Candy’s Version of Chicago Sweet Barbecue Sauce

Today, I got some of the older (not outdated though) bulk cans of tomato sauce and catsup out of the pantry wanting to try a new recipe using them. We’re big fans of a particular¬† BBQ chain across the U.S. We especially love their Chicago Sweet and St. Louis Style sauces. I wanted to give the first one a try. Looking at the ingredients, I pulled everything we needed out of the cabinets and started mixing. The original recipe called for red wine vinegar but all I had was apple cider vinegar and white vinegar. I used the apple cider vinegar to give it a little more pizzazz. I made some other substitutions, put a half cup more brown sugar in it, more chili powder and a little less celery salt.

As I made it, I measured the contents of the bulk cans. The catsup can holds 11 cups of catsup and the tomato sauce came out at 12 cups exactly. I’ll share my recipe, but for this batch of BBQ sauce to can, I increased the proportions by 6 to use the entire cans of tomato sauce and catsup. Oh my!! Is it ever good! It has a bit of a kick to it, so if you prefer sweeter BBQ sauces, lessen the amounts of the hotter spices and taste it as you go.

here we go…

Candy’s Version of Chicago Sweet BBQ Sauce.

2 cups catsup

2 cups tomato sauce

1-3/4 cups brown sugar

1-1/4 cups apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup molasses

4 teaspoons liquid smoke. I used hickory flavored.

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon celery salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, as desired (or a scant 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes)

1 scant teaspoon black pepper.( I only had a fine ground black pepper so I used less. The finer ground pepper is, the hotter it tastes.)


  1. Place all ingredients n a very large saucepan. I wound up using a hot water bath canner to cook the sauce in. 6 batches equals a LOT of sauce!
  1. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching. The yellow dots you see is the butter as it’s melting. See the steam? It smells absolutely delicious!

Candys version of Chicago Sweet BBQ sauce

  1. Prepare canning jars, lids and rims per directions in the Ball canning book. Set aside.
  1. Ladle hot barbecue sauce into jars, leaving a 1 inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a clean cloth or paper towel soaked in white vinegar. (I’ve never had a seal failure using vinegar to clean the jar rims. )¬† Candy's Chicago Sweet BBQ sauce ready to can.JPG
  1. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes per the Ball canning book directions. Remove from the hot water, allow to cool without touching the lids. In the event of a seal failure, you may remove the lid, prepare a new one and re-process. Be sure to check the edge of the rim of the jar for chips or breaks, or debris that may have caused the seal failure.

I had one jar that broke in the last canner load crying sad face but, I still have 18 pints to use.

Candys version of Chicago Sweet BBQ Sauce all done

  1. Store opened jars of barbecue sauce in the refrigerator.