How to Can Barbecue Sauce That’s Sweet, Smoky, and Goes with Everything

This Smoky Homemade Canned Barbecue Sauce recipe is perfect for anyone who wants to add a homemade touch to their barbecue dishes. It will transform your barbecue dishes with a rich, smoky flavor that’s satisfying and surprisingly easy to make.

Like all waterbirth canning recipes, don’t leave out the lemon juice. It’s what makes it safe to can.

A neatly sealed mason jar full of rich, dark red homemade barbecue sauce, prominently placed on a wooden board with a kitchen towel and utensils in the background.

Smoky Homemade Canned Barbecue Sauce with Ketchup Base

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Processing 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes
Serving Size 5 pints


  • 6 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup brown sugar packed
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika for the smoky flavor
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper adjust to taste
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke adjust to taste for additional smoky flavor
  • 2 teaspoons salt adjust to taste


  • Combine Ingredients: In a large pot, mix all the ingredients together. Stir well to make sure everything is fully combined.
    A wide pot on a white marble surface, showing the combined ingredients for barbecue sauce after cooking, with spices and ketchup merged into a smooth texture.
  • Simmer: Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often to prevent sticking or burning. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 30-35 minutes or until it thickens to your preference.
    A large pot on a white marble surface filled with a mixture of ingredients for barbecue sauce before cooking, capturing the beginning stage of the recipe.
  • Prepare Jars: While the sauce simmers, sterilize your canning jars and lids by boiling them in water for at least 10 minutes or using a dishwasher on a sanitized cycle.
  • Fill the Jars: Carefully ladle the hot sauce into the sterilized jars using a canning funnel, leaving about ½ inch of headspace.
    Overhead view of a pot of simmering barbecue sauce, with a ladle resting inside, beside open mason jars filled with sauce, ready for canning.
  • Wipe Rims and Seal: Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp cloth. Place the lids on the jars and screw on the bands until fingertip tight.
    A person wiping the rim of an open mason jar filled with barbecue sauce, next to other filled jars ready for sealing, emphasizing the cleanliness necessary for proper canning.
  • Process: Place the jars in a water bath canner, making sure they're fully submerged. Bring the water to a boil and process the jars for 20 minutes. Adjust processing time as needed based on your altitude.
    Top-down view of sealed jars of barbecue sauce inside a canner with a jar lifter, highlighting the canning process, and one jar removed showing the measuring marks.
  • Cool and Store: Remove the jars from the canner and let them cool on a towel or cooling rack for 12-24 hours. Check the seals before labeling and storing them in a cool, dark place.
    A close-up of three sealed mason jars filled with smoky barbecue sauce, showcasing the intricate embossing on the glass and the rich, textured color of the sauce.

I can’t get enough of this amazing Smoky Homemade Canned Barbecue Sauce recipe, which has been a total game-changer in our kitchen. It’s perfect for slathering over pretty much everything.

At first, I was a bit skeptical, wondering if a homemade sauce could truly rival those deep, complex flavors we adore from our favorite BBQ joints. But after trying it out, I can say it absolutely can! It hits the perfect balance of smoky, sweet, and just a tad spicy – a real crowd-pleaser.

And the best part? It’s ridiculously easy to make. Even if you’re a beginner in home canning, this recipe is definitely worth a try. My family insists on it for every barbecue now; honestly, I’m not mad about it. I really hope it becomes your go-to as well. Give it a try, and thank me later!

A close-up of a bowl filled with smooth, shiny homemade barbecue sauce with a jar of the sauce and grilled chicken in the background, suggesting serving options.

Canning Tips

  • Quality of Ingredients: The foundation of a great barbecue sauce starts with high-quality ketchup. Opt for a brand that you trust and enjoy, as this will significantly influence the overall flavor of your sauce.
  • Adjusting the Smoke: Smoked paprika and liquid smoke are key to this sauce’s signature flavor. Remember, adding more smoke flavor is easier than trying to balance it out if you’ve added too much.
  • Consistency is Key: Remember that the sauce will thicken slightly as it cools, so it might be a good idea to stop simmering when it’s just a bit thinner than you’d like..
  • Processing: Make sure you’re processing for long enough depending on the size jar you’re using.

Key Ingredients and Tools

  • Smoked Paprika. Found in the spice aisle, smoked paprika adds a deep, smoky flavor that’s irreplaceable to this recipe.
  • Liquid Smoke. This can usually be found near the barbecue sauces or condiments in most grocery stores. It intensifies the smokiness, creating that authentic barbecue taste. If you can’t find liquid smoke, a bit more smoked paprika can help, though the flavor will be slightly different.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar. While white vinegar can be substituted in a pinch, apple cider vinegar’s unique flavor is preferred.
An array of ingredients laid out on a white marble countertop including bowls of ketchup, brown sugar, spices, and liquids for making homemade barbecue sauce.
  • Large Pot. This is essential for combining and simmering the sauce ingredients. Its size allows for even heat distribution, preventing burning.
  • Canning Jars with Lids and Bands. Proper canning jars are necessary to make sure a tight seal and preserve the sauce safely for consumption.
  • Canning Funnel. A canning funnel is critical for transferring the sauce into jars without mess, ensuring cleanliness and preventing waste.
  • Water Bath Canner. This tool processes the jars in boiling water, which is crucial for sealing them properly and making the sauce shelf-stable.
  • Jar Lifter. This provides a safe way to handle the hot jars before and after processing, preventing burns and accidents.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with grilled chicken and coleslaw, pulled pork sandwiches, and cornbread.

Troubleshooting and Help

Can I use a different type of vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar?

Sure, you can swap it out if needed. White vinegar or even balsamic vinegar could work, but keep in mind that apple cider vinegar has a unique sweetness and tanginess that complements the smoky flavors really well.

What if I don’t have smoked paprika?

If you’re out of smoked paprika, you could use regular paprika in a pinch, but you’ll miss that deep, smoky flavor. Consider adding a bit more liquid smoke to compensate.

Can I make this sauce less spicy?

Absolutely! If you’re not a fan of too much heat, feel free to reduce or skip the cayenne pepper. The sauce will still have plenty of flavors without it.

How long can I store the canned barbecue sauce?

When canned and sealed properly, the barbecue sauce should last up to a year in a cool, dark place. Once opened, keep it in the refrigerator and try to use it within a month for the best flavor.

Storing Leftovers

After Canning:

  • Shelf Storage: Once your jars are properly sealed through the canning process, store them in a cool, dark place like a pantry or cupboard. Avoid direct sunlight and drastic temperature changes. Properly canned and sealed, the sauce can last up to a year.
  • After Opening: Once you open a jar, refrigerate it. It’s best used within a month for optimal taste.

Without Canning:

  • If you decide not to can the sauce, pour it into an airtight container and refrigerate. This way, it should last for up to 2-3 weeks.


  • This barbecue sauce can be frozen, though it’s not common due to the canning process. If you choose to freeze, leave some space at the top of the container for expansion, and use it within 3 months for best quality. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Remember, always check for signs of spoilage, like an off smell or mold, before using, regardless of storage method.

More Homemade + Frugal Kitchen Staples

If you’re looking to add a personal touch to your barbecue dishes, you definitely want to try out our smoky homemade canned barbecue sauce with a ketchup-based recipe. It’s super easy to make and tastes absolutely delicious. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

Just follow the recipe and tips provided, and you can create a sauce that tastes great and stores well. The best part? You can have this delicious condiment on hand whenever you need it.

Just remember, successful canning is all about the details, so take your time to make sure each step is done correctly.

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