It’s not always easy to tell which brand of barbecue sauce is best on the shelf. There are so many options out there, it’s hard to know which one to choose. Luckily, we’re here to help and we take our sauces seriously.
There is an art to barbecuing, and it starts with making sure you have some prime cuts of meat available. But to achieve the perfect combination of sweetness, smoke, and acidity, you need to make sure you’re using a top-notch sauce. So below we’ve rounded up some of today’s best barbecue sauces.
In search of that perfect barbecue sauce, you will find many tangy and sweet sauces, many of which are available from small producers online. To find the best barbecue sauce for 2023, I personally gathered 15 bottles of spicy, smoky, vinegar, sweet, and tangy sauces, along with many passionate barbecue-loving friends, for an ultimate sauce showdown to find you the best BBQ sauce on the market.
What is a good barbecue sauce?
It’s all relative, but most pitmasters agree that balance is the key to a great barbecue sauce. Most sauces are made with a tomato base, vinegar, some sweetener such as honey or molasses and an element of heat. From there, the sauces are customized with spices and flavors, such as mustard, garlic, fruit and smoke. Any sauce that is too much in either direction is usually bad. And the simplest sauces without much spice or complexity often fall flat.
We tasted several traditional Kansas City-style sauces for this list, a host of vinegar-heavy Carolina-style sauces, some keto-friendly sauces, cult-favorite Bachan’s Japanese-style sauce and some Alabama white sauces to see which ones really tickled our taste buds. We tried each with a plain unseasoned chicken breast because it’s a blank slate as far as classic grilled foods go. In tasting, we notice things like overall balance, heat, sweetness, overwhelming flavors or anything that jumps out — both bad and good.
Read more: Best Meal Kits of 2023
A quick reminder: In the north, sweeter varieties dominate the sauce market, but my taste testers and I all enjoy vinegar-based sauces as well, so we’ve included several Carolina barbecue sauces (among other styles, such as Japanese BBQ sauce for umami, or brown-sugar-based recipes for the iconic sweet taste) to make this list as inclusive as possible. as much as possible.
It took a lot of napkins to find the best barbecue sauce of 2023. Here they are.
Some BBQ sauces we tried just didn’t cut it
- Full Moon Alabama White Sauce: This sauce is positively addictive, but it might be a stretch to call it barbecue sauce. I know Alabamians don’t like to hear this, but Full Moon’s white sauce is more like a rich and flavorful ranch with lots of mustard, garlic and Worcestershire.
- Jack Daniels Original BBQ Sauce: This is another income that everyone likes very much. It has a nice balance and strong spice but in the end some of the others just drop it from the top.
- Good For Food Keto BBQ Sauce: At only 10 calories and 3 grams of carbs per serving, this sauce is definitely edible, even if it’s not one of our favorites.
- Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce: This one has very small dimensions and tastes more like slightly smoky ketchup than a good BBQ sauce.
- Heinz Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce: This sauce is not terrible but has too much vinegar for most of us.
- Heinz Carolina Mustard Sauce: It’s more like honey mustard than barbecue sauce. Not bad, but didn’t meet our requirements for this round of testing.
- Kings Delight Bar-B-Que Sauce: This Carolina-style sauce is tasty but with a lot of vinegar, it’s less of a traditional barbecue sauce and more of a thin finishing sauce for pulled pork.