How-to BBQ: Homemade BBQ sauce recipe

How-to BBQ: Homemade BBQ sauce recipe

I hadn’t really made much tomato ketchup before. I have made countless BBQ sauces, but usually relying on shop bought ketchup for the base (for those BBQ sauces that rely on a tomato ketchup base, anyway). However, this summer has bought a bumper crop of tomatoes from my dad’s greenhouse so I found myself with a kilo of fresh tomatoes in the fridge and thought I’d give it a try. This recipe started out with the intentions of being a ketchup, you see. It ended up being closer to a tomato-BBQ sauce hybrid, but it still works well. Maybe it could still be considered a smokey-tomato ketchup, whatever you call it, it has certainly gone down very well as a condiment.

I decided a sensible first step was to smoke the tomatoes before making ketchup. However, a part of this plan I hadn’t considered was just how hard it would be to resist eating the smoked tomatoes before they made it into the ketchup. The lightly oiled, slightly dried, smokey tomatoes smelt and tasted incredible - it made me realise I should have been smoking some tomatoes with my long BBQ cooks as standard, as they would be an incredible side - especially with some nice bread and a bit of salt!

Tomatoes chopped and ready for the smoker

Anyway, I’m digressing - armed with smoked tomatoes I set about making the ketchup. My theory being that ketchup is basically just tomatoes, vinegar, salt and sugar, I chucked them altogether and simmered like you would any sauce or jam and then blended. Aside from the time commitment, there really is nothing to it.

The tomato sauce came out great, kids and adults loved it and it certainly didn’t last long! I would note, that with this level of cider vinegar and the smoked tomatoes it was more of a ketchup-BBQ sauce hybrid. If BBQ sauce is not your thing then you can reduce the vinegar to 40ml. If spicy/BBQ sauce is more your thing you could also lean into it and throw in some chilli flakes (or smoked chillies if you have them!)

  • 2 jars
  • 10 minutes
  • 4 hours


  • 1 kilogram fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cloves of garlic
  • 100 grams light brown sugar
  • 14 grams salt
  • 60 millilitres cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 lemon - flesh and juice (avoid the seeds)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon concentrated lemon juice (e.g. Jif lemon from a bottle)


  1. If you are going for a smokey (rather than original) tomato ketchup, the first step is to smoke the tomatoes
  2. Set your smoker up for indirect smoking at 110C/225F and add some wood.
  3. Chop the tomatoes in half and place skin down on the grill
  4. Smoke them two hours
  5. OPTIONAL - After smoking the tomatoes they reduced in weight to about 600 grams - if you aren't planning on smoking them, I'd still recommend roasting the tomatoes a little - this will reduce the liquid content and bring out some more of the natural sweetness. If not smoking, chop the tomatoes in half, lay on a baking tray (or two) and drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and cook in an oven at 160 degrees for about an hour.
  6. Once that is done (and this step can be done another day), cook the onion and celery in a little olive oil until softened and fragrant
  7. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the smoked tomatoes and simmer on a low heat for 2-3 hours until it has reduced to a good consistency.
  8. Process the sauce in a food processor or with a hand blender until smooth and no tomato skins are left visible
  9. Whilst still warm, spoon into sterilised jars and seal to cool, once cooled a bit they can be kept in cool/dark cupboards just like jam/chutneys, keep refrigerated once opened.

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