BBQ Sauce As Marinade – Best Ways To Use It

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Want to have a great marinade for an upcoming BBQ but don’t have the time to shop for ingredients or prep the mixture? 

Don’t worry, if you have BBQ sauce stored in the pantry, then you are good to go. BBQ sauce packs a lot of flavors and is perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy a range of different types of protein.

Its smokiness and subtly sweet and acidic flavor are renowned and loved all over the world. 

Can you use BBQ sauce as a marinade? Yes, BBQ sauce comes in a lot of varieties and you can use almost all of them to marinate meat. Throw in some BBQ sauce, a few herbs of choice, and spices and you will have a great marinade for all your cooking or grilling needs.

However, if you are going to go solo on the BBQ sauce, you need to keep a few things in mind. Read below to learn more about how to use BBQ sauce as a marinade.

Why BBQ Sauce For Marinating?

BBQ sauce is one of the dominating condiments in the market when it comes to flavored sauces. It is widely used across the globe and is known for its smoky, sweet, tangy, and subtly spicy flavor. 

BBQ sauce is so varied that you can find multiple varieties in any given region but what they all have in common is the distinct smoky flavor. This flavor is why BBQ sauce goes so well with other smoked meat, especially when barbecued. 

To many people, using BBQ sauce as a marinade may seem blasphemous. How can you use a condiment to marinate meat? 

Well, if you look at the list of ingredients on any BBQ sauce recipe or bottle, you will know exactly why this is the perfect way to flavor meat before, during, and after cooking. 

BBQ sauce is made from a mix of things and one of them is ketchup. While you wouldn’t want to marinate meat using just ketchup, BBQ sauce offers just the right mix of spices, herbs, and tenderizers that make it the perfect way to flavor and marinate meat. 

For example, a typical BBQ sauce recipe may include the following:

  1. Roasted whole spices
  2. Vinegar
  3. Ketchup
  4. Sugars
  5. Salt
  6. Red chili powder
  7. Flavorings or other sauces like Worcestershire sauce

Now compare this list of ingredients with what you would typically use for seasoning a steak or other types of meat. Notice that these are more or less the same ingredients required for a basic marinade. 

Of course, you get the added flavor of other flavorings in the sauce too. This is what makes BBQ sauce the perfect and easiest way to flavor your steak.

Most people are daunted by the idea of marinating with BBQ because the sauce is only seen as a condiment that is to be used with cooked meat. 

But trust us, once you try your favorite BBQ sauce as a marinade, you may not want to go back. The sauce acts as a combo of a tenderizer and flavoring agent and will also help in getting that beautiful char and sear on any type of meat.

BBQ Sauce and Chicken

BBQ sauce goes extremely well with chicken. If you dislike dry and bland white meat like us, as you would usually find in breast meat, then BBQ sauce may be the cure for all. 

BBQ sauce can be used as a marinade while prepping the meat. For example, you can use this simple and delicious chicken fillet recipe that will convince you of the benefits of cooking with BBQ sauce. 

BBQ Chicken Fillet Recipe 

For this recipe, you will require a chicken breast fillet. We recommend starting with one and then adjusting the recipe before committing to more fillets. 

  1. All you have to do is prepare the meat by first properly cleaning it and then pat dry the surface so that there is as little moisture as possible.
  2. Trim the meat of excess fat as required then place a few angled cuts on the surface of the meat so that the marinade reaches into the chicken. Next, simply pick your favorite brand of BBQ sauce and pour in enough sauce to cover the entire chicken. You don’t want to submerge the chicken in sauce, it should just be enough to completely coat it from all sides.
  3. Next, take a fork and lightly puncture the chicken at random, do this on both sides. This will help the marinade spread and permeate inside the meat. 
  4. Leave the chicken to marinate for a minimum of 3 hours. If you can, we recommend leaving the chicken to marinate overnight for a more impactful flavor. The vinegar in the sauce will tenderize the chicken while the sugars and spices will help create the beautifully textured caramelization on top. 
  5. Once the chicken is ready, heat a skillet or cast-iron pan and turn up the heat. When the pan is piping hot, spray on or spread some oil or fat of your choice and place the chicken in the pan. The chicken will probably make a splash, so be careful. 
  6. Let the chicken cook on each side, make sure you get that beautiful char on each side. Remember, you don’t want to cook the chicken for more than 8-10 minutes on each side. Cooking it more will only result in a flavorful but dry piece of meat. 
  7. When the chicken is almost done, take a bowl and pour in more BBQ sauce. Then, with a brush, coat the chicken with the sauce. You can either smear the sauce using the brush or you could also pat the chicken with the brush to sporadically spread the sauce on the surface. 
  8. Give the chicken 2-3 more minutes on each side on the grill/pan and then serve with a side of your choice! 

This is by far the easiest way to cook a great-tasting steak or fillet without making a mess or taking out a list of different ingredients. 

Making Homemade BBQ Sauce Marinade

Yes, we are going the extra mile.

If you think making BBQ sauce requires a lot of work or factory-grade equipment then we are here to tell you that not only can you make BBQ sauce but you can also have it taste better and as per your liking. 

As mentioned earlier, BBQ sauce is a mix of common ingredients and each of these ingredients can easily be bought from a supermarket – it’s just a matter of mixing and cooking them the right way.


  • Ketchup – This will add that distinct tomato-y flavor and will also act as a base for your BBQ sauce. You can use any brand, the better the flavor of the ketchup the more flavorful your BBQ sauce will be. Remember to go with a ketchup brand that uses real tomatoes for its sauce. 
  • Roasted cumin seeds and peppercorns – These are the crown jewels of this recipe. You need roasted spices to bring out that smoky and distinctly BBQ-esque flavor of the sauce. We recommend roasting and grinding the spices yourself but you can also get prepackaged roasted spices from the market too. 
  • Vinegar – Vinegar will add that subtle yet pronounced acidic flavor and will balance out the spices and sugars in the mix. It will also provide a distinct tang. You can also add lemon juice to the step for more acidity. 
  • Garlic Powder – Garlic will add a delicious umami flavor that will perfectly complement the other flavorings in this recipe. 
  • Worcestershire sauce – Use any brand that you’d like. This will enhance the smoky flavor of the sauce and will also add a lot of umami flavorings too. 
  • Brown sugar – This will balance out the spices and acid in this recipe. The sugar will help the sauce achieve that beautiful glaze and will also add a layer of sweetness to the mix. 
  • Honey – Honey will work with brown sugar and help add a glaze and a complex sweet flavor. 
  • Lemon juice – Add zest and a punchy flavor and after taste to your sauce with lemon. Make sure you use ripe lemon, avoid overly acidic lemons for a more balanced flavor. 
  • Red chili powder or Hot sauce (optional) – If you would like more spiciness, then we recommend adding in a dash of your favorite hot sauce or some chili powder to turn up the heat. 
  • Hot Coal (Optional) – Smoking the sauce at the end with coal will add a much more pronounced smoky flavor.

Things To Keep In Mind

The great thing about these ingredients is that you can easily find them at a store near you all you have to do is literally mix them and cook them for a while until they reach the right consistency and have that amazing glaze. 

Before you begin, there are a few important things to keep in mind. First, the whole spices are required to be roasted. There is no other way around this, if you skip this step, then you might as well not make BBQ sauce. 

To roast the spices, simply put a pan on low heat. We don’t want the pan to be screaming hot, it just has to be enough to heat the spices.

A great way to test this is to put the pan on low heat for a few minutes and then carefully hover your hand over the pan – you should only feel slight warmth. 

Put in the peppercorns and cumin seeds and roast them until they are aromatic. Keep stirring them and avoid keeping them in one position for more than 2 minutes. Once aromatic and roasted evenly, take them out of the pan and let them cool down. 

Roasting the spices will release their oils and make them easier to work with, this step will also add a distinct smoky flavor to your sauce.

Grind the spices until they turn into a fine powder. You can also use a resin mortar and pestle to grind the mix even more. 

We recommend not buying pre-made roasted spice mixes because once you roast and grind the spices, they will lose their aroma and freshness as the oil dries up. But if you are short on time then just go ahead with prepackaged spices. 


  1. Mix 2 cups of ketchup, ½ cup of vinegar, 1/4th cup of brown sugar, 2 tbsp of honey, 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbsp of lemon juice, 1 tsp of the roasted powdered spices, 1 – 1.5 tsp of garlic powder, ¼tsp of hot sauce or red chili powder. 
  2. Heat the mix on low to medium heat until the mix starts to boil slightly. Turn down the heat and let it cook for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce has a beautiful glaze and the right consistency. To check, you can dip in a brush and see if most of the sauce sticks to the brush.
    • If the sauce sticks to the brush, then turn off the heat and let it cool, if it drips too much then the mix will need to be cooked for 2-3 more minutes. Repeat this test until the sauce is just the right consistency. 
  3. This is optional, but you can also smoke the sauce using hot coal. Simply place the burning coal in an aluminum cup and let it float over the sauce. Have the lid of the pot ready in one hand and dip a few drops of vegetable oil over the coal to let it smoke. Quickly cover the lid and let it smoke for 15 minutes.

Optional Ingredients

If you want your sauce to have more of a kick then we recommend adding in some hot sauce or chili powder to increase its heat.

We would advise that you taste the sauce before adding in these optional ingredients to see how much spiciness is required in your sauce.

Transfer the sauce mix while it’s warm so it’s easy to pour in a bottle. Allow to cool down completely and use on steaks, tofu, chicken, and more! 

This BBQ sauce recipe can be adjusted as per your requirements. You can also experiment with other spices like roasted coriander or other umami flavorings. 

If you’d like, you could also mix in your favorite steak seasoning in the sauce too, then it would make even more sense to use this homemade batch of BBQ sauce as a marinade. 


BBQ sauce is perfect for everyday cooking. It can be used in marinating meat or as a condiment for steaks, tofu, and more. The smoky flavor and its delicious aroma are unmistakable and will surely add a lot to any recipe. 

Just dab in some BBQ sauce on uncooked meat, let it sit for a few hours, and then cook while adding in more sauce at the end for that beautifully glazed texture and char.

Serve with even more sauce or your favorite sides. Trust us, this is one marinade recipe that you must try at least once. 

Related Questions

Can I use BBQ sauce with Tofu?

Yes. BBQ sauce goes well with tofu and you can even use it with fish and all other types of protein too. Mix the tofu with your favorite BBQ sauce and give it a quick sear for an even better flavor. 

BBQ sauce is highly versatile and can help elevate the flavor of any recipe. You can either use it as a marinade or as a condiment. 

Do I need steak seasoning if I marinade with BBQ sauce?

BBQ sauce already has all the basic ingredients that make up most steak seasonings. If you’d like more flavor then you can sprinkle on some seasonings with the BBQ sauce marinade.

Just make sure that you don’t go overboard with the seasoning as it may add more salt than you need. 

Homemade BBQ sauce that already has steak seasoning means that you will only need to use the sauce alone to flavor your steak before, during, and after cooking. 

Can I use any BBQ sauce and ketchup as a marinade? 

We recommend using ketchup as an ingredient for the marinade not as a marinade itself. 

Using only ketchup may not provide you with the results that you desire in the context of flavor and texture. You can use BBQ as a marinade because, along with other spices and seasonings, it also typically has ketchup in it. 

Related Articles

Can You Use Marinade As Sauce?

How To Thicken BBQ Sauce

Best Sugar-Free BBQ Sauces

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *