Banish the barbecue sauce boredom!
23 Oct 2019 - 12:37 PM  UPDATED 15 Oct 2020 - 11:16 AM

--- Barbecue season is firing up on SBS Food! From 7.30pm every Friday, 9 October to 14 November, catch Spencer Watts in the new season of Watts on the Grill, plus Food Safari Fire and more ---  


“You could go buy barbeque sauce but why would you want to. It’s so much fun making it!” says Spencer Watts.

The barbecue loving chef sure likes ringing the changes with sauces – think spiced banana barbecue sauce, rich Asian-style sauce, or a sauce for ribs that’s a rich, thick and sticky, with apple sauce and molasses as his secret ingredients.

And he wants us all to know it’s not only easy, but the kind of cooking where you can create exactly the sauce YOU like.

“Making your own barbecue sauces is so, so easy!” the Watts on the Grill host says when SBS Food talks to him about his passion for DIY sauces.

“It’s really about balancing sweet and salt, spice and acidity, to make the combo you like best for what you are cooking.  I make my own blends - a little of this, a bit more of that … and the best part is when someone asks what’s in the sauce you can say ‘it’s a secret’ because you won’t remember what or how much you put in it anyway!

“Experiment, have fun doing it, and you will be surprised at what you can come up.

“Lately, I have been making Korean-style sauces for the barbecue that have a gochujang base -  a fermented Korean chilli paste. I add some sweet and some salt: I use brown sugar and soya sauce. Then I like to add some ginger and garlic and caramelised onions to give it more texture and up the complexity even more.  It is a flavour grenade!

DIY sauces and salsa are in every episode of Watts on the Grill, as Watts cooks up everything from sticky ribs to burgers and smoky fall-off-the-bone lamb. There’s a sweet and tangy sauce with his smoked pork ribs, homemade ketchup with the burger and an Asian-style barbecue sauce with his smoked lamb shanks.  

There’s even an entire episode devoted to sauces, rubs and marinades.

Here are six of his faves for you to add to your own DIY sauce arsenal – or go wild and make it up. When it comes to sauces, Watts says, while you can get some good stuff in a bottle, making your own is so much more interesting!

Easy homemade ketchup

"My homemade ketchup pretty much makes itself!" says Watts in Watts on the Grill.  "Any good ketchup has some tomato. I use two kinds: Crushed tomato, it’s a really nice light tomato flavour, and tomato paste, tomato paste is concentrated and it’s really got some backbone. It’s like tomato bomb." Add in vinegar for bite and sugar - "brown sugar is like the rock star of sugar. It’s got molasses in it and it has a really good depth of flavour" - and you've got a great, balanced sauce. And then there's the little bit extra: "I put a few cloves in it, and it’s gonna taste like ketchup but you’re gonna get that, 'what is in that??'. And that’s our little secret." It's perfect with his beef burgers

Grilled banana BBQ sauce

This is right up there in the "experiment and discover a winner" stratosphere. There's a sweet-spicy balance from grilled banana, onions and Spencer's secret ingredient, barbecue-roasted garlic. Slather it on Spencer's snag in a roll!

Sweet and tangy sauce for pork spare ribs

"There’s a lot going on in this barbecue sauce... including my secret ingredient for sweetness, apple sauce. The spices and the ketchup and the apple sauce and the molasses just make it so original," says Watts. Use it as a baste during cooking to get sweet, sticky, smoked spare ribs.

Carolina barbecue sauce

"The Carolina-style barbeque sauce on these rolls really ticks off all the boxes. There’s no tomato in it, but it is spicy, sweet, tangy, delicious and great on slow-roasted beef," says Watts. You can make the sauce ahead - and it's even better if you do, he says. It will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks. 

Plum sauce

This sweet-and-sour sauce, made with real plums, is a great way to lift simple chicken skewers.

Hoisin to your barbecue sauce

"Most barbecue sauces out there have a little bit of tomato in it, but this one’s a little different," says Watts. With hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, chilli flakes, honey and a dash of vinegar, this Asian-influenced sauce is great with his slow-cooked lamb shanks but you could use it on other meats, too.

Get more sauce recipes in our sauce, salsa and dressing recipe collection

Feelin' saucy
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Worcestershire sauce

Some might say it’s not Worcestershire sauce unless it’s come from Worcestershire. Well, that may be true, but what else to call our version of this classic dark sauce?

Mango habanero hot sauce

This semi-sweet hot sauce could easily become your favourite hot sauce is perfect on tacos, with seafood, or even as a Bloody Mary kicker.

Basic Yucatecan tomato sauce

This punchy tomato sauce, made in a comal (gridde), forms the base of many Yucatecan dishes. It works a treat with fried or boiled eggs.

Kansas City BBQ sauce

This is where brown sugar and ketchup, or tomato sauce, find true love - BBQ sauce love. Kansas City BBQ sauce is the style of sauce that is most commonly associated with BBQ sauce. Thick, tomatoey and sweet with some background spice are the characteristics that make up this sauce. This is not the Kansas City sauce we serve at Big Boy BBQ, but it is still a wonderful sauce that is easy to make at home. Feel free to double or triple the recipe, add or subtract the ingredients of your choice, until you make the sauce of your dreams.