7 Alternatives to BBQ Sauce for Ribs – Spicy, Sweet, or Tangy

Ribs are a beloved dish, savored by many for their succulent meat and delectable flavors. But, for those of us looking to escape the ubiquity of barbecue sauce and venture into new taste territories, a variety of enticing options await.

Below, we’ll explore seven mouthwatering alternatives to BBQ sauce that range from spicy and savory to sweet and tangy, bringing a refreshing diversity to your rib dish and elevating your culinary experience.

1. Honey Mustard Glaze

Honey mustard glaze acts as an ideal alternative to BBQ sauce due to its balanced sweet and tangy flavor profile. This glaze is a simple concoction but brings a unique zest to the ribs, making them irresistible.

Composition and Variations

The foundational elements of honey mustard glaze are honey and mustard. These ingredients can be amalgamated in varying proportions depending on personal preference, allowing for a tailored taste experience.

  • Dijon Mustard: For a more sophisticated palate, incorporating Dijon mustard can offer a rich and spicy edge.
  • Whole Grain Mustard: This variant provides a textured and layered flavor, enhancing the overall taste of the ribs.

Cooking Techniques

Applying the glaze during the last phase of cooking, typically in the final 30 minutes, ensures the flavors are sealed in while preventing the honey from burning. For those who prefer grilled ribs, brushing the glaze intermittently while turning the ribs ensures an even coating and optimal flavor absorption.

2. Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri sauce is a fresh and vibrant alternative, infusing the ribs with a zesty and herbal flavor. Originating from Argentina, this sauce offers a departure from the traditional sweet and smoky profile of BBQ sauce, opting instead for a refreshing and tangy blend.

Flavor Profile and Ingredients

Chimichurri encompasses a rich blend of parsley, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, creating a symphony of flavors.

  • Garlic: It adds a pungent and aromatic characteristic to the sauce.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: These lend a subtle heat to the sauce, creating a balance between spicy and refreshing.

Application and Pairings

When using chimichurri, marinating the ribs a few hours before cooking is recommended, allowing the meat to absorb the lively flavors. This sauce pairs splendidly with a crisp salad or roasted vegetables, complementing the herby tones and making the meal wholesome and balanced.

3. Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki sauce, with its sweet and savory nuances, is a fantastic choice for those wanting a departure from the conventional. This Japanese sauce imparts a glossy sheen and a delightful taste to the ribs, ensuring a memorable dining experience.

Ingredients and Variations

The essential components of teriyaki sauce include soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. However, experimenting with additional ingredients can yield exciting flavor dimensions.

  • Ginger: Introducing ginger brings a spicy and aromatic undertone to the sauce.
  • Garlic: A hint of garlic can provide a savory and robust depth to the teriyaki.

Marination and Cooking

Marinating the ribs in teriyaki sauce for several hours or overnight ensures the meat soaks up the flavorful marinade. Basting the ribs with additional sauce during the cooking process intensifies the flavors and guarantees a juicy and delicious outcome.

4. Spicy Sriracha Sauce

For lovers of heat and spice, Sriracha sauce acts as a fiery and flavorsome alternative to BBQ sauce. This Thai sauce endows the ribs with a potent kick and a garlicky essence, making every bite a spicy delight.

Intensity and Combinations

Sriracha sauce is renowned for its heat, derived primarily from red chili peppers, which can be moderated or intensified based on individual preference.

  • Honey: Adding honey can mellow down the fiery nature of Sriracha, bringing a sweet counterbalance.
  • Soy Sauce: A dash of soy sauce can introduce a savory umami flavor, enriching the overall taste profile of the ribs.

Cooking and Serving Suggestions

Sriracha sauce can be brushed onto the ribs in the last stages of cooking to prevent it from burning. Serving the ribs with a side of cool and creamy coleslaw or a refreshing salad can provide a balanced and harmonious meal, pleasing to varied palates.

5. Maple Bourbon Glaze

Maple Bourbon Glaze is for those who relish a sophisticated and robust flavor. This glaze imparts a rich and smoky sweetness to the ribs, enveloping them in a luxurious layer of flavors.

Constitution and Refinements

Maple syrup and bourbon whiskey are the central components of this glaze, creating a complex and refined taste.

  • Orange Zest: Incorporating orange zest can infuse a citrusy brightness, elevating the flavors.
  • Black Pepper: A sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper adds a spicy warmth, enhancing the depth of the glaze.

Cooking Method and Accompaniments

Applying the glaze repeatedly during the last 20 minutes of cooking ensures optimal flavor penetration and a caramelized finish. Pairing the ribs with roasted root vegetables or a hearty grain salad complements the rich flavors and provides a satisfying and well-rounded meal.

6. Lemon Herb Marinade

Lemon Herb Marinade is a light and refreshing choice, perfect for those who prefer a more subtle and fresh flavor. The citrus and herbal notes bring a breezy and aromatic dimension to the ribs, making them a summer favorite.

Blend and Adjustments

Lemon juice, olive oil, and a selection of herbs form the base of this marinade, rendering a zesty and fragrant profile.

  • Mint: Adding fresh mint leaves imparts a cool and refreshing aftertaste.
  • Rosemary: Integrating rosemary provides a woody and peppery essence, enriching the marinade’s aroma.

Marination and Serving

Letting the ribs marinate in this concoction for a few hours allows the meat to absorb the fresh and citrusy flavors fully. Serving the ribs with a light salad or grilled vegetables accentuates the clean and crisp flavors, creating a delightful and wholesome dish.

7. Garlic and Herb Rub

A Garlic and Herb Rub is a simple yet flavorful option for those who appreciate a more rustic and earthy taste. This rub bestows the ribs with a savory and herbal richness, making them a versatile and crowd-pleasing choice.

Mixture and Customization

Garlic, assorted herbs, salt, and olive oil are the primary ingredients in this rub, allowing for a flavorful and aromatic coating.

  • Thyme: Incorporating thyme brings a subtle and sweet floral note to the rub.
  • Paprika: Adding paprika delivers a smoky and sweet dimension, offering a multifaceted flavor experience.

Application and Pairings

Rubbing the mixture onto the ribs before cooking ensures the flavors penetrate deep into the meat. The garlicky and herby ribs pair excellently with mashed potatoes or creamy pasta, providing a comforting and hearty meal for all to enjoy.


Can I use store-bought versions of these sauces and marinades, or should I prepare them fresh at home?

Yes, you can use store-bought versions of these sauces and marinades for convenience. However, preparing them at home allows for the customization of flavors and ensures the absence of preservatives and artificial additives, potentially resulting in fresher and richer tastes.

Can these alternative sauces and glazes be used on other meats, or are they exclusive to ribs?

Absolutely, these alternative sauces, glazes, and marinades are versatile and can be used on a variety of meats like chicken, pork, beef, and even fish, enhancing and diversifying the flavors of various dishes.

How can I ensure the flavors of the sauces penetrate well into the ribs?

To ensure optimal flavor penetration, marinating the ribs for several hours, preferably overnight, is recommended. Additionally, scoring the meat or poking small holes in it before marinating can allow the sauce or marinade to seep in more effectively.

Can these alternative sauces and rubs be made ahead and stored?

Yes, most of these sauces, marinades, and rubs can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Sauces and marinades can typically be stored in an airtight container for up to a week, while dry rubs if kept in a cool, dark place, can last for several months.

Are there any vegetarian dishes that these sauces, glazes, or rubs could complement?

Certainly! These sauces, glazes, and rubs can be utilized to flavor a range of vegetarian dishes. They can enhance the taste of grilled vegetables, tofu, tempeh, or even be used as a flavorful dressing for salads and grain bowls, offering versatility in vegetarian cooking.

How can I balance the spiciness in the sauces if it becomes overpowering?

If the spiciness in any sauce becomes overpowering, consider adding a sweet component like honey or maple syrup to balance it out. Alternatively, incorporating a dairy product like yogurt or cream can also mellow down the heat, resulting in a more harmonious flavor profile.

Final Words

Exploring alternatives to BBQ sauce can unveil a realm of diverse and exciting flavors, turning your rib dish into a culinary masterpiece. Whether you desire something spicy, sweet, tangy, or a combination of these, the options are limitless.

Each sauce, glaze, marinade, or rub brings its unique character and essence to the table, allowing you to rediscover and redefine your rib experience.