The Best Barbecue Sauces You Can Buy at the Grocery Store

We put one of life's greatest condiments to the test in a highly scientific, waffle fry-laden taste test
Grocery Store Barbecue Sauces, Ranked
Photo: Tasting Table

If you consider barbecue sauce to be one of the world's greatest condiments, you're not alone. This glaze-meets-marinade-meets-dipping sauce is truly one of life's greatest pleasures, adding smoky sweetness and tangy heat to ribs, chicken, fries and sandwiches galore.

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While our love for all things barbecue may be never-ending, we admit that some barbecue sauces stand far above the rest when it comes to flavor and texture. In order to find the best non-homemade options out there, we put six popular grocery store brands to the test in a blind judging. Using waffle fries as our vehicle of choice, we downed what is probably an unhealthy amount of the sweet, rich goodness in the name of picking our favorites out of the pack.

Disagree with our ranking? Let us know in the comments.

Our Top Picks

Sticky Fingers Memphis Original, $3.50

"This tastes like the South," one editor said upon tasting  Sticky Fingers' unique sauce. This underdog is loose in texture and unusually dark in color but immediately stood out to our editors for its distinctly authentic mesquite taste. It's very smoky and spicy, boasting a good dose of molasses without being syrupy. Great as a dip, marinade or glaze, this bottle was a clear favorite.

Bull's-Eye Original, $3

Tangy, spicy and authentic were just a few words used to describe this barbecue sauce. Although it may not, in reality, be the most authentic sauce on the table, its complex taste impressed our taste testers. Not too sweet and not too spicy, one editor adorably added, "I enjoy the tickle on the back of my throat."

Sweet Baby Ray's Original, $3

Confession time: Despite being outvoted, this editor refuses to let her precious Sweet Baby Ray's fall below the top three in this ranking. Although intensely sweet, this sauce's comforting nostalgia simply can't be beat (says the girl who would literally eat it out of a bowl with a spoon). Some of the other editors, however, felt that the sweetness overpowered this sauce, causing it to lack any smokiness or complexity, despite a good level of heat. To be fair, many taste testers were shocked to learn this sauce was Sweet Baby Ray's, considering it a clear favorite before the blind test began.


Where there's smoke, there's BBQ. Right, @kylebamberger?

A post shared by Sweet Baby Ray's (@sbrbbq) on

Runners Up

Heinz Classic Sweet & Thick, $3

Heinz might be our favorite purveyor of ketchup, but we were still pleasantly surprised by its contribution to the barbecue sauce market. This bottle certainly lived up to its name: It was very sweet and very thick and gloopy, making it hard to use as a dip, but many editors noted it could be perfect for a glaze on something like barbecue chicken.

Stubb's Sweet Heat, $4

While editors thought Stubb's would be a standout, "higher-end" addition to our ranking, the blind taste test wasn't so kind to this sauce. Editors found it to be overly spiced and ketchupy with an overwhelming taste of cumin. Although it's called sweet heat, Stubb's lacked the sweetness we were looking for as well. Testers did admit, though, that it tasted like "real" barbecue.

Kraft Original, $3

This sauce was familiar and nostalgic for our editors, but the lack of complexity failed to wow us. Although it's pleasantly sweet and has a great dippable texture, it's not one we would seek out in the store. Still, it's a widely available and solid choice in a pinch.

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