Memphis BBQ Sauce

12 servings
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Memphis BBQ Sauce is a tangy, sweet barbecue sauce made with molasses, brown sugar, tomato sauce, and cider vinegar. The best BBQ sauce for pulled pork!

Memphis BBQ Sauce is Pulled Pork Sandwiches‘ best friend! This crowd pleasing tangy sweet sauce is the perfect Sauce Recipe for any Summer cookout!

Memphis BBQ Sauce in glass jar with spoon


This tasty, sticky sweet Memphis BBQ Sauce is so finger-licking good! It’s packed with so many layers of flavor and made completely from scratch in about 30 minutes. Memphis Style BBQ Sauce is a kid-friendly barbecue sauce with the perfect balance between tangy and sweet.

Now down over Memphis, there is a bit of a debate whether a sauce or a rub should be used on BBQ meat. Especially when it comes to pulled pork. This flavorful Memphis Barbecue Sauce has the best of both worlds! It combines Memphis BBQ Rub seasonings with a sticky sweet sauce perfect for any recipe.

A good Memphis BBQ Sauce has a tomato sauce and vinegar base sweetened with both brown sugar and molasses. Molasses is sugarcane syrup that has been refined a second time. This second time around cuts the sweetness of the cane syrup and gives it a slightly bitter taste that is perfect for making barbecue sauce!

Memphis BBQ Sauce is thinner than a Kansas City style sauce since there is no tomato paste and a lot more vinegar. It’s not quite as thin a Carolina BBQ Sauce so you don’t want to use it as mop or marinade. You SHOULD use this Memphis BBQ Sauce in slow cooker recipes like BBQ Beef Sandwiches or toss with BBQ Chicken Wings.


Tips for Memphis BBQ Sauce

  • Add Memphis BBQ Sauce to grilled recipes like Easy Grilled Chicken. Brush meat with the BBQ sauce in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking so the sugar doesn’t burn off.
  • Memphis BBQ Sauce is great as a finishing sauce brushed on grilled meat, a condiment, or in shredded meats like pulled pork.
  • If you want a thicker Memphis BBQ Sauce, add a can of tomato paste and cook for an additional 5 minutes. The sauce will thicken as it cools, too.
  • To make an ultra smooth Memphis BBQ Sauce, use an immersion blender or strain the barbecue sauce when it is finished cooking.
  • This barbecue sauce can be canned and stored for up to a year. Use a water bath canning method or a pressure canner.

Memphis BBQ Sauce ingredients


  • Whiskey BBQ Sauce: Add a ½ cup Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey to give your BBQ sauce a kick. You may need to simmer an additional 5-10 minutes to get the sauce thick.
  • Vinegar: You can substitute white vinegar for the apple cider vinegar, or try fruitier vinegars like Balsamic vinegar for a sweeter tangy barbecue sauce.
  • Spicy Memphis BBQ Sauce: Make this Memphis Style BBQ Sauce spicier by adding chipotle powder, more cayenne pepper, or your favorite hot sauce.
  • Molasses: Instead of molasses, you can use honey, maple syrup, cane syrup, or dark corn syrup. Be sure to taste and reduce the amount as needed so the sauce isn’t overly sweet.
  • Mustard: Make this a cross between a Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce and Memphis BBQ sauce by increasing to a ¼ cup of yellow mustard. You could also use spicy brown mustard or Dijon mustard in this recipe.



  • Serve: Use this sauce right away or chill and store for later. Don’t leave at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Store: Place cooled sauce in a glass jar or airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week. 
  • Freeze: Cool sauce completely and transfer in 1 cup portions to sealed containers. Freeze Memphis BBQ Sauce for up to 6 months, thawing in the refrigerator before serving.

Memphis BBQ Sauce in black pot

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Memphis BBQ Sauce

Memphis BBQ Sauce is a tangy, sweet barbecue sauce made with molasses, brown sugar, tomato sauce, and cider vinegar. The best BBQ sauce for pulled pork!
Yield 12 servings
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Sauce
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion , diced
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 29 ounces tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar , packed
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper


  • Add oil and onion to a large pot on medium heat.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent and just starting to brown, about 6-8 minutes.
  • Add in garlic and stir until fragrant.
  • Add in the tomato sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, yellow mustard, chili powder, cayenne pepper, celery seed, salt and pepper to the pot and still well.
  • Cook uncovered for 20-25 minutes until thickened.
  • Use hot or keep in refrigerator until needed.


Calories: 104kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 626mg | Potassium: 369mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 529IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 1mg
Keyword: Memphis BBQ Sauce

Memphis BBQ Sauce collage

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. Hi Sabrina,

    I want to use this BBQ sauce in your chicken wing recipe which calls for 2 cups of the sauce. Your recipe says 12 servings. Would I need to make less of this in order to have the 2 cups for the wings? Thank you.

  2. BBQ Sauce is my fav and this Memphis style sauce looks to die for! I love that it has mustard in it as that would add such a great hit of flavour. I can see what I would use this on everything. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This came out fantastic slow cooked with chicken. I shredded the chicken and we ate it as a messy delicious sandwich!