Texas Style BBQ Sauce: As Authentic As The Lone Star State

November 1, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

The perfect Texas-style BBQ sauce is a savory tomato or ketchup-based sauce with a kick of pepper. It features brown sugar, paprika, chili, pepper, salt, and a bunch of other wet ingredients.

As an experienced pitmaster, I have tried more than my fair share of sauces. Texas-style BBQ sauce has stood the test of time and pairs perfectly with bold proteins like brisket, chopped beef, and beef pot roast. Texas BBQ sauce elevates the beef flavor without overpowering the meat.

In this post, I tell you not only how to prep this mouth-watering sauce but also what makes it stand out from other sauces. I will also give you some tips to enhance the flavor of your sauce and how to properly store it. Walk with me:

texas style bbq sauce

Authentic Texas Style BBQ Sauce Recipe

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make a badass Central Texas BBQ sauce that will definitely take your BBQ game to the next level. Let’s start with a list of the ingredients:

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 5 tbsp tomato paste
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 cups of beef broth
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
Spicy Seasonings Sauce

Tools You Need

Armed with your ingredients, gather the tools you need. They include:

Medium-sized Saucepan

Go for a pan or pot that can hold around 2 quarts of liquid for this recipe. Also, make sure it has a lid since we have to simmer the sauce.

Silicone Spatula

Depending on what you have on hand, grab your spatula or a wooden spoon to stir the sauce. I prefer using a silicone spatula instead of a wooden spoon since the sauce will not stick to it.

Stick Blender

You will also need a stick blender or a whisk to beat the chunky bits of spices in the sauce into a smooth liquid with a uniform consistency. I use the Ovente Electric Immersion Blender. It is sleek, highly efficient, and reasonably priced.

Mason Jar

Since this recipe makes enough sauce to accompany a whole packer and still has some leftovers, you will need a mason jar or an airtight container for storage.


  1. Start by melting unsalted butter in a medium saucepan.
  2. Add in diced white onion and saute over medium heat till translucent. This should take between 3-5 minutes.
  3. Next up is the tomato paste, lemon juice, honey, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar.
  4. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat, and slowly bring to a simmer.
  5. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Now add the remaining ingredients. These include salt, smoked paprika, chili powder, and black pepper. Cover and let it simmer for another 3 minutes.
  7. Go in with your blender and give it a thorough blend until it is smooth. Of course, if you prefer a chunky sauce, you can skip this step.
  8. Lastly, pour in your beef broth and let it simmer for an additional 10-20 minutes. The result should be a thick, aromatic brown sauce.
  9. Set your finished sauce aside to cool before pouring it into a mason jar or airtight container until you are ready to use it. For best results, I recommend letting it rest in the fridge overnight before serving it. Voila! that’s it.

About the Ingredients and How to Make This Recipe Yours

My favorite thing about the world of BBQ is that you are the final judge of what you like. Nothing is set in stone. If you like a sweet sauce with your brisket slices, all you have to do is go easy on the pepper. If you like a runnier sauce as opposed to a thick one, just add more broth.

So let’s talk about the variations of this Texas barbecue sauce and how you can tweak the ingredients to make it your own:

Unsalted Butter

Butter is a necessary ingredient simply because we need to fry the onions. You can use salted or unsalted butter, olive oil, or sunflower oil. It depends on your preference. If you opt for salted butter, remember to reduce the amount of salt you use.

Fresh Sliced Bar of Butter

Beef Broth

Broth provides the fluid medium that absorbs the spices. We also need it to simmer the sauce without burning it. I like beef broth because I like to pair this sauce with all my smoked beef recipes.

However, you can use any broth you have on hand. It could be vegetable broth or even chicken broth. A lot of people use water instead of broth but I find that it is less flavorful. So again, the decision is yours here.

Jar of Beef Bone Broth

White Onion

I use white onions because they have a pleasant, savory flavor compared to red and yellow onions. When caramelized, they taste even sweeter. Great alternatives include shallots, leeks, and sweet onion.

Bunch of White Onions

Light Brown Sugar and Honey

Brown sugar serves 3 functions in this Texas-style BBQ sauce recipe:

  1. First and foremost, both light brown sugar and honey add an irreplaceable sweetness to the BBQ sauce.
  2. Light brown sugar reduces the acidity of the tomatoes and helps to balance out the different flavors in the sauce.
  3. Light brown sugar and honey enhance the brown color of the sauce when exposed to heat through the Caramelization process. Caramelization refers to the breaking down of sugar into new compounds when exposed to heat.
Brown Sugar with Honey

However, if you are watching your nutrition calories, you can use either sugar or honey for this recipe instead of both. You can also use Now Light Agave Nectar as a sweetener for your Texas BBQ sauce.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Lemon Juice

Apple cider vinegar, made from fermented apples is sweeter than most types of vinegar but a little less sweeter than balsamic vinegar. It makes Texas BBQ sauce tangy but not sour.

I have also had great results with O Raspberry Champagne Vinegar for a mild fruity taste and O Aged Sherry vinegar if you prefer a more pronounced tang in your sauce.

Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce is the perfect condiment to strike that sweet-and-sour balance. It has something for all palettes: the sweetness of corn syrup or molasses, the acid in the vinegar and tamarind, salt from soy and anchovies, and spiced up with some onion, pepper, and garlic.

Solid options include ketchup, tomato sauce, soy sauce, and white wine vinegar.

Worcestershire Sauce in a Ceramic Bowl


I like to keep my recipes simple so for me, my go-to seasonings for a texas style BBQ sauce include kosher salt, black pepper, chili powder, and the wood-fired flavor of smoked paprika.

You can swap out some seasonings and replace them with your favorites. You could go with garlic powder, celery, cumin, nutmeg, and even cinnamon.

Cooking Herbs and Condiments

How to Properly Store Texas-Style Barbecue Sauce?

Having whipped up your Texas BBQ sauce, the look and aroma of the spice blend makes you wish you could save it forever, right? Well, you’ll be glad to know that with proper care, this sauce stores quite well.

The remaining BBQ sauce goes into a clean airtight container. Pop this in the fridge to keep it fresh. Our homemade Texas BBQ sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. If you prefer to store it in the freezer, it will last for around 6 months. For bolder spice notes, I suggest using it within two months.

If by some chance your Texas BBQ sauce starts to spoil, there will be unmistakable signs like a pungent smell often accompanied by the growth of mold and changes in texture that lead to the separation of the ingredients in the container. Toss out the sauce if it gets to this point.

How Does Texas-Style BBQ Sauce Taste Like?

So how does the famous texas style BBQ sauce taste like? It is tangy and spicy with a little sweetness. It is not too sweet and it is not sour.

Unlike traditional BBQ sauce that is tomato-based featuring a few spices and seasonings, the Texas BBQ sauce takes it a step further by bringing together 3 flavor profiles. They are:


Texas-style BBQ sauce includes both brown sugar and honey in moderate amounts to keep it sweet but not too sweet. This is why I recommend the milder taste of light brown sugar as opposed to the more pronounced sweetness of dark brown sugar.


Tangy describes a sharp but pleasantly strong flavor. Emphasis on pleasant! If it is not pleasant, it is sour, which is not what we are going for in a Texas-style barbecue sauce. That’s why we use tomato paste or tomato sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and apple cider vinegar. These ingredients have a sweet signature tang.


A texas style BBQ sauce recipe is not complete without the spices. Chili powder and pepper for the heat and smoked paprika that pairs wonderfully with smoked meat.

This delicate dance of 3 flavor profiles is what sets Texas-style barbecue sauce apart from all the other varieties of BBQ sauce. In my opinion, it covers all the bases.

Barbecue Sauce in a Bowl

Tips for Making Texas BBQ Sauce

Texas BBQ sauce is delicious and inviting. However, here are a few things you can do to make your sauce taste even better. They include:

Softening the Onions

Many people prefer to start by blending all the ingredients and then simmering the mix over medium heat. As much as this method still works, it does not bring out the taste of the mildly sweet taste of cooked onions.

I recommend lightly frying the onions in unsalted butter to caramelize them before adding any other ingredients. This makes a notable difference to the result so I’d say it’s worth the few minutes.

Simmer the Sauce

Simmering is an important step in this recipe. Since this spice blend requires a generous amount of broth or water, it starts very thin and runny. Simmering allows the excess water to slowly evaporate, leaving you with a thick, flavor-packed sauce ready to hit the dining table.

Blend the Sauce

Using a stick blender to even out the sauce makes for a smooth consistency and adds to the thickness of the Texas BBQ sauce. If you prefer a chunky sauce, you can opt to either beat your sauce slightly or not beat it at all. If you opt for the latter, I suggest you use finely chopped onions as opposed to diced onions since they are smaller and thus more toothsome.

Rest the Sauce

Resting the sauce gives the spices enough time to blend, making the overall flavor more potent and the sauce a lot more aromatic. So it is best to give your sauce enough time before serving. I find letting the sauce sit overnight in the refrigerator makes for a great sauce the next day.

Smoke Flavor

If like me you prefer a rich smokey flavor, go for smoked paprika over regular paprika and taste the difference. A lot of chefs use liquid smoke to impart a deep smokey flavor to the sauce. If that’s your preference, I recommend Wright's Hickory Liquid Smoke since Hickory pairs well with bold beef dishes and is very affordable.


1. What Makes Texas BBQ Sauce Different?

The Texas-style BBQ sauce is unique because it comprises 3 different flavor profiles in one dish which is no easy feat. Other sauces are usually tomato-based with a few spices and seasonings.

2. What is Considered Texas-Style Barbecue?

A Texas-style barbecue sauce is made unique by its specific blend of ingredients. They all serve a unique purpose in making this sauce what it is: sweet, tangy, and full of flavor. Additionally, it is rounded off with a little acidity in the form of lemon juice and that’s why you can easily pick out Texas-style barbecue sauce from its counterparts.

To Recap

The classic Central Texas BBQ sauce is a blend of tomato paste, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, broth, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika, chili, honey, pepper, salt, and white onions caramelized in unsalted butter

It marries 3 profile flavors into one great sauce. Texas-style barbecue sauce is spicy, sweet, and tangy. A unique, bold, and layered sauce pretty much like the Lone Star state that birthed it. This is why I proclaim Texas BBQ sauce is a must-try the next time you plan to enjoy a family barbecue. You will not regret it!

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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