by Olena

Healthy BBQ Sauce

by Olena

5 from 4 reviews

healthy bbq sauce

Healthy BBQ Sauce Recipe

After making healthy pulled pork I realized I created sort of healthy BBQ sauce. Then a few readers emailed me asking if I have any condiment recipes.

Apparently, healthy homemade BBQ sauce is super easy to make. I’m not saying you can’t buy organic BBQ sauce. Yes, you can. And if you are short on time you should. I realize turning your fridge and freezer into “from scratch” oasis is time consuming. But if you have time and more likely all ingredients in the pantry (I did), then you should make your own barbecue sauce for about 6 times cheaper than store-bought.

Is BBQ Sauce Healthy?

The first ingredient in store-bought BBQ sauce, let’s take the most popular Sweet Baby Ray’s, is high fructose corn syrup. If it’s #1 on the label, it also means that’s what is mostly in that bottle. Do you see where I’m going with this? Any store-bought BBQ sauce is 98% GMO processed sugar with a sprinkle of spices, liquid smoke, caramel colour and preservatives.

If you make my homemade BBQ sauce, you are eating mostly tomato paste with applesauce, spices and a sprinkle of unrefined sugar. It contains 4 times less sugar and 2.5 times less sodium than store-bought.

healthy bbq sauce recipe

Is Liquid Smoke Healthy?

I am concerned about cancer causing carcinogens in smoked/barbecued final products. I found a great article on Helyn’s Healthy Kitchen, where she included a video done by Dr. Michael Greger, where he explains liquid smoke dangers in a nutshell.

healthy homemade bbq sauce bottle of liquid smoke

Good news is there are no dangers of adding 1 tsp of liquid smoke to a batch of BBQ sauce. You would have to drink 3 bottles of liquid smoke a day (!) to go over OK safety limit of 47. 1 tsp of liquid smoke contains only 0.8 of whatever (honestly I didn’t dig down deep what are those #s, who cares?!). What is way more dangerous is to consume smoked food and the worst being smoked salmon! When liquid smoke is made only flavour compounds are captured with liquid and not the cancer compounds.

So, liquid smoke for making BBQ sauce is completely safe, yay! However, I recommend to buy liquid smoke with only 2 ingredients: water and smoke concentrate. I have seen molasses (GMO for sure) and caramel colour in some brands. Happy BBQ’ing and be healthy!

is bbq sauce healthy

How to Make Healthy BBQ Sauce

  1. In a small saucepan, add all ingredients and whisk until well combined.
  2. Bring to a boil, cover half way with a lid to prevent splashing and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir a few times to prevent burning on the bottom.
  3. Let cool and transfer to a glass jar. Use as you would use a store bought BBQ sauce.

healthy barbecue sauce

P.S. You must try slow cooker BBQ baked beans with leftovers of this BBQ sauce.

Looking for More Healthy Condiments Recipes?


Healthy BBQ Sauce

healthy BBQ sauce

5 from 4 reviews

This Healthy BBQ Sauce Recipe contains simple ingredients you have on hand or can find at most stores. Ready in 20 minutes.

  • Author: Olena of
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 22 minutes
  • Yield: 2.5 cups 1x
  • Category: Condiment
  • Method: Stove
  • Cuisine: North American


  • 1 cup water
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
  • 3 tbsp unsulphured molasses
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper


  1. In a small saucepan, add all ingredients and whisk until well combined.
  2. Bring to a boil, cover half way with a lid to prevent splashing and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir a few times to prevent burning on the bottom.
  3. Let cool and transfer to a glass jar. Use as you would use a store bought BBQ sauce.

Store: Refrigerate in an airtight glass jar for up to 1 month.

Freeze: For up to 3 months.

Our BBQ sauce seems to be used faster than any of these recommendations.


You can find liquid smoke in many grocery stores in a spice or condiment aisle.

 Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating in the comments.

olena osipov in the studio

Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys and a wife to Alex. And this is our healthy family recipes blog. I grew up in Ukraine on real food. As an adult, I tried many diets without results. Now for over 10 years, I cook quick and easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

What You Will Find Here

Healthy family recipes with simple ingredients. Many are inspired by my Ukrainian heritage. I share mostly dinner recipes because it just never ends... I’m obsessed with healthy freezer meals. And more than in love with my Instant Pot.

A Little More About Me

Originally from Ukraine, I now reside on magic Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada with my family. I started this blog in 2012 when I ended up at home with 2 small kids unemployed and a wee bit chubby.

24 comments on “Healthy BBQ Sauce

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  1. Love this BBQ recipe. I usually do a double batch then freeze so I can just pull out when needed. We use this all the time for Pulled Jack Burgers. Because of this recipe I don’t buy BBQ sauce anymore.

  2. I added arrowroot powder to make it thicker, it really works without changing the flavor. Added a little black pepper & tumeric for medicinal purposes. Just added 1tbsp of Honey to keep sugar, carb content down, no molasses. It taste delicious.

  3. Tasty although only used what I had in cupboard including most likely 10 year old No liquid smoke as not on hand but added some mucho hot curry which I normally add for the extra kick.. Great base for a much healthier sauce than I throw together so thanks. Plan on freezing what I don’t use for tonight’s not so heart healthy ribs….once a month something not so heart healthy!

    1. Fantastic! Glad you enjoyed the recipe! Haha, do molasses go bad? Liquid sugar. I would do the same. Yes, we eat not so heart healthy beef 1-2 times a month too.

  4. Is the molasses essential? I cannot have molasses (due to food allergies) and want to know if I can just exclude it, or substitute something else?

  5. Where do you find unsulphured molasses, and is it nonprocessed? They put some awful stuff in that processed stuff.

    1. Depends where you live. You can find Wholesome brand of unsulphured molasses pretty much in any grocery store that has Natural Foods section or on Amazon. Here read more, no additives, as good as molasses can get. Use their store locator.

      1. Thanks! I’m planning to use this as a base recipe for Hawaiian style BBQ chicken Pizza for potluck at church next week, I’ll let you know how it turns out! 🙂

          1. Sure, I’ll write it down the ingredients when I add them so I don’t forget. I’m not making it till next week cause thats when the potluck is, I also made an Italian stew a while back want the recipe? should I just leave it as a comment?

  6. Excellent recipe! I added one tablespoon of natural Worcestershire and a pinch of pepper and was very happy with the the results.

  7. Thank you for this YUMMY BBQ sauce recipe. I made this and put it on meatloaf my family went crazy. Would it be ok to freeze? Thanks

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