansas City-style you’re after? Something to paint on a rack of ribs or mix up with a homemade batch of beans? Maybe you’re just looking for a way to enhance your weekend brunch Bloody Mary? Barbecue sauce can be used for so many dishes and recipes and anybody who appreciates grilling knows it is always in season, but that doesn’t mean just any sauce will do.

We’ve combed the scene to see what will elevate your at-home barbecue game. Granted, a homemade riff is tough to beat and if you have the ingredients and time, throw that apron on. However, if you’re just looking for a well-made sauce with attractive flavors and versatility when it comes to cuisine, check these selections out.

Hak’s Chipotle Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Hak’s Chipotle Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Creating a good barbecue sauce is a balancing act involving a host of flavor profiles. Hak’s Chipotle Bourbon finds harmony in sweetness, earthiness, and smokiness. A bit of added bourbon ties the rustic flavors of chipotle together with the richness of molasses and the pleasant tang of vinegar and tomato. Bold but well-rounded, this sauce is an ideal match for a burger (beef or meatless), giving the classic backyard Americana dish a hit of something a little different.

Stubb’s Original Bar-B-Q Sauce

stubbs original barbecue sauce

An instantly-recognizable name in the sauce circuit, Stubb’s has become one of the most famous Texas exports. What began as a small barbecue operation in Lubbock is now an Austin institution, with a whole family of sauces. The original is tough to argue with, a dialed-in recipe with just the right amount of pepper and a lasting flavor. If a good sauce benefits from patience on the stove, this one was never rushed to the bottle. While great with everything from french fries to fried chicken, ribs have never tasted better than in the company of this delicious sauce.

Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce

Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce

Sweet Baby Ray’s original recipe sauce is as stand up and utilitarian as they come. With enough sweetness to take the sting out of spicy food and enough depth to add a new layer or two to pulled pork or beer can chicken, it’s as tasty as it is nimble. The recipe debuted back in 1985 in Chicago, beating out some 700 other entries in the famed Mike Royko Rib-off. And we’re not gonna lie, a squeeze container is kinda nice, especially with the amount you’re going to want to use. We suggest it with grilled or crock-pot chicken, as it has just enough tang to impart a burst of energy into poultry.

Bill’s Best Barbecue Sauce

Daddy Sam’s Ginger Jalapeño Bar-B-Que Sauce

Inspired by Kansas City barbecue, Bill’s Best original is the perfect marriage between candied flavors and an underlying smokiness. Just about every barbecue sauce includes molasses but this batch calls on organic blackstrap molasses for a fuller flavor. The taste is reminiscent of an artisanal version of Dr. Pepper, if such a thing existed. As such, it pairs exquisitely with a nice steak. Extra credit points go to Bill’s Best for being certified organic.

Daddy Sam’s Ginger Jalapeño Bar-B-Que Sauce

Daddy Sam’s Ginger Jalapeño Bar-B-Que Sauce

Some recipes have long outlived their creators. Daddy Sam’s is one of those, with the early editions devised by Sam Oglesby himself back in the late 19th Century in small-town west Texas. The label has since mastered a ginger jalapeño offering, a full-bodied sauce with the invigorating muscle of ginger and a kick of spice. It’s fantastic on an assortment of grill-ables, but we especially like it with hearty vegetables like grilled portobello mushrooms, roasted potatoes, and baked beans.

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