Sauce can be a controversial thing in the Lone Star State. Central Texas barbecue especially has a major focus on meat, and it can be frowned upon to douse your barbecue in sauce.
Some even believe that sauce on the table is a symbol of inferior quality barbecue.
But, in a state with a population of almost 30 million people, there are plenty of people that do love their barbecue saucy.
It’s smoky and full of pepper, making it a great sauce for robust proteins like beef brisket, ribs, and chopped beef.
This recipe will walk you through how to make a classic, Texas-style barbecue sauce that will give your barbecue a nice, flavorful kick.
What is Texas-style barbecue sauce?
While the style and flavor of sauce varies across the state depending on what region you’re in, the classic Central-Texas barbecue sauce is a savory, tomato-based sauce with a peppery kick.
Texas-style barbecue sauce is similar to Kansas City-style barbecue sauce, but much less sweet and with an extra dose of black pepper.
Some places will add ketchup to their sauce, but I find that tomato paste is a much better way to get a solid tomato flavor that doesn’t overly sweeten the sauce.
This sauce does not have very high sugar content, so it can withstand the heat of the grill or smoker during the cooking process better than its Kansas City counterpart. However, you still want to add the sauce towards the end of the cooking process to maintain its integrity.
Ingredients you’ll need
This sauce is quick and easy to make with simple ingredients that you probably have in the kitchen already.
This Texas classic starts with butter, as all good recipes do. You can use either salted or unsalted butter for this recipe.
Onions add a flavorful kick. I prefer to use white onion, but you can alternatively substitute sweet onion or yellow onion.
You want to make sure that you dice your onions as finely as possible so they are easier to blend when the sauce is done.
The component that gives the sauce a smooth, liquidity consistency is nothing more than a couple of cups of water.
You can alternatively use chicken broth or beef broth for a bit of added flavor, but be sure to pull back on the salt if you opt to use broth.
To add a bit of tomato flavor without thinning out the sauce too much, tomato paste is the perfect option.
In order to add a touch of sweetness to this sauce you want to add a bit of brown sugar.
You can use either light brown sugar or dark brown sugar, but I prefer to use light brown sugar so that I don’t overpower the sauce with too much molasses flavor.
The second sweetener in this sauce is honey. You can use whatever honey you have on hand, but I really like to use Texas Wildflower honey. I find that the flavor is sweet, but not overpowering and it compliments the other flavors in the sauce wonderfully.
Apple cider vinegar
To give the sauce a little tang and acidity, you want to add some vinegar.
You can opt to use distilled white vinegar or rice vinegar for this recipe, but I prefer to use apple cider vinegar because I find that the flavors pair nicely with the other components of the sauce.
To add another element of acidity and tang, you are going to squeeze the juice from a large lemon.
You can alternatively use store-bought, pre-squeezed lemon juice for this recipe, but be sure to check if the juice is concentrated.
A concentrated juice will result in too much of a citrus flavor and overpower the other ingredients in the sauce.
To add a little extra flavor, I like to add Worcestershire sauce to this recipe.
It adds a great, savory flavor to the sauce and helps balance the sweetness of the brown sugar and honey.
You can play around with the spices that you use in this sauce to give it the flavor you prefer.
I keep it simple with paprika for a smoky kick, some celery salt, plenty of coarse-ground black pepper, chili, and a bit of kosher salt.
Tools you’ll need
Medium-sized saucepan or pot
You need a saucepan or a pot that is at least 2 quarts for this recipe. I like to use a pan because I find that the sauce will come to a boil faster, but a pot is also perfectly fine.
Make sure that you choose one with a lid, as the sauce needs to simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes.
Large spoon or silicone spatula
Whatever spoon or utensil you usually use when making a sauce will work perfectly for this recipe.
I like to use a silicone spatula (as opposed to a wooden spoon) because the sauce won’t stick to it.
To give the sauce an even consistency without chunks of onion in it, I recommend blending the sauce when it’s finished simmering.
I like to use an immersion blender directly into the pan that I cook the sauce in, but if you don’t have an immersion blender you can alternatively use a regular blender.
Mason jar (or similar storage container)
You can store this sauce in the fridge for up to a week, so I recommend a container with a lid, as opposed to covering a bowl in plastic wrap.
You want a container with a good seal to prevent your sauce from spoiling prematurely, so I find that mason jars are really the best vessel to store homemade barbecue sauce.
What to serve Texas-style barbecue sauce with
This sauce is more savory than sweet and has a robust, peppery kick.
It does not have a very high sugar content, so it can withstand the heat from the grill very nicely. But, as with all sauces, you want to wait until the final portion of the cooking process so that it doesn’t burn.
It’s also a great sauce to serve on the table alongside your food.
Here are some great recipes that pair wonderfully with Texas-style barbecue sauce:
- Smoked brisket
- Smoked turkey wings
- Texas-style smoked turkey breast
- Whole smoked chicken
- Smoked chicken thighs
Texas-style Barbecue Sauce
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup white onion finely diced
- 2 cups water
- 1 can tomato paste
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 lemon juice only
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp celery salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp black pepper course grind
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
- Add the diced onions and sauté until the onions are translucent (about 3 minutes).
- Add the water, tomato paste, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, honey, and lemon juice and stir until well combined.
- Add the Worcestershire sauce and all of the seasonings and stir again.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, pop the lid on, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Blend the sauce with an immersion blender (or regular blender) until the sauce is smooth.
- Serve immediately or transfer to a mason jar (or similar storage container) and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.