The 8 Best Barbecue Sauces of 2023 (2023)

Barbecue sauce is a serious and highly debatable topic. Depending on which BBQ enthusiast you ask, the best barbecue sauce can range from vinegary Carolina-style to thick and a little sweet, like you’d find in Kansas City.

The Spruce Eats Top Picks

Our best overall pick is the Rufus Teague Touch O' Heat BBQ Sauce because it's thick with a little bit of smokiness, and slightly sweet with just the right amount of heat. For those looking for spicy, we recommend the Cowtown Night Of The Living Bar-B-Q Sauce.

Of course, it all comes down to personal preference, but no matter which style is your favorite, one thing most people can agree on is that the right sauce can elevate everything from BBQ ribs to juicy chicken to tofu. In an ideal world, you’d be able to make your barbecue sauce from scratch every time, but bottled barbecue sauces have come a long way (and come pretty close to the homemade stuff).

With high-quality ingredients and that bold barbecue-y taste you’re looking for, these are the best barbecue sauces you can find on the shelves.

Best Overall

Rufus Teague Touch O' Heat BBQ Sauce

The 8 Best Barbecue Sauces of 2023 (1)

What We Like

  • Balance of sweet and heat

  • Gluten-free

  • No high-fructose corn syrup

What We Don't Like

  • A little acidic

  • Can be overly thick

The Rufus Teague Touch O’ Heat BBQ Sauce has all of the things that make barbecue sauce great: It’s thick with a little bit of smokiness and slightly sweet with just the right amount of heat without being overpowering. Reminiscent of its origin, the barbecue sauce is also unique in that it comes in a whiskey bottle.

A genuineKansas City barbecuesauce, the Rufus Teague BBQ Sauce is good on just about everything, from ribs to chicken topulled pork sandwiches. And it’s made with ingredients without any additives or high-fructose corn syrup.

Price at time of publish: $22

Weight: 16 ounces | Calories (per 2 Tbsp. serving): 70 | Type/Flavor Profile: Kansas City, smoky, sweet, a touch of spice

Best for Ribs

Stonewall Kitchen Baby Back Rib Sauce

The 8 Best Barbecue Sauces of 2023 (2)

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What We Like

  • Perfect for grilled meats

  • Smooth drippy texture

What We Don't Like

  • Sugar is first ingredient

  • Pricey

If you’re looking for the perfect barbecue sauce for ribs, look no further than Stonewall Kitchen Baby Back Rib Sauce. ThisMemphis-style barbecuesauce is tangy with a little bit of sweetness, and it has a slightly thin texture that’s ideal for evenly coating yourrack of ribs. That’s not all it’s good for, though. It’s also an excellent choice for marinating meats, adding to recipes, and dipping. While it does have some sugar, it’s also partly sweetened with passionfruit juice, which adds some beautiful tartness as well.

Price at time of publish: $14

Weight: 11 ounces | Calories (per 2 Tbsp. serving): 35 | Type/Flavor Profile: Memphis-style, tangy, sweet

Best Gluten-Free

Stubb's Original Legendary BBQ Sauce

The 8 Best Barbecue Sauces of 2023 (3)

What We Like

  • Sweet and tangy

  • Short ingredient list

What We Don't Like

  • A little on the tomato-y side

  • Thinner than others

Stubb’s Original Bar-B-Q Sauce was born in 1968 when Stubb opened a Texas barbecue joint that was a hit among BBQ-lovers everywhere. While it wasn’t bottled at the time, the made-from-scratch barbecue sauce perfectly blended tomato, vinegar, molasses, and black pepper to create a sweet and tangy topping for anything you could imagine.

Now, you can take it home with you, and this bottled version is inspired by the original recipe, with a short ingredient list that would make Stubb proud. It pairs well with all types of meat, from ribs to homemade meatloaf.

Price at time of publish: $7

Weight: 18 ounces | Calories (per 2 Tbsp. serving): 30 | Type/Flavor Profile: Texas-born, tangy, sweet

Best for Chicken

Heinz Carolina Vinegar Style Tangy BBQ Sauce

The 8 Best Barbecue Sauces of 2023 (4)

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What We Like

  • Balanced flavor

  • Versatile

What We Don't Like

  • A little thin

  • Too much vinegar

When it comes to condiments, Heinz is already a household name. But the culinary giant also teamed up with Sam Jones—the heir to the legendary Skylight Inn BBQ inNorth Carolina—to create one of the best barbecue sauces around. ThisCarolina-style barbecue sauceis made with a mixture of white and apple cider vinegar, then blended with some sweetness and spices for a one-of-a-kind tangy flavor that’s great on any meat, including chicken, pork, and ribs. And it comes in a convenient squeeze bottle, so you can easily pinch out as much or as little as you want.

Price at time of publish: $19

Weight: 18.6 ounces | Calories (per 2 Tbsp. serving): 35 | Type/Flavor Profile: Carolina-style, tangy, sweet

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Best Organic

Good Food For Good Organic BBQ Sauce

The 8 Best Barbecue Sauces of 2023 (5)

What We Like

  • Organic ingredients

  • No added sugar

What We Don't Like

  • A little thick

  • Expensive

With simple organic ingredients, the Good Food for Good Classic BBQ Sauce proves that condiments don’t have to be complicated and unnatural to be delicious. This barbecue sauce is made with a base of apple cider vinegar and tomato paste and sweetened only with date paste, for a perfect balance of sweet and bold, without any added sugars. Thanks to spices and a little mustard, it has a slight kick, but it’s still family-friendly.

Price at time of publish: $8

Weight: 9.5 ounces | Calories (per 2 Tbsp. serving): 15 | Type/Flavor Profile: sweet, spicy

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Best Carolina Gold

Lillie’s Q Gold Barbecue Sauce

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What We Like

  • Tangy and sweet

  • Versatile

What We Don't Like

  • Can be a little too sweet

  • Thin

South Carolinais known for its gold barbecue sauce—a mustard-based condiment that has some tang, sweetness, and a lot of deliciousness. And Lillie’s Q, inspired by Grandma Lillie, a BBQ-enthusiast from the South, is one of the best there is. It has a distinctive, sweet, yet slightly spicy and tangy flavor that lends well to pork and chicken. It’s ideal formarinating, slathering, and dipping.

Price at time of publish: $13

Weight: 20 ounces | Calories (per 2 Tbsp. serving): 50 | Type/Flavor Profile: Carolina-style, sweet, spicy, tangy

Best Spicy

Cowtown Night Of The Living BBQ Sauce

The 8 Best Barbecue Sauces of 2023 (7)

What We Like

  • Kick of spice

  • Goes well with everything

What We Don't Like

  • A little heavy on the chipotle

  • Tomato paste is overwhelming

If you like your barbecue sauce with a little heat, the Cowtown Night Of The Living Bar-B-Q Sauce is the one for you. It has just the right amount of heat to leave a little bit of tingle on your lips and tongue, but not so much that you can’t fully immerse yourself in your meal. Sweet brown sugar and molasses balance the heat while adding some smokiness, too.

And there’s a reason it won the title of “The Best BBQ Sauce on the Planet” at the American Royal Barbecue Contest. This Kansas-style barbecue sauce goes greatwith meaty mains and barbecue side dishes.

Price at time of publish: $15

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Weight: 18 ounces | Calories (per 2 Tbsp. serving): 50 | Type/Flavor Profile: Kansas-style, spicy, smoky

Best Honey

Good & Gather Organic Honey BBQ Sauce

The 8 Best Barbecue Sauces of 2023 (8)

What We Like

  • Great for dipping

  • Organic

What We Don't Like

  • Can be a little too sweet

  • Thin

There’s something about a really delicioushoney barbecue saucethat makes you want to eat a plate full of chicken wings (and then lick your fingers after). And with the Good & Gather Organic Honey Barbecue Sauce, you can do that and a lot more. With the right balance of sweet, tangy, and smoky, it’s perfect as a dipping sauce, marinade, or glaze for meats and tofu—or anything you want. It’s sweetened with a combination of sugar, honey, and molasses, and as Target’s own brand, it’s budget-friendly but still has some organic ingredients.

Price at time of publish: $4

Weight: 19 ounces | Calories (per 2 Tbsp. serving): 45 | Type/Flavor Profile: Honey-based, sweet, tangy, smoky

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Final Verdict

With the right balance of sweet and spicy, the Rufus Teague Touch O' Heat BBQ Sauce is our overall top pick. If you want to kick it up a notch, the Cowtown Night Of The Living Bar-B-Q Sauce has an extra hit of heat.

What to Look for in a Barbecue Sauce


There arefour main types of barbecue sauce—tomato-based, vinegar-based, mustard-based, and mayonnaise-based (yes, really)—and they’re vastly different.Tomato-basedsauces typically have a naturally sweeter taste, while vinegar- and mustard-based sauces are tangier and have more of a bite. Before choosing a barbecue sauce, figure out what kind of taste you want. It may change based on what you’re cooking. For example, you may prefer a tomato-based barbecue sauce for ribs but opt for a vinegar-based sauce on your pulled pork.


Another factor to consider is texture. If you want to coat chicken and ribs, you need a barbecue sauce that’s smooth and thick. However, if you prefer drizzling sauce on pulled pork sandwiches, you can go for something thinner.


It's always a good idea to look at the nutrition label when buying food of any kind, particularly if you have allergies or follow any specific diet. Some of the options on our list, for example, are gluten-free or organic, if either of those things are important to you. You can also find options with no added sugars.


What is barbecue sauce made of?

There are so many barbecue sauces out there from which to choose, and the ingredients vary greatly based on the type of sauce and where it’s from. But there are some ingredients that are pretty classically in most barbecue sauces you’ll find. These include ingredients like: ketchup, vinegar, tomatoes, worcestershire sauce, salt/pepper, hot sauce, and sugar.

Is barbecue sauce vegan?

This entirely depends on the ingredient list. One somewhat common barbecue sauce ingredient, honey, is not vegan, so any sauce that contains that ingredient would not qualify. But there are plenty of barbecue sauces out there that use other sweeteners that should be vegan-friendly!

How long does barbecue sauce last?

According to, barbecue sauce can last 1 year unopened in the pantry, or 4 months once opened in the fridge.

Can you freeze barbecue sauce?

Yes, you can freeze barbecue sauce. Like anything you freeze, it’s best to label/date it before you put it in the freezer, so you can keep track of how long it’s been frozen. Also note that it’s always possible the quality may differ upon defrosting.

Does barbecue sauce need to be refrigerated?

From a food-safety standpoint, it’s not necessary, but to help maintain the quality, it’s best to keep it cold. According to, “Refrigeration ensures that commercial sauces and condiments stay fresh for a longer period of time. Shelf-stable commercial barbecue sauce is safe when stored at room temperature after opening. Quality, not safety, is the reason the labels on these products suggest that they be refrigerated after opening.”

How can you thicken barbecue sauce?

You can thicken your barbecue sauce the same way you’d thicken other dishes. One option is to reduce it–simply heating it up on the stovetop and simmering it so excess water evaporates and the sauce thickens. Alternatively, if you have cornstarch on hand, you can combine cornstarch and water to make a slurry, and add that to your sauce.

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

Lindsay Boyers is a certified holistic nutritionist with extensive nutrition knowledge and food and beverage-testing experience. She’s developed over 1,000 original recipes and is constantly on a mission to find the healthiest, best-tasting options and ingredients across all food and drink categories.

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What is the number one selling BBQ sauce in America? ›

There's a reason why Sweet Baby Ray's is the most popular barbecue sauce in America—it delivers a drool-worthy sweet taste and thick texture.

What is the Mark Zuckerberg BBQ sauce? ›

Mark Zuckerberg: Get me something that humans like so people don't think I am a robot. Assistant: Here is a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce.

What is the best BBQ sauce? ›

The Best Classic BBQ Sauce: Stubb's Sticky Sweet Barbecue Sauce. This widely beloved sauce is a classic for a reason. It's exactly what we picture when we think of barbecue. Its smooth consistency, along with its very rich and sweet flavor, makes for the perfect coating to grill — well, pretty much anything.

What BBQ sauce was on Shark Tank? ›

Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce - Shark Tank Products.

What is the oldest BBQ Sauce in America? ›

Louis Style, Oldest in BBQ Sauce America.

What's the number 1 sauce in the world? ›

Frank's is the #1 Hot Sauce in the World Claim

* Source Euromonitor International Limited; based on custom research conducted July 2022 for volume sales (ounces/ml) in 2021 through all retail channels.

What is the number one sauce in America? ›

Ketchup reigns supreme, being favored by a whopping 25 states. Barbeque sauce is the next runner-up, despite being favored by only 5 states. 8 states have a favorite sauce that's only #1 in their state.

What is the most popular sauce in America? ›

According to the data, Americans made Sriracha the most bought hot sauce in 31 states. The second most popular hot sauce in the U.S. happens to be the most purchased in Pennslyvania. too. Frank's RedHot is the most purchased hot sauce in 14 states, including New York and Missouri, alongside Pennsylvania.

What is the most common barbecue sauce? ›

By far the most common type of barbecue sauce is the tomato-based sauce. And although there are exceptions, the tomato in these sauces is almost always in the form of ketchup.


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