barbecue sauce made with molasses

Southern-Style Molasses Barbecue Sauce

Having the family over for a cookout? Make this beautifully sweet molasses sauce the day before in just minutes to have at the ready for your southern style ribs, chops, burgers, and barbecue chicken.

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This barbecue sauce recipe comes together with minimal ingredients and in modest cooking time. It will put YOUR grilled food in a class by itself. Mmmmm, homemade BBQ sauce!

Looking for other barbecue recipes? Look no further than these main dish BBQ ideas for

Perfectly Perfect Barbecued Chicken Drumsticks, or

Oven Baked Deep South Barbecued Ribs

Smoked Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Thick, rich, and fittingly traditional barbecue sauce flavored with molasses has the most amazing deep and sweet flavor. Homemade barbecue sauce with molasses and dark brown sugar serenade additional pantry staple ingredients transforming into a sassiness steeped with flavor. Try this molasses barbecue sauce recipe for your next cookout.

jar of homemade bbq sauce and some chicken

What are the ingredients in homemade barbecue sauce?

The root components of almost every barbecue sauce is either tomato, vinegar, or mustard. Additional elements like brown sugar, molasses, ketchup, and an element of smoke flavoring give those base components their pizzazz. Here in South Carolina, we are blessed to be able to enjoy some of this country’s best BBQ joints, at least according to the reader survey polls in Southern Living and Garden and Gun Magazines.

Mustard-based and tomato-based barbecue sauces are especially popular here in Charleston, along with dry rubbed, smoked meats. As you head up the highway a spell into the upstate of South Carolina and into lower North Carolina, you’re going to get acquainted with vinegar-based sauces.

barbecue sauce made with molasses

How do you thicken barbecue sauce and why?

For this sauce, I am introducing molasses. And rather than the molasses being subcomponent, it’s going to be the base. Mustard, tomato, and vinegar will become subcomponents and share equal platforms of importance and measure. They brilliantly round this cheek slapping sauce out. The one tip I have for thickening this sauce is to allow it to cook, and cook some more, and then cook even a little bit more. Cooking the sauce low and slow over a wide period will thicken the sauce. You want to finish with a highly thick and viscous sauce, so it sticks to your meat as you baste.

Consistent basting yields a layer of ‘bark’ that is sweet and nicely charred. It is the key to your barbecue being better than whatever your neighbor has going over on his side of the fence. You can use it immediately or give it an overnight in the fridge to really mellow the vinegar out. I call the days I grill meats out using this sauce ‘molasses grill night.’ Everybody knows what I mean, and they love it.

bbq chicken and a jar of molasses bbq sauce

Molasses comes in different forms. Blackstrap molasses is a byproduct of sugar cane’s refining process. Sugar cane is mashed to create juice, and then boiled once to create cane syrup. A second boiling creates molasses. After this syrup has been boiled a third time, a dark viscous liquid emerges known to Americans as blackstrap molasses.

I have many sauce recipes in my arsenal of delish. Molasses BBQ sauce is the one I use for pulled pork, pulled chicken, barbecued ham, and as a topping for burgers, fries, and cold in chicken and smoked Gouda wraps. It’s versatile, it makes a lot, and it freezes very well for when I don’t have the time to devote to starting something from scratch.

Should I use regular molasses or blackstrap molasses?

I have used both molasses and blackstrap molasses interchangeably in this recipe. The blackstrap molasses is my favorite because it’s thicker and I find it sweeter. If I am adding to pulled meats, I want it sweet because I usually then pile that meat onto a bun and top it with a savory slaw. Again, it’s all about balance.

A jar of Barbecue with Molasses

All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC

barbecue sauce made with molasses

Southern-Style Molasses Barbecue Sauce

Make this beautifully sweet molasses sauce the day before in just minutes to have at the ready for your southern style ribs, chops, burgers, and barbecue chicken.
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: authentic bbq sauce, barbecue, bbq, bbq sauce, grill, molasses, molasses bbq sauce, sweet barbecue sauce
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 115kcal

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Equipment

Ingredients

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    Ingredients for Southern-Style Molasses Barbecue Sauce

    • 1/4 cup quality olive oil
    • 1 cup diced sweet onion such as Vidalia
    • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, about 2 cloves
    • 1 cup red wine vinegar
    • 1 cup molasses I am using blackstrap molasses, but regular molasses works great, too
    • 1 cup ketchup
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Instructions

    The Method

    • In a 5 quart heavy bottom sauce pan, heat the olive oil.
    • Add the onion once oil is shimmering and reduce heat immediately. You want to sweat the onions rather than brown them.
    • Add the garlic, red wine vinegar, molasses, and ketchup. Bring to a simmer and reduce until slightly thickened, stirring constantly, about 15 to 20 minutes. **I like to reduce mine by half.
    • When the sauce is viscous enough to coat the back of a spoon, taste. Season if necessary with salt and pepper.
    • Sauce may be used immediately, or refrigerated overnight. The vinegar profile mellows with refrigeration. Sauce may also be frozen for future use.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1servings | Calories: 115kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 157mg | Potassium: 373mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 77IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 1mg

    Please note that the nutrition information provided above is approximate and meant as a guideline only.

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    3 Comments

    1. I laugh when I see an article about “Southern BBQ” sauce. Because there is no such thing! There are at least two dozen southern sauces and most of the ones you read about on the web are standard yankee sauces renames with a bit of fake y’all thrown in for good measure. BBQ is very local and very personal in the South.2 stars

      1. Will, thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. I am sorry you were disappointed in this recipe, or at least in the ‘southern connotation’ of this recipe. Before I replied to you, I sought permission from the woman who taught me to make this sauce. Permission to mention her and where this recipe comes from. We used it at a 50th birthday pig roast for some 200 plus guests and all we heard were rave reviews. The woman of whom I speak is a native to Johns Island, South Carolina. She is 86 years old. She too, knows that barbecue is very local and very personal. That is why when she gave me her Dad’s method for this very barbecue sauce, I was humbled. She and I have cooked this sauce together more times than I can say, and neither the method nor the ingredients change. And while I was born and raised in the north, this is not a standard “Yankee sauce.” I must impress upon you that there will never be a fake y’all thrown in anywhere on this website ‘for good measure’ by me. My name is my brand, and my word has always been, and will continue to be, genuine.