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The Best Homemade Healthy BBQ Sauce

Best Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe  

Almost 10 years ago, I discovered the world’s best BBQ sauce recipe. It was so good that literally every time 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.


Makes 4 cups of sauce


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


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!

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  1. Avatar

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

    • Primally Inspired

      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 😉

    • Avatar

      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. Avatar

    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 😉

    • Primally Inspired

      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. Avatar

    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. Avatar

    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!

    • Primally Inspired

      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.

  5. Avatar

    do you think this would freeze well??

    • Primally Inspired

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

    • Primally Inspired

      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!

  6. Avatar

    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)


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


  7. Avatar

    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.

  8. Avatar

    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.

  9. Avatar

    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!

  10. Avatar

    Can the molasses be subbed out with anything else?

  11. Avatar

    My favorite BBQ sauce now! Everyone loves this!

  12. Avatar

    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!

  13. Avatar

    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!

  14. Avatar

    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!

  15. Avatar

    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.

  16. Avatar

    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

  17. Avatar

    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

    • Primally Inspired

      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 🙂

  18. Avatar

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

  19. Avatar

    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!

    • Primally Inspired

      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!

  20. Avatar

    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!!

    • Primally Inspired

      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!!

  21. Avatar

    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???

  22. Avatar

    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?


    • Primally Inspired

      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 🙂

  23. Avatar

    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.

    • Avatar

      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.

  24. Avatar

    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.

  25. Avatar

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

  26. Avatar

    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!

  27. Avatar

    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 🙂

  28. Avatar

    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!

  29. Avatar

    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)…

  30. Avatar

    Can coconut oil be substituted for the Ghee/Butter?

  31. Avatar

    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.

  32. Avatar

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

  33. Avatar

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

  34. Avatar

    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?


    • Primally Inspired

      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.

  35. Avatar

    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!

  36. Avatar

    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!

  37. Avatar

    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 🙂

  38. Avatar

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

    • Primally Inspired

      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.

  39. Avatar

    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!

  40. Avatar

    Sounds delicious.

    What does the T stand for vs Tsp?


  41. Avatar

    I am so excited to try this, we eat a lot of BBQ around here and I started making my own to get away from the corn syrup and other bad stuff but so happy to find one with less sugar!
    Ps… that friend in college must have been my husband LOL

  42. Avatar

    I’ve got your BBQ sauce on the stove right now – it smells amazing and I think we’re going to love this one!

    How do we store the leftovers? Can they be frozen? How long will they last?

    • Primally Inspired

      Hi Betty! Yes, I freeze this often since it makes so much. I also keep it in my fridge for about a month and have never had any problems. I actually have a mason jar full in my fridge right now and it’s been there for at least 3 weeks. We had some last night and it was great 🙂 Hope you love the recipe!

  43. Avatar

    I just made this recipe and so far it is really great! I’m so happy I can make a healthier version of one of my favorite condiments. I’m relatively new to the kitchen so I measured the vinegar in a liquid measuring cup. I’m not sure if that’s any different from a dry cup, or if it put more vinegar into the mix but the vinegar kick at the back of my throat is pretty strong. I added more honey and molasses to offset it and it seems fine now. I’ll probably play around with it more when I make more, whenever that will be! I just filled a 40oz bottle! Thank you for the easy recipe. 🙂

    • Primally Inspired

      Hi Carrie! I’m so glad you like it! And yes, please play around with it to suite your tastes! The vinegar also seems to mellow out after a day or two in the fridge as all the flavors get a chance to mingle together 🙂

  44. Avatar

    Did you use blackstrap molassas?

  45. Avatar

    I just made this. I swapped molasses for maple syrup and nixed the paprika because I didn’t have any, but it came out INCREDIBLE! Amazing recipe!

  46. Avatar

    Hello, can I substitute maple syrup for the honey? I can’t have honey. Thanks.

  47. Avatar

    Do you happen to have the nutritional information on this sauce? Calories, fat, sugar / Tbsp?

  48. Avatar

    I’m allergic to lactose which is in a lot of sauces where I live Im so glad to have found this to share with my daughter Amara! She’s just turned one and love BBQ sauce!

  49. Avatar

    Hmmm. Cinnamon eh? That’s interesting. I’ve tried alspice in my bbq sauce but not cinnamon. Maybe I should give it a whirl next time. I just shared 5 Paleo recipes of my own over on my blog “5 Paleo BBQ Recipes for Your Next Family Cookout.” http://imsimplyadad.com/paleo-bbq/ If interested.

    I’m glad you mentioned the note about sugar at the end. I was thinking that’s a lot of sugar when I was looking over the ingredients. I’m a bit of a condiment junkie, so I use way more than 2 tbsp which is why I have to make my sauce with monk fruit sweetener instead of apple juice or maple syrup.

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