Hot and spicy barbecue sauce in a pot next to ribs

Barbecue sauce and ribs (© HLPhoto - stock.adobe.com)

Embark with me on a saucy adventure as we dive into the world of barbecue sauces. From Kansas City’s molasses-rich concoctions to the vinegar tang of Carolina gold, we’re about to explore the best sauces that will have you licking your fingers and asking for more. So, grab your napkins and get ready to meet your new favorite condiment. Your BBQ game is about to go from good to legendary! StudyFinds did the research, consulting 10 expert food and culinary websites in an effort to find the best barbecue sauce. As always, feel free to share your picks in the comments section below! 

The List

1. Stubb’s Barbecue Sauce

We’ll be the first to tell you that narrowing down the best barbecue sauce can be a tall task. However, the one sauce that kept coming up across the expert sites we visited is Stubb’s 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,” writes All Recipes

One of the best parts of Stubb’s BBQ sauce is its dedication to producing a fine sauce made from all-natural ingredients.  “Stubb’s owns the barbecue sauce game with a harmonious blend of all-natural ingredients. It’s sweet, but not nauseating; smoky, but not overpowering; spicy, but not an assault to the tastebuds. We simply can’t get enough of it,” explains Saveur

And for anyone turned off by sweet barbecue sauces, Stubb’s is sure to impress your taste buds.  “The first thing you’ll notice is that it is decidedly unsweet for a bottled sauce. It also has zero high fructose corn syrup and doesn’t use any artificial ingredients,” explains Gear Patrol. 

Stubb’s is a name that just screams excellent barbecue sauce, and their dedication to their craft is definitely noticeable as it’s one of the best barbecue sauce options available on store shelves. “Stubb’s opts instead for a tomato- and vinegar-forward sauce that’s way less overpowering than most things from a bottle. The longer you eat, the more smokiness and spiciness you’ll begin to feel, but it’s not what you’d describe as a particularly smoky or spicy,” adds Gear Patrol

2. Lillie’s Q Barbecue Sauce

Lillie’s Q Customer Favorites Selection (lilliesq.com)

The next item up on the list of the best barbecue sauce is Lillie’s Q barbecue sauce. Lillie’s Q produces a stunning lineup of barbecue sauces from all around the country. In fact, Lillie’s Q founder was a two-time World BBQ Champion. Stands to reason he borrowed recipe ideas from some of the greatest legends in the barbecue game. “Lillie’s Q founder Charlie McKenna is a two-time World BBQ Champion, and the sauces in his line are inspired by regional variations he encountered on the competition circuit,” explains The Pioneer Woman

But, Lillie’s Q actually originated in a place that’s more known for its various takes on pizza than it is for barbecue sauce.  “Lillie’s Q is a Chicago-based barbecue restaurant with roots in Southern cooking. The brand’s barbecue sauces have made their way into supermarkets, so they’ve become easier to track down. The Smoky sauce is a Memphis-style barbecue sauce with a molasses-like sweetness complemented by a delightful smokiness,” explains Gear Patrol

The sauce also a great option when you’re hosting a cookout and aren’t sure about the taste preferences of your guests.  “It’s slightly vinegary and spicy, not too sweet, and has the perfect amount of smokiness. Its mildness and well-rounded flavor makes it the perfect sauce for family cookouts with people of all ages,” writes All Recipes

Experts say it’s also great option for anyone with celiac disease. “Lillie’s Q only uses all-natural ingredients, so no high-fructose corn syrup, no MSG, and no chemical preservatives. All you get is quality gluten-free ingredients in the bottle and decades of barbecue experience in the taste,” explains Smoked BBQ Source

3. Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce

The next sauce to make the list of the best barbecue sauce is none other than Sweet Baby Ray’s. Perhaps the most well-known barbecue sauce brand to make the list, Sweet Baby Ray’s is a quality barbecue sauce that experts say is sure to impress the guests at your next outdoor gathering. 

“Everyone needs a great bottle of barbecue sauce that’s not only delicious, but that perfect blend of flavors to please everyone at the potluck. This sauce is Sweet Baby Ray’s. This classic brand offered a mildly sweet barbecue flavor with just a hint of vinegar. Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce also offered just the lightest touch of heat, too—perfect for adding just a little pep to your grill-out,” writes Taste of Home

The best barbecue sauce has to be flavorful but not overpowering, which is something Sweet Baby Ray’s accomplishes with ease.  “The spice hits immediately with this one, then progressively gets stronger. It’s balanced with both a sweet and sour background. Though not particularly unique in flavor profile, it’s what we’ve always thought of as ‘barbecue sauce,’ at least in the world of supermarket varieties,” explains Serious Eats

And if you’re looking for something a little different, Sweet Baby Ray’s lineup of barbecue sauces has you covered.  “While the original Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce is one that can’t be beat, if you’re looking to switch things up a little, the Honey Chipotle flavor is the way to go,” writes Delish.  

4. Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce

Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce (bachans.com)

The next savory sauce to make the list of the best barbecue sauce is Bachan’s Japanese BBQ Sauce. Bachan’s isn’t a name that screams quality barbecue sauce, but this Japanese take on the savory American grilling sauce is sure to impress even the most skeptical foodies. 

“You’ll be reaching for this Japanese-style BBQ sauce for all your meat, salmon, and rice bowls from now on. It’s pleasantly sweet, has nice umami flavor, and tastes like the perfect combination of stir-fry sauce and soy sauce,” explains All Recipes

One thing is for sure, Bachan’s is not your typical barbecue sauce as it features some pretty unique flavors.  “Bachan’s is atypical compared with classic barbecue sauces in that it’s laced with Japanese flavors, giving it a huge umami punch. You’ll notice soy sauce immediately, along with sesame, ginger and a delicate sweetness,” writes CNET

Although including sesame and ginger in a barbecue sauce is far from traditional, Bachan’s pulls it off. One thing to be aware of is that Bachan’s is best used as a finishing sauce.  “This is one of the thinner sauces so it might not adhere as well to ribs and chicken or caramelize as others do, so it’s probably best used as a finishing sauce,” adds CNET. 

You’ll start to see a trend with the best barbecue sauce options on this list, most of them are made with natural ingredients. “Made with clean ingredients and not including any additives, this teriyaki-type sauce isn’t your regular topping, but it’ll leave a lasting impression for sure,” adds Delish.

5. Bone Suckin’ Barbecue Sauce

Bone Suckin’ Barbecue Sauce (bonesuckin.com)

Rounding out the best barbecue sauce is Bone Suckin’ Sauce. Just the name ‘Bone Suckin’ itself should tell you almost all you need to know about this barbecue sauce. As you can imagine, Bone Suckin’ is designed for use with ribs, but the experts agree, this sauce is versatile and complex enough to work with a variety of cuts of meat. 

“Bone Suckin’ also takes home the award for best versatility, which is why we recommend buying this bad boy in bulk so that you can save your hard-earned money, but never be short on saucy bliss. It’s the condiment you’ll want to pour on everything,” writes Saveur

Bone Suckin’ is such a versatile barbecue sauce for several reasons, but primarily because it harnesses some complex flavor profiles that aren’t typically blended together in a barbecue sauce.  “Though a tiny bit on the sweet side, this sauce was pretty well balanced with notes of honey and apples and horseradish. This super complex sauce got a thumbs up from most tasters,” writes Delish

Although the hints of horseradish are incredibly intriguing, it’s certainly capable of turning people off. However, those people turned off by Bone Suckin’ tend to be in the minority.  “This sweet and vinegary sauce is made with molasses and horseradish for a perfectly balanced flavor that’s great on ribs. You’ll want to grab some wet wipes for this finger licking sauce,” raves The Pioneer Woman. 

Sources used to create this list

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.

About Matthew Sherdan

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2 Comments

  1. Luther L. Tooks says:

    Pitmaster LT’s BBQ sauces compete very favorably against these. Why not give them a try?
    They are genuine Kansas City style and made there!

  2. Darrell Wright says:

    Cattleboyze barbecue sauce is all natural ingredients and outstanding my go to sauce