Barbecue Pizza Sauce Recipe

Mixing elements of a traditional tomato-based sauce and a sweet, spicy, and savory barbecue sauce makes an excellent base for grilled pizza.

Pizza dough topped with barbecue pizza sauce and cheese is topped with pulled pork before grilling.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Why This Recipe Works

  • Combining tomato sauce and tomato paste along with the ingredients for barbecue sauce results in a pizza sauce with concentrated tomato flavor and a tart-sweet-spicy depth.

I once competed in two different contests over three days—the first being a grilling comp and the second a barbecue one. While I may gain more fame and glory on the barbecue side (here's to wishful thinking), I do find the grilling competitions more fun, since the categories are constantly changing—I was challenged to pizza, chicken wings, apple dessert, and salmon—and there's more room to cook to your own tastes.

For the pizza category, I wanted to devise a pie that would play up to the judge's tastes for barbecue, and in doing so, I took a step back and wondered if barbecue sauce is really the right base for a barbecue pizza—maybe having barbecue on it was enough.

I couldn't make up my mind between yes and no here, and decided to let that indecisiveness guide me in creating a unique barbecue pizza sauce that features the deep tomato flavor and texture of a good pizza sauce, but also comes with a sweet and tangy barbecue kick.

So I took my standard barbecue sauce recipe and tinkered with the amounts and ingredients in order not to overdo anything, then added in more tomato sauce than usual, and a fair amount of tomato paste as well.

It achieved exactly what I set out to create—a rich tomato base starts it off tasting like a solid pizza sauce, but then comes in waves of vinegar, sweetness, and spice that create a light barbecue sauce flavor. It was excellent on pizza, with just enough tilt to the barbecue side without being overstated or dominating, allowing the toppings to stand out.

August 2012

Recipe Details

Barbecue Pizza Sauce Recipe

Prep 5 mins
Cook 35 mins
Active 30 mins
Total 40 mins
Serves 8 to 10 servings
Makes 4 cups

Mixing elements of a traditional tomato-based sauce and a sweet, spicy, and savory barbecue sauce makes an excellent base for grilled pizza.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 small)

  • 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)

  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons molasses

  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard

  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

    Chopped onion is sautéed in a saucepan.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  2. Stir in tomato sauce, brown sugar, tomato paste, honey, cider vinegar, molasses, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and oregano. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    The sauce is simmered and stirred.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  3. Using an immersion blender, or transferring to a regular blender, purée sauce until smooth. Use on pizza the same day, or transfer to a jar and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

    An immersion blender is used to purée the sauce.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Special Equipment

Immersion blender or countertop blender

Read More

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
118 Calories
3g Fat
23g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 118
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 4%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 499mg 22%
Total Carbohydrate 23g 8%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 20g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 8mg 40%
Calcium 35mg 3%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 416mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)