Roberta Solomon's Barbecue Sauce

I found this recipe while going through my late mother Johnetta Miller's metal recipe file box. It's attributed to her mother, Roberta Solomon. Grandmother Solomon—I called her Granny— grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The combination of brown sugar, mustard and vinegar gives this sauce a tangy and slightly sweet flavor. This was my family's go-to sauce to add to barbecued chicken and pork spareribs which were served "dry." For us, barbecue season was essentially the summer holidays: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. This sauce pairs well with any baked or grilled chicken and pork dishes. To enhance the sauce's tanginess, a halved lemon would be added as the sauce cooked. I have fond memories of seeing that floating lemon and finding a stray lemon seed as I slathered the sauce on my barbecue. Read more: BBQ on the Move: How African American migrants popularized Southern barbecue.

A pot of homemade barbecue sauce with jars of sauce
Photo: Jerrelle Guy
Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
45 mins
6 cups

This recipe is part of our series, Migration Meals: How African American Food Transformed the Taste of America. During the Great Migration, millions of African Americans left the South and settled in the rest of the United States, bringing rich culinary traditions with them—sweet potato pie, black-eyed peas, mac and cheese, barbecue and so much more.


  • 2 cups canned tomato puree

  • 2 cups ketchup

  • 2 cups water

  • ½ cup white vinegar

  • ½ cup chopped onion

  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

  • ¼ cup prepared yellow mustard

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon Gates Bar-B-Q Original Classic Seasoning or your favorite barbecue spice rub

  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika or chipotle chile powder

  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

  • ½ teaspoon onion powder

  • 1 lemon, halved and seeds removed (optional)


  1. Combine tomato puree, ketchup, water, vinegar, onion, brown sugar, mustard, oil, salt, BBQ seasoning, smoked paprika (or chipotle powder), Worcestershire, garlic powder, onion powder and lemon halves (if using) in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the lemon halves. Let the sauce cool to room temperature before serving or storing.

To make ahead

Refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

27 Calories
1g Fat
6g Carbs
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 48
Serving Size 2 Tbsp.
Calories 27
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Total Sugars 4g
Total Fat 1g 1%
Vitamin A 162IU 3%
Sodium 268mg 12%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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