Like a good hot sauce, the best BBQ sauce can take a dish to another level. Though there are ample variations depending on region—tangy-sweet Kansas City–style, mayo-based Alabama white sauce, vinegary versions from the Carolinas—you’ll find many of the same key ingredients in bottled BBQ sauces: brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, onion, chile pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper. Whether you’re into a sauce with more vinegar, something smoky, or even fruity, we’ve got a barbecue sauce for whatever your spread needs. Here are five bottles our staff always has within reach.

Stubb’s Original Barbecue Sauce

For my biggest meats and smallest bites, I go Stubb’s. It has the complexity I believe all traditional barbecue sauces should have: sweetness, some tang, and layers of distinct spiciness, rounded out with just the right amount of smokiness. The sauce is pleasantly viscous, loose enough to spread yet with enough body to stick to anything I put it on. I love dousing it on wings—grilled or fried hard—but it marries seamlessly with most of my barbecue, particularly a rack of ribs. The sauce can stand the heat from the grill, yielding the most delightful crust. Inés Anguiano, test kitchen coordinator

Stubb’s Original Barbecue Sauce$5 at Target$4 at Walmart

12 Bones Blueberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

After living in Alabama for two years, I’ve become an Alabama white sauce advocate. I never thought another barbecue sauce would one-up the mayo-laden, vinegar-based sauce—until I tried the Blueberry Chipotle BBQ sauce from 12 Bones Smokehouse in Asheville, North Carolina. This barbecue spot is a favorite of Barack Obama, so naturally I copied his order when I was there: barbecue ribs with blueberry chipotle sauce. The blueberries bring a subtle fruitiness while chipotles add a smoky essence. While it’s excellent on baby back ribs, I’d slather this sauce on hanger steak, burgers, or just about anything that comes off the grill. Zoe Denenberg, associate cooking & SEO editor

12 Bones Blueberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce$51 at 12 Bones (2-Pack)Shop Now at Instacart

Montgomery Inn BBQ sauce

The ribs and the sauce at Montgomery Inn BBQ are icons in the Cincinnati food world, right beside Cincy-style chili. My partner grew up in Cincinnati, and I quickly became a fan upon tasting. This barbecue sauce strikes the perfect balance of sweet and smoky, with molasses and tamarind bolstering a thick tomato base. You’ll want to slick it all over ribs at your next cookout, drizzle it over some veggies or a baked potato, and dip chicken fingers into it. It also is free of high-fructose corn syrup—a rarity with most BBQ sauces—if that’s important to you. Urmila Ramakrishnan, associate social media director

Montgomery Inn Original Barbecue Sauce$26 at Amazon (3-Pack)$13 at Walmart

Bachan’s Japanese BBQ Sauce

Every once in a while, a sauce hits the shelf that is so unlike anything I’ve ever had, it naturally becomes a banger in my kitchen and finds its way onto everything. Lately, Bachan’s Japanese barbecue sauce is that sauce. It’s layered with flavor—hints of earthy ginger, scallion, garlic, and a distinct umami punch coming from soy sauce. I love it as a marinade on ribs, but it’s also great with fried chicken, shrimp, wings, or just squiggled onto hot rice. It’s a bit thinner than a traditional barbecue sauce, which allows it to fully coat whatever it’s seasoning. I.A.

Bachan’s Original Japanese BBQ Sauce$9 at Thrive Market$10 at Target

Lillie’s Q

I’m allergic to corn, so I started buying Lillie’s Q barbecue sauce because it was the only bottle at my grocery store without corn syrup in the ingredients list. Now the brand—and, in particular, the blue Carolina variety—is my go-to. I prefer a vinegary sauce with a drizzle-able consistency, and Lillie’s Q Carolina fits the bill. The sauce recipe is tomato-forward and just sweet enough (thanks to a combo of tamarind concentrate, molasses, and apple juice). It pairs ideally with my barbecue main of choice, made at home or ordered to-go: pulled pork. Kendra Vaculin, associate food editor

Lillie’s Q Carolina BBQ Sauce$7 at Target$7 at World Market

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