BBQ Sauce – Tomato Vinegar Sweet and Spicy

BBQ Sauce - Tomato Vinegar Sweet and Spicy

BBQ Sauce – Tomato Vinegar Sweet and Spicy

In the South, there are many regional variations of BBQ and sauce preferences. In the Mountains of East Tennessee, tomato-based smoky BBQ sauces are the norm. Over in North Carolina, just across the border, a vinegar-based sauce is what most people like. In this sauce, I’ve combined tomato, two vinegars, brown sugar and molasses, smoky chipotle chili powder, and a kick of heat from Tabasco and crushed red peppers for a tart/sweet/smoky/spicy sauce. It’s better than anything you can get in the grocery. Guaranteed. 

One of my very favourite things to do is to fire up the smoker and make “Q.” This BBQ Sauce (Tomato, Vinegar, Sweet and Spicy) is perfect for anything you can smoke or throw on the grill. From chicken, to pulled pork, to brisket, you can’t go wrong with this fabulous sauce.

I started making my own sauce years ago when it got to the point where I couldn’t find one in the markets that wasn’t loaded with high-fructose corn syrup (I have a bit of a “thing” about that ingredient). I have tried many different incarnations of sauce, but this one is a really great combination of tangy, sweet and spicy.

This sauce contains Co-Cola (as we call it in The South), and Co-Cola contains high-fructose corn syrup. BUT…you can get Mexican Coke that is made with cane sugar. This is what I used for this recipe. You can find Mexican Coke online and in most Mexican Markets. It may be that you aren’t as concerned about high-fructose corn syrup as I am, so regular ol’ US Co-Cola will work just fine, but don’t use diet cola as it will make this sauce bitter.

The trick to the sauce is to simmer it, low and slow, until it reduces and thickens. The flavours intensify as it reduces; the final product is rich and thick and delicious. It makes about 3 cups and will keep in the refrigerator for a long while.

Next time you’re thinking of firing up your grill or smoker, make some of this sauce. You won’t be sorry.


5.0 from 1 reviews
BBQ Sauce - Tomato Vinegar Sweet and Spicy
Serves: About 3 cups
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ small onion, minced (about ½ cup
  • 1 cup Mexican Coke (or other cola flavoured beverage)
  • 8 ounces canned tomato sauce
  • 6 ounces canned tomato paste
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses (you could substitute honey)
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 2½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1½ tablespoons steak sauce (I used A-1)
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (I used smoky chipotle)
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco)
  • 1 teaspoon dried savory
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  1. In a large sauce pan, over medium heat, melt the butter.
  2. Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the cola, tomato sauce, tomato paste,Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, molasses, cider and balsamic vinegars, steak sauce, and mustard.
  4. Season with chili powder, savory, onion powder, garlic salt, hot pepper sauce, and crushed red pepper flakes.
  5. Stir to combine.
  6. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon (it should reduce by about ½).
  7. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Here’s a link to a fabulous song that reviews the differences in regional Southern BBQ.

About P ~ The Saucy Southerner

I started cooking when I was ten years old. For me, the process of cooking, from inception of a dish, to the execution, to the washing of the pots is sheer delight.

I am now retired from a business I still own, in partnership with my husband. I used to work six days a week and still cook every night. Now, I’m gardening, still cooking, always having fun and hoping to share my joy with you. Thank you for reading…and commenting! P~

This entry was posted in Condiments, Grilling, Sauces. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to BBQ Sauce – Tomato Vinegar Sweet and Spicy

  1. marcie smith says:

    I usually go the NC route and make vinegar and mustard sauce… but……… I’m going to try this! thx

    • P~ says:

      Great, Marcie! I hope you like it. I’ve played with sauces for years before finally hitting on the one I love. It’ll be perfect for the Five Ingredient Friday post this week. P~

  2. Joseph says:

    Pepsi “Throwback” I believe is made with real cane sugar so that could work in a pinch if you don’t feel like hunting down some Mexican Co-Cola.

    I’m wondering if diet cola would work along with 1/4 cup splenda/brown sugar blend instead of 1/2 cup brown sugar

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