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Add the perfect balance of sweet and tangy to your favorite barbecue dishes with this homemade Honey BBQ Sauce. It is so easy to make and better than anything from a bottle. And there is no ketchup in this recipe!
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Homemade Honey BBQ Sauce
Barbecue sauce is a very personal thing. With so many styles and variations, there really is something for everyone. In fact, when I make Instant Pot Ribs or my husband puts a brisket on the smoker, I usually set out a selection of sauces so each person can choose their favorite.
Most of the time, I prefer something tangy and a little bit spicy. Because while a sweet sauce is just right for some dishes, some can be just a little too sugary. That’s why I love this Honey BBQ sauce recipe!
Yes, of course, it is sweet. But the sweetness comes from honey, brown sugar, and natural, no sugar added apple juice. So it’s not just pure sugar, but ingredients that also add to the depth of flavor and give it a balanced, robust sweetness. And with mustard and apple cider vinegar, it is toned down with the perfect tangy bite.
Why This Recipe Works
First, there is no ketchup in this recipe. That is the first ingredient in so many barbecue sauce recipes. But when you start with tomato paste, you have complete control over the sweetness and spices. It means you have to add a couple of extra ingredients to get the right flavor and texture, but it is totally worth it. And you also have the freedom to adjust every component to your taste buds’ preference.
Plus, by starting with tomato paste, you know you aren’t adding any high fructose corn syrup or other preservatives.
And since you know each and every ingredient, you can feel confident that you will be enjoying a gluten free BBQ sauce.
What is Honey BBQ Sauce Made Of?
- Shallots: Mince them very small. You can also use red onion.
- Olive Oil: For sauteeing those shallots and adding a bit of richness.
- Apple Juice: Be sure to use 100% apple juice.
- Tomato Paste: You’ll need a 6-ounce can.
- Honey: For a slightly different flavor, try maple syrup.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Adds that perfect tangy flavor.
- Brown Sugar: Sweetens it up a bit more with the subtle smokiness of the molasses.
- Mustard: While I usually use yellow or brown mustard, Dijon or whole grain mustard work too, and add a slightly different flavor.
How to Make Honey BBQ Sauce
The full quantities and directions are in the recipe card, but it is super simple to make.
Saute the shallots: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the shallots and saute for about 5 minutes until translucent and tender.
Add the remaining ingredients: Add the apple juice, tomato paste, honey, vinegar, brown sugar, and mustard and mix until combined.
Simmer till thickened: Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes, or until it’s thickened to your desired consistency.
How to Store Homemade BBQ Sauce
After letting it cool for at least 10 minutes, I like to transfer my Honey Barbecue Sauce to glass mason jars. It’s your choice on the size. I usually pour it all into a pint jar, but you can use multiple smaller jars too. Then store your tightly sealed jars in the refrigerator.
You can also use an airtight container, but I do recommend glass because it will cause plastic ones to discolor and absorb the odors.
How Long Will Barbecue Sauce Last?
If tightly sealed and refrigerated, it will keep for 1-2 weeks. If you want it to last longer, try freezing or canning the sauce.
Freezing Barbecue Sauce
Let your sauce cool partially for up to an hour, then transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely. Unlike refrigerating the sauce, when freezing, you will want to avoid glass and either store it in plastic containers or freezer storage bags. You can even freeze it in ice cube trays, then put the frozen cubes into zip top bags. Then place the containers or bags in the freezer.
You can freeze BBQ sauce for up to 6 months. After this time it will still be safe to eat, but it might suffer from freezer burn or a change in the flavor. When you are ready to enjoy it, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. You can also run cool water over the container.
Another option for extending the shelf life is to can your Honey BBQ Sauce. You can find information on how to do that here.
Swap the sweetener: Turn this recipe into a Maple BBQ Sauce by replacing the honey with real maple syrup.
Try a fall twist: Use apple cider instead of the juice for a more intense apple flavor in the Honey Barbecue Sauce recipe.
Make it tropical: Try pineapple juice instead of apple for your summer barbecues.
Spice it up: Add some chopped jalapeno or other spicy peppers when you saute the shallots. Or for a different type of heat, try adding fresh ginger.
What to Make with Honey BBQ Sauce
Try this recipe in place of bottled BBQ sauce in any of your favorite saucy barbecue recipes like these:
- Baked BBQ Chicken Breasts
- BBQ Turkey Meatballs
- Monterey BBQ Chicken Dip
- Instant Pot Pulled Pork
- BBQ Chicken Pizza
Honey BBQ Sauce
- Heat a medium-sized saucepan over low heat. Add the oil and shallots (or onions) and cook for about five minutes, until translucent and tender, stirring occasionally.
- Add the apple juice, tomato paste, honey, vinegar, brown sugar and mustard and mix well.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often.
- Reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes, or until it's thickened to your desired consistency.
- Allow the sauce to cool for at least 10 minutes. Then use right away or store in an airtight jar or container in the refrigerator for up to 1 to 2 weeks.