5 Best Sauces And Salsas For Your Next Grill

Once you have mastered the basics of grilling, you may be looking for ways to up your flavors to the next level.

Choosing between gas, electric, or charcoal is only half the battle when deciding what flavor you want to achieve. 

It’s not just about how you cook the meat, but also what you add to the meat.

If your taste buds are getting bored with the same repertoire of flavors every week, it’s time to get saucy.

Flavor accessories like sauces or salsas will add that extra pizazz and little bit of kick to your next cookout.

Grilled ribs wouldn’t be the same without that sticky sauce, the same way, for many, ketchup is essential with hot dogs.

Some BBQ sauces like Sweet Baby Rays, which comes in several flavors, will provide a good go-to sauce for almost anything, others tend to be rather bland.

Just like most things in life, making your own sauces at home can be so much better. And while we get busy in the kitchen, have you ever experienced the difference between homemade salsa and a store-bought jar?

Join me as I look at some of the best recipes to add that extra sauciness to your outdoor grilling party.

BBQ Sauces: King of the Grill Sauces

Korean Spicy Sauce

Let’s start at the beginning, which is without a doubt the most common sauce you will find by the grill in the US: BBQ sauce.

A good BBQ sauce is used to baste meats when cooking, or simply left on the counter for guests to add themselves. Personally, I think the measure of a good cookout is in the BBQ sauce.

The Different Styles of BBQ Sauce

Depending on which style of BBQ you are cooking, the BBQ sauce can vary the most.

Kansas City style sauces are like those found in the aisles of most grocery stores, a thick and sweet, tomato based, tangy mixture.

Carolina and Southern BBQ sauces tend to add more vinegar to the sauce for that extra based tang.

Traditionally, Memphis BBQ uses dry rubs rather than sauces. However, you will find BBQ joints that put a sweet vinegar-based sauce on the table with that characteristic Memphis heat.

St. Louis style sauces, often found on ribs, are somewhat thinner and tangier than a Memphis sauce, but retain a hint of that heat.

Texas style BBQ sauces draw on the many melting flavors from around the world. In South Texas, it may be more Mexican influenced, whereas Eastern Texas combines so many different flavors.

The sauce starts with a ketchup base to create a classic thick sauce, blended with flavor combinations you will want to just pour on almost everything.

Food Safety and Sauces for Grilling

Many of the sauces we grill with use a combination of sweet and savory ingredients to offer a unique taste.

The sweeter ingredients will impart a fabulous depth of flavor to your grilled meats. However, sugar burns more easily at high temperatures and can add a bitterness to the sauce.

Sauces that are high in sugar should always be added to the meat in the final five or 10 minutes of grilling.

This will help avoid that bitterness, and prevent the sauce burning on the exterior of the meat. For a deeper flavor, you could use a brush to apply layers of the sauce for a delicious glaze.

And never use a sauce at the table which has had the brush touching the raw meat.

To avoid cross contamination, you should divide the sauce prior to grilling. If you have already brushed the sauce on, you can boil the remaining sauce in a pan before placing it on the table.

The Best BBQ Sauce Recipes

Kansas City BBQ Sauce

Kansas City BBQ Sauce

This variation on a traditional Kansas City style sauce creates a thick, sweet sauce with that little extra kick from the cayenne pepper.

It’s ideal for use on ribs, or placing on the counter as a pouring sauce.


  • 1¼ cups ketchup
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup soft brown sugar
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    2 tbsp molasses or honey
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    1 tbsp onion powder
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    1 tbsp garlic granules or powder
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    1 tbsp ground black pepper
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    1 tsp ground allspice
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    1 tsp cayenne pepper (add more if you like extra heat)


  • Combine all the sauce ingredients in a pan over a medium heat on the stove for five minutes. If you have your grill set up for indirect heat, or use a gas grill, this could also be done on the grill top. When combined, turn down the heat or move to a cooler part of the grill and leave to simmer for about 20 minutes until the sauce reduces
  • Remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes if you intend to use it right away. If preparing ahead of time, allow to cool for 30 minutes before placing it in an airtight container. In a refrigerator, this sauce will keep for up to five days after the initial preparation
  • If chilled, you will need to bring the sauce back up to temperature slightly in a pan. The sauce should be served warm, but not too hot.  Baste the ribs, as directed, in the final cooking minutes, or serve as a side sauce at the table

Hyde County Tangy Sauce

Hyde County Tangy Sauce

Passed down from my grandpa, this recipe is the type favored in South Carolina for use on their famous pulled pork sandwiches.

The style of grilling is very different in the Carolinas, with an emphasis on tang rather than sweet.

This tangy sauce will go well with any pork, shredded chicken, or even lamb.


  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large lump of unsalted butter
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    1 cup apple cider vinegar
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    ½ cup unsweetened apple juice
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    2 tsp brown sugar
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    1 tsp dried chili flakes (optional)
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    1 unwaxed lemon
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    Salt and pepper to taste
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    1 handful of fresh cilantro


  • Place the chopped onion in a pan with the butter and oil over a medium heat (stovetop or grill). Cook until softened, and add the vinegar, apple juice, and two cups of water
  • Reduce the liquid to a simmer before throwing in the sugar, chili flakes (if using), and seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir well until all the sugar is dissolved
  • Slice the lemon into round pieces and add to the pan along with the chopped stalks of the cilantro (save the leaves for another dish)
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    Cook for 35 to 40 minutes to allow all those awesome flavors to mingle
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    Remove from the heat and strain through a sieve before serving. If stored in an airtight container, it will keep for up to two weeks in a refrigerator

Chinese Style BBQ Sauce (Char Siu)

Chinese BBQ Sauce

Next time you want to bring a taste of the Orient to your grill, try this simple Chinese style BBQ sauce.

It can be used on most grilled or smoked foods, and is perfect for those sticky ribs found in your local Chinese takeaway.

You could also use this sauce on a pork tenderloin for some of the most delicious Char Siu pork you have ever tasted.

However, be warned, like most BBQ sauces this one can burn quite easily due to its high sugar content.

Only use it at the end of cooking and use a brush to apply it rather than pouring and causing potential flare-ups.


  • ½ cup sherry (dry vermouth will do if you don’t have sherry)
  • ⅔ cup hoisin sauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar
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    4 cloves minced garlic
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    2 tsp black bean paste
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    1½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice (can be found in most grocery stores)
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    1 teaspoon sea salt


  • Cook all the ingredients in a double boiler to avoid direct heat coming into contact with the sugar and pastes. Simmer over a medium to low heat for approximately 10 minutes, until the sauce starts to get thicker
  • Once the sauce is thick, remove from the heat and allow to cool for five minutes if using immediately. Either brush on to your ribs, meat, or poultry, or you could place on the counter as a dipping sauce for your grill guests to add themselves
  • Kept in an airtight container, this sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week after preparation. Reheat in a microwave for about a minute before using

Salsa: Bring a Bit of Spice to Your Grill

Salsa, originally from Mexico, is a chunky type of sauce which is served as a side rather than a cooking sauce.

Usually containing a mixture of fresh vegetables, herbs, and sometimes fruit, they often add fresh chili for that extra kick.

They tend to be less wet and more chunky, ideal for dipping chips or placing on top of your grilled meats.

Tacos just wouldn’t be the same without a choice of salsas, and many grilled meats benefit from a salsa too. Fruit-based salsas will work well with pork or poultry, while tomato- and chili-based salsas go well with steaks and other cuts of red meat.

Traditionally, salsas use a combination of tomato, chili, onions, and other spices. However, many of today’s salsas will add far more flavors.

The combination is totally up to you, and making your own salsa at home will normally be far superior to store-bought equivalents.

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Everybody’s tried the tomato-based salsas you get with nachos at the local Tex Mex spot, but how many have tried a pineapple salsa?

You’ve already got the grill going, so why not use it to grill some fresh pineapple for this refreshing salsa?

If you perfect this recipe, you will truly deserve the title of condimelier—an expert in the creation of perfect condiments!


  • 1 medium pineapple, top and tailed with skin removed
  • ½ pound cherry tomatoes (preferably on the vine)
  • 1 red jalapeno or serrano chili
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    1 bunch of cilantro leaves
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    Juice of 1 lime
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    Sea salt to taste


  • Chop the pineapple into large slices and discard the core. Grill on both sides over a medium heat until it turns golden and is slightly charred
  • While the pineapple is cooling down, quarter the tomatoes, chop the cilantro, and add to a bowl. When the pineapple is cool finely chop, before adding to the other ingredients
  • Squeeze the lime juice over the salsa, and season with a little sea salt
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    This salsa should be used almost immediately, although the flavors will mingle with a little extra time. If any should be left over, it won’t keep in the refrigerator too well and will just turn to mush

Mad Mango Salsa

Mad Mango Salsa

Most of the sauces and salsa we have looked at go very well with meats and poultry.

This fruity salsa is ideal for fish and I just love it with grilled fish tacos. It could also be used with grilled poultry, and the cooling flavors go with any spicy dish.


  • 1 large ripe mango
  • ½ a medium red onion
  • ½ a cucumber
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    1 bunch of fresh cilantro leaves
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    Juice of 1 lime
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    Sea salt to taste


  • Cut the mango in half, separate from the stone and slice each half with a criss-cross pattern
  • Cut the flesh away from the skin and combine with finely chopped onion and cucumber pieces. Add the cilantro leaves and squeeze the lime juice over the top
  • Mix well and season with sea salt before serving

Final Thoughts

We have only had time to include a few recipes for your sauces and salsa for your next grill.

However, the possibilities are endless.

Remember, salsa isn’t just a dance, but also a delicious condiment too. Follow the tips we have included here and maybe try a few of your own recipes too.

Soon people will be commenting just what a saucy guy on the grill you are!

About the Author William Clay

William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.