Quick Emergency Barbecue Sauce

Quick Emergency Barbecue Sauce

Is running out of barbecue sauce an emergency? In my kitchen, it can be! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened my fridge looking for barbecue sauce only to realize I’m out! Honestly, I either have too many kinds cluttering up the fridge door or none at all. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between! But one thing I almost always have on hand is ketchup, and it makes a fab base for this Quick Emergency Barbecue Sauce.

Quick Emergency Barbecue Sauce

Quick Emergency Barbecue Sauce


The idea of this recipe, of course, is to make a barbecue sauce that’s easy enough, fast enough, and quick enough to get on the table (or to the grill) with what you might have on hand. The trick of it is to make one you’ll love and make sure it tastes fabulous with little time or effort.

About Quick Emergency Barbecue Sauce:

I love to tinker with recipes and I get a kick out of experimenting and of course, the best of them are going to show up here on my site, under Condiments & Sumpin’ Sumpin’s. You can take a peek if you’d like. And this recipe I’ve tinkered with over time, and if you’d like, go ahead and tinker, too. But just as is, I think you’re gonna love it. And unlike many of my other sauces that simmer away for a while, this one takes minutes to make.

It’s thick and rich (although you can thin it a bit if that’s more your style) glossy and it has just a little kick of spice, a touch of sweet and just the right amount of tang. It’s a definite lean towards a classic Kansas City Barbecue Sauce. It was gorgeous on my Slow Cooker Baby Back (or Spare) Ribs. It was a fabulous complement to a little meatloaf I made last week, and it went great on a turkey panini I tossed together for dinner…which means this is going to be a great versatile sauce that will go with just about anything.

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs (or Spare Ribs like These)

What Goes In The Sauce:

If you’re gonna make a sauce at home, then of course, you gotta have what goes in it! I don’t know what you’ve got in your pantry, so I’ll give you what I think is the best ingredients and ones that I love, and then give you some substitutions & a few suggestions. Just give it a taste after the quick simmer and be prepared to adjust a bit to suit. You might want it sweeter or with a little more spice or a little tangier, or a little smokier.

What I think are the transformative ingredients in this recipe is the butter, the mustard powder, brown sugar (or a little molasses), and the liquid smoke. They’re all in my pantry and you’ll see them in my Top Secret Super Stealth Arsenal of Ingredients (I know…grandious much?!) Use them if you have them. If not see the box, below, on How to Substitute or Make Do.

I do call for brown sugar in the recipe, and brown sugar is just a combination of molasses and white sugar. You can see my post on Homemade Brown Sugar if you’d like, but there’s no need to actually go through the process of making it for this recipe. If you’re going to sub, just add in your sugar and about a teaspoon of molasses. (That’s actually a little more molasses than you’ll see in brown sugar, but this recipe is better with more molasses.)

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs (or Spare Ribs like These)

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs (or Spare Ribs like These) with Quick Emergency Barbecue Sauce.

Making Quick Emergency Barbecue Sauce:

When you make the sauce, use a saucepan; no one wants to clean up sputters and spatters! Start out with a little butter, heat it up and toss in your ketchup…let the heat do its work for a minute or two. You’ll see it turn into kind of a mass and darken just a bit in color.

The rest is easy peasy…from there in go the rest of the ingredients! The only thing to be careful with – when you add the powders (and I used garlic powder and onion powder to make this quick and easy and also to keep the sauce smooth) make sure you stir it right away! If you don’t they could clump up and you’ll have lumps.

This sauce is going to be more liquidy when it’s hot and then thicken up more when it cools so keep that in mind as you make and serve it. You can always add a little more liquid but if you go too far, the only way to thicken it back up is to add more ketchup which skews the flavor or heat it up again, which takes time.

Saving Money on Quick Emergency Barbecue Sauce:

When you can get so many condiments so cheaply with strategic shopping, I’m betting that making your own with this recipe isn’t a huge money saver but hopefully it WILL save you a trip to the store! That being said, it’s really a bangin’ sauce and you gotta count something for quality and taste and customization!

Do shop well for all your condiments and watch the sales around Summer Holidays and stock up for the year! If you miss the summer sales, pick them up around the Superbowl. Vinegar is often on sale throughout the summer, too, but the best pricing is prior to Easter. You can find links for items likely to be on sale during any particular holiday on my post Win at the Grocers where I break it down.

I hope you all are having your best version of summer 2020 possible. My gosh, it’s been a rocky one and it seems there’s no end in sight to conflict and issues. Just hold your loved ones tight in your heart. Gather safely. Be Smart and be Strategic.

I’ve had a lot of not ok days these past few weeks. I plan on having more of them. And guess what? Not ok is ok, too. Hey, maybe it’s the “new ok!” But I’ve also been blessed with family, friends new and old and more than once, the kindness of strangers. I hope for the same for you!

Take care!



Quick Emergency Barbecue Sauce

  • Author: mollie kirby
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x
  • Category: Condiments
  • Cuisine: American


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (or more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons white wine or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • More water when finished to take to desired consistency
  • salt & pepper to taste, optional


Heat butter in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ketchup and allow to cook for a minute or two and then stir, and continue to cook until it slightly darkens in color. Add in the water, turn the heat down to medium and add the remaining ingredients, except the additional water and salt and pepper. Allow to barely simmer for two to three minutes. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings, add salt and pepper if needed and if too thick, slowly stir in a little at a time, the additional water to desired consistency.

Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold. Mixture will thicken as it cools.

Keywords: Barbecue, Barbecue Sauce, Brown Sugar, Condiments, Grilled or Smoked, ketchup, liquid smoke, molasses, Vinegar

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Quick Emergency Barbecue Sauce is easy & fast (with a lot of ingredient options), rich and tangy with just a touch of spicy-sweet. Under 10 minutes to make. #EmergencyBarbecueSauce #QuickBarbecueSauce #BarbecueSauceRecipe #BBQSauce #EmergencyBBQSauce #HomemadeBBQSauce

13 thoughts on “Quick Emergency Barbecue Sauce

  1. Ohmygosh YES! Not that long ago I had everything ready and then discovered the bottle of BBQ sauce I thought was in the fridge, was not! Completely out. Never occurred to me to make my own so I ended up making something else with the ingredients. Now I know. Thanks!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Jinjer!! Yep, been there done that! Or worse have a bottle and it looks like there is something in there but it won’t come out because it’s a stupid squeeze bottle!! Hate that!! 🙂

  2. Michelle

    This looks a lot like my homemade BBQ sauce – awesome! It wouldn’t be quite as fast, but I have made these sauces in a small crock pot. Cook on low for say 4 hours or so, or high for 1-2 hours and it’s come out great. I bet this sauce could be done that way too.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Genius idea!! I have never thought of using a crock pot! I do have thinner, longer cooking sauces that I’m going to try that way. Or for this one, maybe a little more liquid.

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