Getting that perfect BBQ sauce consistency can sometimes be a challenge, even the best recipes can result in a BBQ sauce that is a bit too thick.
Whether dealing with a homemade sauce that turned out thicker than anticipated or trying to rescue a store-bought variety, my tips and tricks to thin out BBQ sauce will get you back on the grill in no time.
A thin sauce is great for mop and sopping. So whether you are making a sweet sauce or a spicy BBQ sauce I have you covered!
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Why BBQ Sauce Gets Too Thick
Some barbecue sauces are naturally thick, that is their style. Korean BBQ sauce is a good example of a naturally thick sauce. But when that is the sauce you have on hand and you want it thinner it can be a challenge.
Often, the cooking process involved in making BBQ sauce can cause it to thicken due to the reduction of liquids.
Or maybe you just want to thin the sauce to use on chicken wings.
Also, ingredients like ketchup, tomato paste, molasses, and certain fruits contain natural thickeners like starch and pectin, which can lead to a thicker sauce. For example, my apricot BBQ sauce can get very thick after I puree it.
As sauces cool down, they can naturally become thicker due to the ingredients settling and solidifying.
💭 How to Thin Out BBQ Sauce
These are the best ways to thin BBQ sauce but when and how you use them are dependent on what you want to achieve with your BBQ sauce.
- Gently heat
- Puree and Strain
- Add Water
- Add Cola
- Add Broth
- Add Fruit Juice
- Add Beer or Wine
- Add Booze (Whiskey/ Burbon or Fruit Liquors)
- Add a Thinner Sauce (Vinegar Soy Sauce, Hot Sauce, etc)
- Add Tomato Puree
Method 1: Gentle Heat
Most often gently warming the BBQ sauce is all you need to do to thin it out. Molasses and brown sugar get very thick at room temperature so a little bit of heat can go a long way towards fixing your problem.
But if you want a thinner mop sauce we have a whole list of ways to choose from.
Method 2: Puree
Homemade sauces often just need to be further pureed. Use a high-speed blend to puree the sauce. Then strain out any solids.
Method 3: Add Water
The simplest way to thin BBQ sauce is by adding water. But it also lacks flavor. If your sauce is very thick you may need to add a lot which will dilute all that good flavor.
Gently heat your BBQ sauce. Add 1 tablespoon of water for every cup of BBQ sauce.
Start with a small amount and gradually increase until you achieve the desired consistency.
Method 4: Add Cola
A small amount of cola, like Dr. Pepper or Coca-Cola, can lend sweetness to the sauce. This is a great option for a sweet BBQ sauce.
Method 5: Add Broth
Using chicken broth or beef broth is a simple way to thin a large amount of sauce while adding flavor.
Method 6: Add Fruit Juice
Apple juice and apple cider are my first choices. Followed by orange juice, but pineapple juice would be delicious in a tropical BBQ dish like Huli Huli Chicken.
I typically don't add citrus juice, for the same reason I am very cautious about adding too much vinegar. It can get acidic fast.
Method 7: Add Beer or Wine
Hey, you might have a beer in hand right now. How convenient! Adding a bit of beer or wine can contribute a rich and complex flavor to the sauce while thinning it out.
Pale Ales are the most popular but think about your guests. You can opt for a gluten-free beer if needed.
On the wine front, I like to add white wine. It also pairs well with a spicy sauce!
I don't recommend red wine in most BBQ sauces.
Method 8: Add Liquor
I think bourbon is what comes to mind but fruity liquors like Cointreau can add a fun twist. Just make sure to simmer the sauce long enough to cook off the alcohol.
Method 9: Add a Thinner Sauce
Examples of thinner sauces are vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and soy sauce. These are best when you just need a little thinning out and want to increase the overall taste. It can be easy to overdo these add in small amounts and add slowly.
Adding a splash of vinegar (white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc.) not only thins the sauce but also adds a tangy flavor that can enhance your BBQ dishes. Adding a small amount of vinegar is the best method for thinning an Alabama white BBQ sauce.
Method 10: Add Tomato Puree
Adding a bit of tomato sauce or puree can provide body and flavor to the sauce while thinning it out slightly. If your sauce is too spicy, try this method.
This is also a great method for tomato-based sauces.
Methods I Do Not Recommend
I do not endorse adding ketchup. It is rather thick and you will likely need to add water. Opt for tomato puree instead.
This should go without saying, but don't add oil. As the sauce cools the oil will pool on top and become thicker. Not very appetizing.
- Go Slow: Gradually add your thinning agent of choice to avoid over-thinning the sauce.
- Taste and Adjust: As you thin the sauce, taste it periodically to make sure you're maintaining the desired flavor balance.
- Reheat Gently: BBQ sauce contains a lot of sugars which burn easily so opt for low heat.
Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipes
🌡️ How To Store Homemade BBQ Sauce
Cool your BBQ sauce to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. It's good in there for about two weeks.
If you want to keep it longer you can freeze it. Use a container or bag that's safe for the freezer. Push out the air before sealing. It can stay frozen for around six months.
To thaw, take the frozen sauce out and put it in the fridge overnight to let it thaw.
📖 Printable Recipe Card
How to Thin BBQ Sauce
- 4 tablespoons water or liquid of choice
- 1 cups BBQ sauce
- In a medium saucepan, heat the BBQ sauce over low heat until it is warmed through.1 cups BBQ sauce
- Gradually add your liquid of choice 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired constinecy is acheived.4 tablespoons water
- Small Saucepan