St. Louis BBQ Sauce: How Do You Make It at Home?

October 6, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Making St. Louis sauce is as easy as anything. Just mix brown sugar, vinegar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and a smidgen of liquid smoke. Simmer them on low heat in a medium saucepan until they thicken. The result is a tangy, kinda sweet, and slightly smoky sauce. 

I’ve always been obsessed with the incredible range of flavors and techniques found in regional BBQ sauces. But I must say the St. Louis barbecue sauce hits differently on the palate. It’s perfect for pork steaks, ribs, juicy pulled pork, or even grilled chicken. 

After years of graduating from cooking school and tinkering with various ingredients, I’ve finally nailed a homemade St. Louis barbecue sauce that hits every damn note. So join me, and let’s bring that St. Louis flavor right into your home.

st louis bbq sauce

Homemade St. Louis Style BBQ Sauce Recipe 

Packed with the perfect balance of tang, sweetness, and smoky goodness, this homemade St. Louis Sauce is easy to whip up in your own kitchen. I’ll break it down step-by-step for you. 


  • 1 cup of ketchup
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of liquid smoke
Variety of Cooking Ingredients

Step 1: Combine the Flavors

Grab a medium saucepan and toss in the ketchup, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, and liquid smoke. Give it a good stir to make sure everything cozies up. This flavor-packed mix is the secret to our homemade barbecue sauce.

Step 2: Simmer to Perfection

It’s time to crank up the heat! Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer at medium heat. Then dial it down to low heat. Let it cook slowly, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes. 

Give it a stir every now and then. This low-heat simmering session lets the flavors meld together. This will result in that signature tangy, slightly sweet, thickened, and smoky profile we crave.

Step 3: Let It Cool

When your sauce has reached the desired thickness, take it off the heat and let it cool down a bit. 

As it cools, it’ll thicken even more. Now, you have a choice – transfer it to an airtight container or jar for later use, or dive right in if you can’t resist.

Step 4: Enjoy the Taste of the Sauce

Congrats, you’ve just created your very own homemade St. Louis-style BBQ sauce! It’s time to savor the deliciousness. 

You can slather this golden beauty on your steaks, ribs, pulled pork, or even poultry.

Feel free to play around with the recipe to suit your personal preferences. Add more or less brown sugar for sweetness, or toss in some ground mustard or yellow mustard for an extra kick. 

How to Use St. Louis Style BBQ Sauces in Your Recipes? 

Once you’ve got that lip-smacking sauce ready, here’s how to make the most of it:

  • As marinade: You can slather the sauce generously over pork ribs, pork steaks, chicken, or any protein you fancy. Then let it soak up the flavors by marinating for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. This gives you a tender and juicy result when cooked. 
  • Basting: You can also brush on the sauce as you grill or smoke your meats. Baste, flip, give the sauce time to glaze, then baste again. Then watch it caramelize into a sticky, irresistible coating of flavor. 
  • Dipping sauce: You can as well pour some sauce into a bowl and use it as a dip for your grilled or smoked meats. Take a juicy bite, then give it a dip for an extra flavor explosion.
  • Finishing sauce: Just before serving, I like to brush a final layer of sauce onto my cooked meats. This adds a glossy shine and a final blast of that tasty goodness.
Chicken Wings in BBQ Sauce

Origin of the BBQ Sauce 

First, St. Louis, Missouri, like many other popular regions known for their BBQ culture in the US, has always been a hub for mouthwatering barbecue. And this sauce has played a vital role in shaping its culinary legacy.

But let’s rewind the clock a bit. We have to give credit to the incredible Louis Maull, a true pioneer in the St. Louis food scene. Way back in 1897, Louis began his journey as a grocer, going door-to-door with his horse-drawn wagon. However, it wasn’t until 1926 that he struck gold.

Louis had a talent for creating irresistible flavors, and that’s when he unveiled Maull’s Barbecue Sauce to the world. At the time, it was an instant hit, capturing the hearts and taste buds of locals and beyond. Since then, this iconic sauce has become a symbol of St. Louis’s culinary prowess, honoring the trailblazing spirit of Louis Maull himself.

You can still find Maull's BBQ sauce sold commercially today. Although it was reported it could be leaving the shelves back in 2018, after more than 108 years on the market. But it’s still on the market as of 2023.

What Makes St Louis Barbecue Sauce Different?

The sauce stands out from other regional barbecue sauces due to its unique combination of flavors and characteristics. Here are a few key factors that I think make St. Louis sauce different:

Tangy and Sweet Profile

First, St. Louis sauce, also known as St. Louis-style barbecue sauce or Louis barbecue sauce, hits that perfect balance between tangy and sweet. You get a tangy punch from ingredients like vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup. These are the backbone of any great barbecue sauce. Moreover, the touch of brown sugar or other sweeteners gives a delightful sweetness to the mix. That’s how you get that signature St. Louis flavor.

Hint of Smokiness

The St. Louis-style BBQ sauce doesn’t go overboard with the smoky vibes like some other barbecue sauces. But it still carries a hint of smokiness that keeps you returning for more. 

We achieve this by adding just a touch of liquid smoke. This imparts that smoky essence without overpowering the other delicious flavors.


Now, here’s the best part: the BBQ sauce is a match made in flavor heaven with a wide range of meats. Whether you’re grilling up beef briskets, pork belly, steaks, ribs, pulled pork, burger, hot dogs, or some juicy smoked chicken, this sauce has your back. Its balanced flavors enhance the natural goodness of these meats. It adds depth and richness to every mouthwatering bite. 

Regional Influence

Now, let’s take a trip to St. Louis, Missouri, where this sauce has its roots. It’s deeply connected to the local barbecue traditions and is a star player in St. Louis-style ribs. 

But the love for this BBQ sauce doesn’t stop there. It has gained recognition and appreciation from barbecue enthusiasts all across the country. Its tangy, sweet, and slightly smoky flavor has become a staple in backyard cookouts and barbecue competitions alike.

Homemade Appeal

And here’s the beauty of it all: you can make your own homemade BBQ sauce right in your own saucepan. You may even adjust the sweetness, tanginess, or smokiness by controlling the heat over the stove. 

I like to add a dollop of yellow mustard for an extra kick of flavor when I’m feeling adventurous. Making your sauce allows you to tailor it to your taste buds and preferences, creating a truly personalized barbecue experience.

Ribs with BBQ Sauce and Salad


Well, folks, there you have it—your very own guide to whipping up some finger-licking St. Louis-style BBQ sauce in the comfort of your kitchen. It’s been quite a flavor-filled journey, hasn’t it? From the tanginess of vinegar and Worcestershire sauce to the perfect sweetness of brown sugar and that subtle smokiness, this sauce is the real deal. 

What you need now is to fire up that grill, grab your favorite meats and get ready to slather on this homemade sauce. Trust me, it’ll be the star of your next barbecue shindig. And don’t forget. You can store any leftovers in an airtight container or jar, covered with plastic wrap, and tucked away in the fridge for future cravings. Enjoy!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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