The Best Homemade Healthy BBQ Sauce

bbqsauce 

Almost 10 years ago, I discovered the world’s best BBQ sauce recipe. It was so good that literally everytime I made it, people asked me for the recipe. I even started printing out copies of the recipe beforehand because I knew people would ask for it. And they did.

 

But a few years later, I researched the very dangerous effects of sugar and I grudgingly gave up my all time favorite BBQ sauce recipe. You see, that BBQ sauce was loaded with an insanely ridiculous amount of white and brown sugar.

 

Through the years I was on a mission to find a healthy BBQ sauce recipe that had the same flavor like my beloved sugar loaded BBQ sauce. I tried every recipe I could find, I tried my own recreations and I even tried bottled all-natural, organic versions and nothing ever measured up to the taste that I remembered.

 

Until I made this.

 

I still remember the day I made it. I set aside one entire uninterrupted day to make BBQ sauce and I was determined to get it right. It was me, my cutesy apron with cherries and ruffles, a shameful amount of organic tomato sauce cans and every single spice I owned pulled out of my cabinet. I had one mission and one mission only: to make a BBQ sauce so good that people couldn’t help but ask for the recipe.

 

And here it is!

 

P.S. I wanted to tell you that this recipe contains more sweetener than I normally use. If you follow my recipes, you know I use the very least amount of natural sweetener I can get away with while still maintaining a great taste. While this contains more natural sweetener than I normally use, I will say it makes a TON of sauce and should last you awhile unless you douse everything in BBQ sauce (I had a friend in college who did that!) I use BBQ sauce like a condiment and usually only use a tablespoon or two per serving. When you look at it like that, you are still getting very minimal natural sugar content.

 

THE BEST HOMEMADE HEALTHY BBQ SAUCE

Makes 4 cups of sauce

Ingredients:

1 15 oz can of organic tomato sauce

1 12 oz can of organic tomato paste

1 cup of red wine vinegar

1 cup of unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup of pure raw honey

1/3 cup of molassas

2 T butter or ghee

2 T all natural liquid hickory smoke* (this is the best all natural one that contains no yucky ingredients: CedarHouse Ultra-Premium Liquid Smoke: All Natural Hickory Liquid Smoke – 4 oz
)

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp chili powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

heaping ¼ tsp cinnamon

heaping ¼ tsp cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all the ingredients together in a large pot over medium low heat. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

 

*Do not leave the liquid smoke out! It totally makes this BBQ sauce!

FTC DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.


94 Responses to The Best Homemade Healthy BBQ Sauce

  1. Mona says:

    I like my BBQ sauce spicy. Is this one more sweet? How long does it keep?

    • Mona, I think I would consider this one on the sweeter side. But the liquid smoke and smoked paprika give it a good, rich smoky flavor. And then the chili powder and cayenne pepper give it a nice kick at the end. Honestly one of the reasons we love it so much is because it combines all the sweetness, smoky and a kick all into one. If you like it spicier, maybe try adding more cayenne and chili powder.

      I can’t say for sure how long it keeps, but in the past, we’ve had our jars in the fridge for well over a month and they’ve been fine. I’m still here ;)

    • Gia says:

      Was looking for a healthy bbq sauce when I came across this one. Made it and was delish !! I half the recipe too. Its a keeper !! Thank you…..

  2. Mona says:

    I was thinking I would try that. We buy Stubb’s spicy, from Texas of course. Not sure how “paleo” it is but pretty sure it isn’t that bad or I wouldn’t keep buying it. I don’t know what I will do with 4 cups, maybe I will try and half it?
    I’m still here also…..on my couch ;)

    • lol! I’ve never tried Stubb’s spicy, but I know I’ve tried the original and I loved it! I think their spicy version has habanaro peppers in it, which would be a great addition to add to this recipe for those that can handle the heat!!
      4 cups is a ton. It fills up 2 big bottles like the one in the pic. It’s not like we eat it all the time, so I have no idea why I even make that much. To use it up, I usually will cook a huge pork roast in the slow cooker and then coat it in a bunch of sauce. YUM!

  3. Mona says:

    I LOVE habaneros!! I usually have one in my eggs in the morning. For professionals only ;)
    Slow cooker pot roast sounds good.
    You should try the spicy Stubb’s it isn’t burn your mouth hot it just isn’t sweet.

  4. Mona says:

    I was wrong, there are some not so good ingredients in Stubb’s spicy…corn starch, corn syrup etc. I think if your’s was made with more pepper heat it would be just as good or better. Our Stubb’s bottle is almost empty. We only use a little when we make ribs for basting. I will make yours next time and try to make it spicy and let you know what I think!

    • Yes, please do. If a Texas native gives me the thumbs up, then I know I have something good ;) I think the next time I make it, I’ll do half with added peppers and the other half left alone. I love the heat, but my husband can’t handle it.

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  6. Sharon D. says:

    do you think this would freeze well??

    • Hi Sharon, Honestly I don’t know. If anyone else knows the answer, please write in!

    • Hi again Sharon! Your question got me curious so I did some google searches and it turns out BBQ sauce freezes really well (so happy to know that because this makes so much!). Here’s some tips that I thought were helpful:
      -Make sure it’s cooled completely before freezing.
      -When you go to thaw it out, do not defrost it. Instead, place it in a bowl of warm water to thaw.
      -If it’s very thick before freezing, add a few tablespoons of water to it and it will freeze better.
      -It will do well in the freezer for a couple of months!

      Hope that helps!

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  8. scott says:

    awesome – will have to try it.

    I just removed sugar from my two best selling products, Apple Chipotle BBQ BATH and Lime Jalapeno FAJITA BATH.

    I make these two no sugar added barbecue sauces occasionally, one a tomato base and one a mustard base. Both are yummy.

    Bacon Bourbon Honey Mustard (alcohol burns off)

    http://www.sweetwaterspice.com/blogs/recipe-blog/6165666-bacon-bourbon-honey-mustard-basting-sauce

    Bourbon Chocolate Chipotle (use a dark or sugar free chocolate, or even ground cacao nibs)

    http://www.sweetwaterspice.com/blogs/recipe-blog/6165668-bourbon-chocolate-chipotle-basting-sauce

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  10. Pam Finney says:

    I have tried many different BBQ sauce recipes and this is the best (and only) one my family and I have liked. I made it with homemade applsauce and it is delicious. I can’t wait for BBQ weather so I can try it on more things. Thanks.

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  12. Jason says:

    We are loving the BBQ sauce! I’m excited to find a homemade version that we all really like. It’s really good! I think next time I will reserve a cup or so and add some spicy habaneros in it like you and Mona mentioned. That will be perfect for me.

  13. Anastacia says:

    Is it possible to use apple cider vinegar? I don’t want to mess with a good thing but all I have on hand right now is acv. Thanks!

  14. Meg says:

    Can the molasses be subbed out with anything else?

  15. Rebecca says:

    My favorite BBQ sauce now! Everyone loves this!

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  17. Shanna says:

    I’m going to make this sauce this morning and throw it in the crock pot over chicken breasts. Can’t wait to eat supper tonight!

  18. Jennifer says:

    Found your recipe via pinterest and am excited to try it! I have no salt added tomato sauce… Would that still work? Or do i need to add some salt? Thanks!

  19. Alec Long says:

    I just made a batch of this at lunchtime and it’s wonderful. I subbed apple cider vinegar for red wine vinegar, and instead of cayenne I added half a habañero pepper. SO good, and without all the sugar. This is a keeper recipe!

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  21. Mona says:

    On the stove right now. I have some hot paprika that I added also and I am going to cut up a habanero then make a small pot with extra habanero. Will let you know.

  22. Mona says:

    I know I had never seen it before. There is a store here called Surfas and it is AWESOME!!! My hot paprika can says “Chiquilin” Pimenton Picante hot paprika product of Spain.

    My husband is making ribs now so I will get to taste the sauce. I forgot to tell you that I bought 2 small cans of tomato paste and one said “with pesto”. I didn’t realize it until most of it was in the pot. So needless to say it has a slight Italian flare ;)

    I think I will make a pork roast like you suggested with it so I can make some more and tweek the sauce AND not make it Italian, lol

  23. Gary Grainer says:

    Hello, My family and I have been tring to eat better and a healthy. Organic BBQ sauce is impossible to find around here even in healthy stores.
    So I went to the web and found you. You where 3rd on google search good job that’s hard to do…
    My question is do you have a sub for the honey? Werd question yes, but I can’t have honey with my current sickness.
    Thank for your time
    Gary

    • Hi Gary! You could sub any sweetener for honey. I like to sub maple syrup a lot for honey and I think that would be fantastic in this BBQ sauce. You could also use an organic brown sugar or coconut sugar. You could also do stevia, but it’s not an equal substitution. I don’t have a lot of experience with stevia, but I found this conversion chart: http://www.stevia.net/conversion.html

      Good luck!! Have a great weekend :)

  24. Erin Walker says:

    This sounds AWESOME!! Can’t wait to try it!

  25. Janna says:

    I am looking forward to making this for my family and for my dad! He loves BBQ sauce and needs a great healthy version. He could eat it on everything! I want to get him a really cool jar so I can continue to make it for him. Will you share with me where you got your cool jar and label for it? Thanks!

    • Awesome, Janna! I hope he loves it!

      You might laugh, but this is a Patron Orange Liqueur bottle. I washed the old label off and made my own label from some old scrapbooking stickers that I got at a craft store. I thought this bottle was perfect for BBQ sauce! Liquor bottles usually are really cool shapes and perfect to hold sauces like this. If you don’t drink, ask around from people who do – they could save you their old bottles. Craft stores usually have some pretty cool glass bottles and you could always use a mason jar, too!

  26. Chris Ewer says:

    I would like to make a bunch and can this BBQ sauce any idea how? Hot water bath or pressure canner? How many pounds and for how long? Im guessing can it like ketchup??? Would appreciate your input on this!!

    • Chris, good idea on the canning! I’ve never canned this sauce before (I should, though!), but I’ve heard that BBQ sauce can be done either by hot water bath or pressure canner (the acidity of BBQ sauce is kind of right in the middle so either way will be ok). It seems that more people do the hot water bath method. I found this website that would help way more than I could: http://barbecuetricks.com/bbq-sauce-canning-tip/
      Hope that helps!!

  27. Holly says:

    I usually make BBQ sauce by the ton. Divide it up and put it in the freezer. That way, when I go to throw meat in the crock pot. I throw a few cubes of sauce and voila all ready.

    This recipe looks interesting. Will have to give it a go. I use maple syrup. Not sure how good that is???

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  30. Regina says:

    I’ve been looking all over for a healthy BBQ sauce and this sounds amayzing. I have all the ingridients ready to go but the liquid smoke :( I live in Mexico and there is no where to be found. Can I substitute with a bit more smoked paprika? Or what do you suggest?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Regina! Someone else mentioned that they tried it without the liquid smoke and thought it was awesome, so you could certainly try it without! Give it a taste after a few minutes of simmering and see if you think you need to add any additional spices. A bit more smoked paprika or the addition of some chipotle powder sounds like it might be a good idea to give it some more of that “smokiness” flavor :)

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  33. David Hurwitz says:

    As a physician, I should point out that the honey and molasses are sources of sugar and not better than granular sugar. See Dr Lustig’s book, Fat Chance, for an explanation. Fruit juices are not good either, so consider adding more fruit and not grinding it up too much, if you want to avoid sugar. Sugar bound to fiber, as in fruit is okay. Sugar without fiber is absorbed too fast and causes multiple metabolic problems.

    • Theresa says:

      While I agree with what you are saying, I don’t think she was claiming this is sugar free, and some degree of sweetness is needed in barbecue sauces in order for them to taste good, even if you prefer a spicy sauce, a sweetener is needed for balance. Molasses, raw honey, and apple sauce have got to be a better substitute than all the white sugar, and brown sugar in a typical bbq sauce recipe which in recipes that I’ve loved will typically include at least 2 cups of the combined sugars as well as some honey and molasses. That is quite a bit.

      I think she is just trying to make it a little bit healthier version for people that like barbecue sauce, and does suggest a portion control of it in her blog. It would indeed be nice to totally eliminate any and all sugar from our diets, but in all honesty that is hard to do, so if we can cut down in some areas or substitute a little bit better sweetener for processed white than so be it, all we can do is the best we can do.

  34. Danny says:

    Can you post your original BBQ sauce recipe, also looking to make a apple hickory BBQ sauce if anyone has a good recipe to post.

  35. Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to try this BBQ sauce and have pinned it!

  36. Lisa says:

    Even when I enjoy I recipe, and I enjoy many of yours, I don’t leave a comment. But I couldn’t help but comment on this recipe. It’s the BOMB! I added extra cayenne, because we like the heat. I will keep this on hand forever!! Thank you!

  37. This was my first time making barbecue sauce. I don’t like it normally buy my kids love bbq sauce.
    I made it tonight with your slowcooker pulled pork and the pineapple coleslaw.
    I now love bbq sauce and the whole dinner was a hit with all!
    Thanks so much for all your amazing recipes I can’t wait to try more :)

  38. gina says:

    This sounds awesome. I am trying to get more into healthy eating and healthy home cooking, but my boyfriend is picky and a creature of habit. Hoping he will like this as much as, if not more than, the store-bought one we’ve been getting! I will try it soon and let you know!

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  41. Tere says:

    I followed the instructions and it was too vinegar-y… ended up having to add 1/3 more applesauce and about 1/2 cup molasses and honey (total)…

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  43. Nicole says:

    Can coconut oil be substituted for the Ghee/Butter?

  44. Leslie says:

    I just made a batch. It is the best BBQ recipe I have tried so far. ( I have never tried to make a non-paleo sauce before) But I think I will cut down on the vinegar next time. I love how easy it is too.

  45. Alanna says:

    I’m wondering if I could add some whey to this and ferment it for storage (and probiotics). Thoughts?

  46. Marisa says:

    Hi,
    Is there a substitute for liquid smoke? If not have you tried to make it without it and does it still taste good?
    Thanks!
    Marisa

  47. Tara says:

    We use a lot of BBQ sauce over the summer for grilling and I’m anxious to try this. I’m trying to get my husband away from the Sweet Baby Ray’s that he loves because the first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. Yuck! My question is how long does it last in the refrigerator?

    Thanks!
    Tara

    • Hope he gives it the thumbs up, Tara! Mine usually keeps for at least 2-3 weeks (maybe longer?), but I always do the “sniff test” after it’s been a few weeks just to make sure. You can freeze it, too! Or you can half the recipe, which is what I do sometimes, too.

  48. candice says:

    just found this wonderful recipe via pinterest!
    I can’t wait to make it-esp since sunday is mothers day and my husband is smoking a 5lb grassfed beef brisket for me!

    I’m going to make it tomorrow! Need to buy liquid smoke!

    Can’t thank you enough for a REAL, no junk added recipe that looks awesome!

  49. ginger says:

    Delicious! I made it like yours but added 1/2tspn ground Chipotle powder. Next I made a spicy batch by adding paprika, Chipotle and cayenne. It’s a keeper. Thank you!

  50. Jemma says:

    Hi there, how would u change it or tomatoe sauce or tomatoe relish please? I will try this but kids love love love tomatoe sauce :) thank you :)

  51. Alyssa says:

    would love to try this! is there anything i can replace the butter/ghee with though?! :/

    • Hi Alyssa! I would just leave it out. The butter just finishes it off and gives a nice, silky texture and a little richer flavor, but it’s certainly not necessary and is still awesome without it. I’ve made it without the butter for my dairy-free niece and you can barely tell a difference.

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  53. Jeri says:

    This sauce was DE-licious! I looked at a ton of recipes to go with pulled pork for a girls weekend. Everyone asked for the recipe! I added some chopped, translucent onion (trying to get more veggies in) and organic fire-roasted tomatoes (it’s what I had in the cupboard) and a little Red Boat Fish sauce, then used a stick blender to smooth it out after the simmer. Seriously, so yummy!Thankfully, it freezes beautifully so I was able to keep from eating every drop of the leftovers in one sitting! Thanks for your hard work to figure this recipe out!

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