Your Homemade Barbecue Sauce Deserves Low-Sugar Ketchup

While you may already have a favorite brand of barbecue sauce that you can easily pick up at the grocery store, there's a certain pride and pleasure that can be gleaned from creating your own. Sure, it may not taste like Sweet Baby Ray's, but who cares when you can tweak and adjust it to your specific requirements? And for those who believe you just don't have the time to make it, Hayley MacLean — a nutritionist, chef, and Mashed recipe developer — has an easy homemade barbecue sauce recipe that takes a mere 20 minutes.

According to MacLean, the ketchup you use as a base is a key factor in letting all of the co-mingling flavors shine. She told Mashed, "I do not have a particular brand of ketchup I recommend; however, I like to look for low-sugar or sugar-free options to make sure the final sauce is not too sweet and the savory flavors of the sauce get highlighted as well." You also have to be mindful that the temperature isn't too high when you're heating a sauce with sugar, as you don't want the sugar to burn and make your sauce taste bitter. "So going low and slow with this is definitely the best," MacLean said.

The ketchup shouldn't overpower the other ingredients

The first thing you might notice when looking at MacLean's recipe is that the two cups of low-sugar ketchup are actually the main ingredient, which makes choosing the correct style even more essential. Perhaps one of the best ketchup brands, Primal Kitchen, offers organic and unsweetened varieties. They may not be your first choice for a burger or fries, but they'll work perfectly as a base for barbecue sauce.

The sugar's sweetness is an important part of barbecue sauce, as it helps stabilize the stronger flavors, as well as the spices and Worcestershire sauce. Too much sugar in the ketchup, however, can also create a sweetness that ends up diluting the sauce's more intense, tangy flavors. MacLean's recipe already adds light brown sugar, so there's no need for a high-sugar ketchup.

When you make something like barbecue sauce, your goal is to create something that's a perfect mix of sweet, tangy, savory, and perhaps spicy ingredients that complement the beef, pork, or chicken you're serving. For those who are more adventurous, however, MacLean has some more suggestions: "This barbecue sauce is perfect on some grilled chicken or veggies! It would also be delicious as a pizza sauce or even drizzled over some pulled pork nachos — yum!" For those looking for some fire, MacLean suggested adding an optional teaspoon of hot sauce, which can be increased to a tablespoon if you desire more heat.