BBQ Sauce for Ribs

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

Ribs have always been one of my family’s favorites. But let’s face it, BBQ sauce gets old and sometimes you need a little spice. That’s why today I’ll give you 7 different types of sauces you can try on your next rib dinner.

By the end, you’ll have tons of new ideas. Better yet, you can mix and match the sauces for fun combinations! Are you ready to learn? Then let’s dig in!

1. Honey mustard glaze

Guide on how to make Honey Mustard Glaze

The honey mustard glaze is the perfect balance of sweet and tangy, making it an excellent choice for dressing up your ribs or any other dish needing a flavor boost. It’s simple to make and requires only a handful of ingredients:


  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What to do?

  1. Combine ingredients – In a small bowl, mix the honey, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, and minced garlic. Stir well until all the ingredients are fully combined. Taste the mixture and then season with salt and pepper according to your preference. My family likes everything a bit spicier so I make this glaze according to their preferences.
  2. Heat the glaze – Pour the mixture into a small saucepan. Heat it over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Bring the glaze to a slight simmer – this should take about 2-3 minutes. You’re not looking to boil it; just warm it enough so that the flavors meld together nicely.
  3. Thicken the glaze – Once the glaze is simmering, reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes ( while stirring frequently, of course). The glaze will slightly thicken as it simmers. If you prefer a thicker glaze, you can let it simmer a bit longer, just keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  4. Apply to ribs – After cooking your ribs according to your preferred method (in our house that’s baking), brush this honey mustard glaze over them during the last few minutes of cooking. This will create a beautifully caramelized exterior. You can also set some glaze aside to serve as a dipping sauce or to apply a fresh layer after the ribs are done.

Note: 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 infuses the ribs with a zesty and herbal flavor. It includes a rich blend of parsley, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and red pepper flakes.

The sauce is traditionally served with grilled meats but to be honest I don’t like to follow the rules in the kitchen. I believe that’s the magic of cooking – the options are endless. So feel free to discover your own chimichurri combinations.


  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, tightly packed (about a bunch)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)


  1. Prepare the herbs and garlic – Rinse the parsley and oregano leaves under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels. Make sure to remove most of the stems from the parsley, we don’t want these to accidentally end up in our sauce. Peel the garlic cloves.
  2. Chop or process: There are two ways to make chimichurri – finely chopping by hand for a rustic texture or using a food processor for a more blended sauce.
    • By hand: Finely chop the parsley, oregano, and garlic. Place them in a mixing bowl.
    • Food processor: Place the parsley, oregano, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until finely chopped, but not pureed.
  3. Mix the sauce: Transfer the chopped herbs and garlic to a bowl (if you used a food processor). Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, sea salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes as needed.
  4. Let it rest: Allow the sauce to sit for at least 10 minutes to let the flavors meld together. For the best flavor, cover and let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight.
  5. And Voilà! Serve your chimichurri sauce at room temperature with your favorite dishes. It pairs exceptionally well with grilled meats like steak, chicken, or even fish.

Bonus tip: When using chimichurri, marinating the ribs a few hours before cooking is recommended, allowing the meat to absorb the lively flavors.

3. Teriyaki sauce

Guide on how to make teriyaki sauce

Teriyaki sauce, with its sweet and savory nuances, is a fantastic choice for those wanting a departure from the conventional. The essential components of teriyaki sauce include soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar.

As I’ve already mentioned, my family loves spicy food so I like to add a dash of crushed red pepper flakes or a bit of sriracha to the sauce.


  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sweet rice wine (Mirin)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water (for cornstarch slurry)

How to prepare it?

  1. Combine ingredients – In a small saucepan, mix together the soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, sweet rice wine, rice vinegar, brown sugar, minced garlic, and grated ginger. Stir well to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Simmer – Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally to make sure all the ingredients are well combined.
  3. Thicken the sauce – In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to create a slurry. Make sure it’s completely smooth. Slowly pour this slurry into the simmering sauce while stirring continuously.
  4. Final simmer – Keep stirring and let the sauce simmer for another 2-3 minutes, or until it thickens to your liking. If the sauce gets too thick, you can add a little more water to reach your desired consistency.
  5. Cool down – Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool down a bit. It will thicken further as it cools.
  6. Apply to ribs – Once cooled, brush this homemade teriyaki sauce generously over your ribs before cooking, or use it as a glaze during the last few minutes of grilling or roasting.

4. Spicy sriracha sauce

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


  • 1/2 cup Sriracha sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt to taste

What to do?

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the Sriracha sauce, honey, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, minced garlic, grated ginger, and lime juice until well combined. Taste and add salt as needed. This is your moment to adjust the balance of flavors according to your preference. More honey for sweetness, more Sriracha for heat, or more vinegar for tanginess.
  2. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan and place it over medium heat. Bring it to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. This will help all the flavors to meld together and also thicken the sauce a bit, making it perfect for clinging to those ribs.
  3. After simmering for about 5 minutes, remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool down to room temperature. As it cools, the flavors will continue to develop, and the sauce will thicken slightly more.
  4. Once your ribs are cooked and ready (you can bake, grill, or smoke them as you like), generously brush the spicy Sriracha sauce over them. If you’re grilling, apply the sauce in the last few minutes to avoid burning the sugars in the honey.
  5. Serve the ribs with extra sauce on the side for those who love their meal extra spicy and saucy. Don’t forget some napkins; it’s going to be deliciously messy!

5. Maple bourbon glaze

Guide on how to make mapple bourbon BBQ sauce

This is my husband’s favorite. I love to prepare this glaze when I’m making dinner for just the two of us.  Maple syrup and bourbon whiskey are the central components of this glaze, creating a complex and refined taste.


  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup bourbon whiskey
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

How to make it?

  1. In a medium saucepan, mix together the maple syrup, bourbon, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, minced garlic, black pepper, smoked paprika, and salt. Stir well to ensure all the flavors meld together.
  2.  Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let it cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce reduces by about a third and thickens slightly. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
  3. Once the glaze has thickened to your liking, remove it from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
  4. Brush the maple bourbon glaze over your ribs during the last 20-30 minutes of cooking. Apply several coats, allowing the glaze to caramelize and form a sticky, shiny coating on the ribs.
  5. Once your ribs are cooked and glazed to perfection, remove them from the heat and let them rest for a few minutes before slicing. Serve hot.

For an extra layer of flavor, you can add a small pinch of cayenne pepper to the glaze for a subtle heat. If the glaze is too thick for your preference, thin it out with a little more bourbon or apple cider vinegar before applying it to the ribs.

6. Lemon herb marinade

Lemon herb marinade is a light and refreshing choice. It’s perfect if you 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. It’s perfect for those summer barbecues with friends.


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon


  1. Combine ingredients – In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice until well blended.
  2. Add herbs and seasonings – Stir in the chopped parsley, rosemary, thyme, minced garlic, salt, and black pepper. Mix until everything is evenly distributed.
  3. Incorporate lemon zest – Add the zest of 1 lemon to the mixture and stir well. The lemon zest adds a bright and zesty flavor that enhances the marinade.
  4. Marinate – Place your choice of meat, fish, or vegetables in a resealable plastic bag or a shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the food, making sure it’s well coated on all sides. Seal the bag or cover the dish.
  5. Refrigerate and marinate – Let the food marinate in the refrigerator. For best results, marinate chicken or vegetables for at least 30 minutes to 2 hours, fish for up to 1 hour, and beef or pork for 2 to 4 hours. Avoid marinating fish for too long, as the acid from the lemon juice can start to cook it.
  6. Cook – After marinating, cook your food as desired. You can grill, bake, or pan-fry.
  7. Serve – Once cooked, serve your marinated dish immediately.

Letting the ribs marinate in this concoction for a few hours allows the meat to absorb the fresh and citrusy flavors fully.

7. Garlic and herb rub

How to make garlic and herb rub

A Garlic and Herb Rub is a simple yet flavorful option for those of you who want a more rustic and earthy taste. Garlic, assorted herbs, salt, and olive oil are the primary ingredients in this rub.


  • 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika (optional for a smoky flavor)
  • Ribs (pork or beef, as per your preference)

What to do?

  1. Start by finely chopping your fresh parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Then, mince the garlic cloves. Fresh herbs are best for this recipe as they will give the most flavor.
  2. In a bowl, combine the chopped herbs, minced garlic, olive oil, salt, black pepper, and paprika (if using). Mix everything well until you have a paste-like consistency. The olive oil will help the rub stick to the ribs and keep the herbs moist during cooking.
  3. Before applying the rub, make sure your ribs are clean and dry. If you haven’t already, remove the membrane on the back of the ribs for better seasoning penetration.
  4. Use your hands to apply the garlic and herb rub generously over both sides of the ribs. Make sure every part is well-coated. For best results, rub the mixture into the meat, ensuring the flavors really get in there.
  5. For deeper flavor, you can let the ribs marinate with the rub on them for at least 1 hour or up to overnight in the refrigerator. If you choose to marinate, cover the ribs with plastic wrap and ensure your fridge is at a safe temperature.
  6.  Preheat your smoker, oven, or grill to the desired temperature. Cook the ribs at a low and slow temperature for the best results. A suggested temperature is 275°F (135°C) for the oven or smoker. If grilling, keep the ribs away from direct heat to avoid burning the herbs.
  7. Once the ribs are tender and cooked to your liking, remove them from the heat source and let them rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute, making the ribs even more flavorful.


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. 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 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?

Marinate the ribs for several hours, preferably overnight. 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. They 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.

To sum up…

We covered a bunch of tasty options besides plain ol’ BBQ sauce. Whether you like things hot, sweet, or tangy – there’s a sauce here for you. The best part is trying new flavors. Don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen. You might discover your new favorite rib sauce by accident!

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