Homemade Barbecue Sauce + Canning in Sauce Bottles with Lug Lids

August 8, 2016(updated on September 13, 2023)

Impress your friends with tasty homemade barbecue sauce, preserved in commercial sauce bottles and capped with one-piece lug lids.

four finished jars of barbecue sauce

In the last few years, I’ve gone from being barbecue sauce ambivalent to being pretty into the stuff. A big part of my change in attitude stems from the fact that I make most of the barbecue sauce I consume these days. That means that I get to customize the flavor, sweetness, and heat and create something that I’m actually excited to paint on chicken or use as a braising medium for a meaty pork shoulder.

ten pounds of tomatoes

In the past, I’ve made barbecue sauce from peaches, cherries, and apple butter. This time, I’ve embraced the traditional approach and have made a version that starts with tomatoes. To maintain the classic theme, I’ve also preserved it in honest-to-goodness twelve ounce barbecue sauce jars from Fillmore Container.

Twelve ounce bbq sauce jars

Let’s talk about preserving in these bottles before digging into the making of the sauce. They are designed for commercial production, so they will give your sauce a professional look (which is particularly fun if you’re giving the sauce away as a gift or taking it to a food swap).

Sauce bottle and lug lid

These bottles come in two different versions. One uses lug lids, and the other uses a continuous thread (just like mason jars do). I typically opt to use the jars that take the lug lid closure because the lids have a button that depresses when the jar has sealed. I find that that makes it easier to tell whether you’ve gotten a good seal or not and I always appreciate that kind of clarity.

sauce bottles in the canning pot

You prep these bottles the same way you do mason jars. Wash them with warm, soapy water and then when your sauce is nearing completion, put them in a boiling water bath canner and bring them up to temperature. You also want to warm the lids you’ll be using, to ensure that the plastisol is ready to form a good seal. For more on canning with one-piece lug lids, read through this post.

narrow mouth adaptor for canning funnel

Once the jars are hot and the sauce is sufficiently cooked down, it’s time to fill. It can be tricky to fill these bottles because the opening is fairly narrow. I’ve solved that issue by using the wide-ish funnel from this set to adapt my regular stainless steel funnel to fit. It helps to get the sauce into the jars without splatter or mess.

sauce bottle filling station

I fill the jars to approximately 1/2 inch headspace, wipe the rims, and twist on the lug lids. At this point, you want to take care to twist the lids tightly enough to ensure that the plastisol comes into contact with the rim of the jar, but not so tightly that the air can’t vent during the boiling water bath. Then you process.

Because the jars are nearly 8 inches tall, it can be a bit of a trick to find a pot that’s tall enough to hold them fully submerged. Make sure to test the jars for size in your pot before you get everything set up.

six pounds of tomatoes in a colander

Now, to the sauce. As I was creating my recipe, I referenced a number of sources, including the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the Ball Blue Book, and the old Complete Book of Home Preserving. All three sources had nearly identical recipes, and so I used their work as a starting place.

I opted to leave out the peppers and celery, used a combination of brown sugar and molasses to sweeten, and upped the amount of vinegar a little to make a sauce that was a bit tangier.

barbecue sauce starting ingredients

Making a sauce like this is a multi-stage process, but the end result is worth the effort. First, you combine the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and jalapeno in a large pot and cook them down until totally soft. Once the onions are tender (because they’re the toughest to start with), push the vegetables through a food mill fit with its finest screen. This separates the fibrous solids from the sauce and makes for a better finished product.

finished barbecue sauce in the pot

Then you add the remaining ingredients and cook the sauce until it has reduced to a thickness that satisfies your sense of what barbecue sauce should be. At this point, I like to puree it with an immersion blender, to get rid of any clumps that formed during cooking.

filled sauce bottles

Then you funnel it into your bottles, cap them, and process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. When the processing time is up, you want to remove the bottles promptly. The seal is formed when the pressure changes thanks to the temperature differential and so you want to create a situation in which the pressure is strong so that they seal tightly and well.

Once the bottles are cool, they’re ready for labels and either the pantry or your gifting closet.

5 from 2 votes

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Servings: 4 12-ounce jars


  • 6 pounds tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 T crushed aleppo pepper
  • 1 T dry mustard
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 1 T smoked paprika


  • Chop the tomatoes and onions and heap them in a large, non-reactive pot. Peel the garlic cloves and slice the jalapeno into quarters, and add it all to the pot, along with a splash of water to prevent burning.
  • Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it bubbles, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 25-30 minutes, until the tomatoes and onions are entirely tender.
  • Fit a food mill with its finest screen and push the tomato mixture through to separate out the flesh from the sauce. Work the pulp until it is very dry.
  • Return the sauce to the pan and add the vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, and spices.
  • Bring to a boil and reduce for 45-55 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by approximately half and is quite thick.
  • While the sauce reduces, prepare your boiling water bath canner and four 12 ounce jars.
  • When the sauce is ready, funnel it into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings (or lug lids, if you’re using sauce bottles), and process in a boiling water bath canner for 20 minutes.
  • When the time is up, remove the jars from the canner and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool.
  • Once they’ve cooled, check the seals. Sealed jars/bottles can be stored at room temperature until opened. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.

Disclosure: Fillmore Container is a Food in Jars sponsor. Their sponsorship helps keep the site afloat. They provided the jars you see here and are providing the giveaway prize, both at no cost to me. All opinions expressed are entirely mine. 

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77 thoughts on "Homemade Barbecue Sauce + Canning in Sauce Bottles with Lug Lids"

  • I often get to the bottom of a recipe that I’m super excited about, and realize it requires a food mill. Does anyone have a working substitution, if my roommates have casually suggested that I shouldn’t buy any more small kitchen appliances?

    1. Yikes. There’s no real good substitute. You could just puree in all those solids, but it’s not going to be as smooth a finished sauce.

      1. fwiw, I mean that I read to the end of the recipe, not that I cook everything and realize my error! Maybe I’ll go to Fantes and see just how large of an appliance we’re talking about here. I’ve had too many “ah, bummer” moments this season.

        1. A food mill is a really handy thing to have and it need not take up a lot of space.

          This is my favorite.


          It comes completely apart for cleaning. I put mine in the dish washer.

          I’ve used it for tomato sauce and for jams. Yes, it doesn’t hold a lot but I prefer it because of the easy to clean and easy to store features.

    2. Before I got a food mill I just used the old-fashioned method and pushed my mixture (most often it was when I was making tomato ketchup) through a sieve. I always worried that my plastic sieve would tear or break but it never did. It is obviously more labour-intensive than using a food mill but it’s doesn’t take hours either. You could always try pureeing using a stick-blender first if you have one.

    3. Or just roll with a chunkier (and we’re talking tiny pieces) sauce. I don’t bother with a food mill for my ketchups, just the immersion blender. But then I freeze my ketchup instead of can it.

    4. I too was wondering why you could not put the mix into a food processor and reduce to a pulp for this recipe? ? It should make a nice thick sauce.

    5. I have a food strainer, like the Squeezo or the Victorio, which are two good brands. They are a lot less work than a food mill, but they do cost more.

  • Is it ok to use another type of pepper for this recipe? I know the taste will be different, but wasn’t sure if it made a difference in to canning process. I can’t find Aleppo peppers here. Or the spice.

      1. Hi Marisa! When you say course ground pepper, do you mean a consistency like red pepper flakes and NOT a fine, ground pepper like cayenne?

          1. Thanks! I did end up finding Aleppo at Penzey’s like you recommended…and I might try a 2nd batch with crushed red pepper?

            I am in the reducing stage now and realized my pot is only 1 inch taller than my bottles. My pot is huge and I thought for sure it was big enough! Could I kinda tilt/lay the bottles on their sides, and just do 2 at a time so they don’t clank against each other? Or do I need to put the sauce in the fridge and buy a tall pot tomorrow 🙂

            1. You don’t want to process the jars on their sides. Just keep them submerged by a tiny bit. A tea kettle brought to a boil will allow you to top off the pot as the jars process.

              1. Ok thanks! My pot is 1 inch taller than the bottles…I’ll try it. I just had a total fail night, though. I kept reducing and reducing, and the sauce never got to the right thickness…and in the end was probably not enough for even 2 of the 12-oz bottles. I’m not sure what I did wrong! DELICIOUS though, and I’ll use it somehow this week…but I bought 36 of those bottles for gifts, and have a ton of tomatoes left! Haha.

                1. Weird that you had to reduce your sauce so much! Do remember that things thicken up a goodly amount once their cool, so you always stop cooking when it’s a couple degrees runnier than you want the finished product to be!

                2. Good point–I’ll see if what I put in the fridge thickened up. The recipe said reduce by half, and it was definitely still watery by then…but maybe I should have stopped anyways. But even if I had, the volume was nowhere near enough for 4 bottles. The only thing I did different was use a chinois instead of a food mill–perhaps the food mill method would have gotten more pulp through, and that would have helped both the consistency and the volume? I can’t imagine it would have doubled my volume though. I had enough for maybe 1.5 of the 12-oz bottles!

                3. Ah! The food mill sends far more of the pulp into the sauce, which leads to a thicker texture and higher yield. That’s definitely part of the issue. After pushing the tomatoes through the food mill, I had less than a cup of pulp remaining.

                4. Ok that has to be it! I’d say I had about 2 cups of pulp after doing all I could with the chinois! I’ll try it again with my friend’s food mill because the sauce is SO tasty and I know several friends who would absolutely love it! Do you think I could double the recipe? I think for some things you recommend not doubling. Thanks so much for all your help..and for introducing me to Aleppo pepper. Yum!

                5. Man, I am having major recipe fail here, haha. I made more sauce and decided to try the pot I had for canning, and did as you suggested and topped off with a kettle as needed. None of the bottles sealed, so after some Googling and reading comments on your site (and on the lug lid post), I determined that I didn’t tighten the lids enough. Also in that batch, some sauce definitely leaked out into the water bath. I also forgot to bubble the jars. So I re-did one as a test this morning–bubbled the jar, simmered the lid a little longer to make sure the plastisol was ready, and put the lid on tighter. And left in water bath for 5 min after processing. Still no seal! Though I think this time I left TOO much headspace, so maybe the vacuum couldn’t form with too much space. Does the lid usually get sucked in pretty soon after removing from the water bath? Mine is still convex.

                  I usually don’t have this much trouble with canning, but I’m determined to make it work!

  • I generally process veggie mixes in my pressure canner, I feel much better about the preserving and it uses way less water. I have never used other than mason jars though. These bottles are great

    1. In this case this is a high acid recipe so water bath canning is just fine. Tomatoes in general are acidic enough to only require wather bathing. Remember they are technically a fruit not a vegetable. This recipe adds plenty of vinegar too so it is definitely acidic enough.

  • Never realized anything other than ‘official’ canning jar could be used. What a great idea and to give as gifts!

    1. Those bottles are official canning jars. They aredesigned for sauces and such. For best results they should be new jars and for safety at least they require new lids. Both are available through suppliers like U-Line.

  • Is it possible to make this sauce and do a traditional water bath with mason jars? My hubby is a BBQ fiend and I’d love to make this for him 🙂

  • There is always something needed during this time of year.ni particularly like making ketchup, but you’ve sparked an interest in making the bbq sauce. Thank you!

  • Fascinating! I always wondered if there was a way to do that style of lid at home. Your jars look gorgeous 🙂

    Also, FOOD MILL! I also always wondered how commercial manufacturers get the silky smoothness of sauces like ketchup and bbq. Mine are always lumpy, like tomato sauce. I bet that’s what it is, though 🙂

    Thanks for the info and the recipe! Looks delish 🙂

  • I’m curious, in your previous post about canning with lug lids, you said to keep the processing time to about 10 min because they can’t take the high heat for very long. In your recipe above, the processing time is 20 min, that isn’t too long?

    1. Over the course of further use, I’ve found that they can handle the 20 minutes that this recipe requires!

  • I love making BBQ sauce. It’s so much better than commercial versions because I skip the ‘chemicals’ and HFCS. It’s a little known fact that a proper BBQ sauce bottle will make your sauce, no matter how good it is, taste better.

  • This sauce is delicious! I just made it today, adding a bit more brown sugar and pomegranate juice in lieu of some of the vinegar, plus a tiny bit of cardamom and cumin. Used the food mill attachment on my KitchenAid. Thanks, Marisa!

  • hi, just wondering about food safety issues here. is this sauce acidic enough for home canning? if so, you might want to put in a reminder to people to not tinker with the recipe too much (at all?). also, can i ask what your source was for it?

    1. 2 cups of vinegar… yes it is acidic enough. Tomatoes alone are acidic enough but the addition of that much vinegar assures it. Most BBQ sauces are heavy in acids even if they are a sweet sauce.

  • I made a double batch with my garden tomatoes and onions. Filled 8 pint jars. I subbed ancho chile powder for the aleppo pepper and added about 1/3 cup of bourbon whiskey. It took longer to reduce, I think because my tomatoes were so juicy – more like 2.5 or 3 hours. Delicious, thanks for the recipe!

  • I wanted to know if I could pressure can this instead and if so what would be the time on it.

    How long would this be shelf stable?

    1. Why would you pressure can something that doesn’t need to be pressure canned? It takes longer and requires more effort.

  • Would it still be safe for canning if I reduced the amount of brown sugar by half? I’m thinking that it would be acidic enough and the sugar shouldn’t matter? Of course I could always test the pH to see, right? It looks delicious; I just prefer a sauce that isn’t very sweet. Thanks for the recipe!

  • How long is the sauce safe for after the jar has been opened? Seems like so many times a person only needs to use just a small amount. I guess that might be the only advantage of the store bought sauce, it has preservatives… but that is their downfall too. Hmmm…what to do…

  • I know this post is a year old but I finally am getting around to making batches of this great sauce. Bought the same bottles and the lug lids from Fillmore (couldn’t believe how economical it was). Now if I could just get the bottles to seal. Have done 2 batches and only half the bottles are sealing. Any other advice you can give about how to do the lug lids? I have warmed the lids, twisted them on – not super tight but enough so the contents don’t spill out and have processed them just like the directions. Any extra help would be appreciated.
    I go to your site for lots of canning advice –

    1. If you are struggling to get them to seal, after you’ve done the boiling water bath canning process, invert the bottles for awhile. That should help them form seals.

  • Just made this today and it’s terrific! I added a glug of black cherry concentrate but otherwise followed the recipe and it made exactly four 12 oz jars. Thank you – just delicious. 🙂

  • I’ve tried your apricot gojang bbq sauce and your peach bbq sauce. Any chance you have done an apple bbq sauce? Im surrounded by apples and a husband who bbqs 365 day’s a year. Help!? Any thoughts on a blueberry bbq sauce for next years season? Thanks, Shannon

  • My boil reduction time ran about 3 hours. not the 45-55 minutes advertised.
    maybe I had it on a slow boil and didn’t want burn it. Too bad I lost a 1/2 pint in the canning process, I’ll have to try it again.

  • Thank you for this BBQ Sauce recipe. I’ve altered it some to satisfy my taste. My sauce tests pH 3.2. I have a number of 12 oz. continuous thread sauce bottles with new 38/400 mm CT metal lids with plastisol liner. Since there is no “button” on these lids, how do I know the bottle has properly sealed after being processed in a hot water bath?

  • I can’t eat anything spicy so what could I replace the jalepeno and Aleppo pepper with or could I just leave them out?

  • Hi Marisa. I have your book Naturally Sweet Food in Jars. There are so many great recipes! I want to make this barbecue sauce recipe with homegrown tomatoes and jalapeño pepper. Can I use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar, and can I add more to make it sweeter? Can I leave out the aleppo pepper or substitute dried red pepper flakes? Will it be okay to add liquid smoke? How long do I process it for in half-pint or pint jars? I live in less than 1,000 feet elevation. Can I double the recipe? Thanks for your time!

    1. You can certainly make this recipe with coconut sugar rather than brown sugar, and you can add more to make it sweeter to your tastes. Leaving out or swapping the pepper for another dried product is just fine. As long as you stick with a relatively small portion of liquid smoke (which shouldn’t be an issue, as that stuff is potent), that should also be fine. You can double the recipe, but know that it will take longer to cook because of the increased volume. And finally, as long as you live below 1,000 feet in elevation, the processing time should remain as written as long as you are using jars that hold a pint or less.

  • 5 stars
    Why can’t a person cook all ingredients in a stock pot for 30 minuets, let it cool and put it in the fridge and pour it into bottles the next day? Using screw caps. Without heating, or boiling bottles. Why can’t you use bottles right out of the case without washing them?
    You recipe was wonderful-thank you so much.

    1. Because it would spoil incredibly fast. And why bother to go to all the work if it’s going to mold and rot? Heat, good cleaning, and proper processing is what keeps things safe.

  • 5 stars
    Hi Marisa, I used these Same Fillmore bottles and lug lids to make this same sauce, and they just finished processing. How can I tell when the lug lids are sealed? The lids have the small button in the middle but they don’t look like they are depressed yet. How long should it take.

  • You said it was tricky finding a pot to accommodate the tall bottles. So what pot did you use? I can’t find anything taller than 10 inches.

  • Hi Marisa!

    Would I be correct in thinking that it would be safe to tweak the recipe to use half tomatoes and half apples (3 lbs of each), seeing as apples are more acidic than tomatoes? I have so many apples this year and am struggling to find an apple based bbq sauce from a source I trust!