Homemade Healthy Barbecue Sauce Recipe - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

Homemade Healthy Barbecue Sauce Recipe

homemade healthy barbecue sauce | pamela salzman

Is “barbecue” a verb or a noun or both or what?  I have said, “We’re going to barbecue tonight.”  But not, “I’d love some good barbecue tonight.”  Although since my daughter started to go to school in Texas, I’m starting to get used to the barbecue lingo.  And I do love me some barbecue!  My first meal when I go visit her is either my favorite juice bar (The Gem) or a barbecue joint (I die for Pecan Lodge.)

BBQ Sauce | Pamela Salzman

I am totally obsessed with barbecue sauce and I will use it in so many different ways:  mixed into ground turkey for a BBQ turkey burger, cooked with chicken in the slow cooker for pulled chicken, brushed on chicken for barbecued chicken, on a pizza with chicken, red onions, and cilantro, brushed on tofu, and as a dip for roasted potatoes.

homemade healthy barbeque sauce | pamela salzman

Believe it or not, homemade barbecue sauce is perfectly simple to make.  One day when I was testing a barbecue sauce recipe, my son came in and smelled it in the kitchen and with a puzzled expression asked, “normal people can make barbecue sauce?”  Yes, my picky one, and it tastes like the real deal.  This one is smoky and tangy and a little sweet.  It is thinner than the pictures make it seem, but not watery.  This will not disappoint!


homemade healthy barbecue sauce | pamela salzman

Why should you make your own?  Well, have you ever read the list of ingredients on a bottle of barbecue sauce?  Here’s what I cut and pasted from a popular brand:  High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Tomato Puree [Water, Tomato Paste], Salt, Food Starch-Modified. Contains 2% or less of: Soybean Oil, Sauce Blend (Water, Hydrolyzed Corn and Soy Protein, Salt), Spice, Onion Powder, Dehydrated Garlic, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Caramel Color, Colored with (Yellow 6, Red 40, Titanium Dioxide, Blue 1). So, so, so wrong.  Don’t do it.  Either read your labels and buy one that is all natural, or make this one.  Do buy the natural liquid smoke listed in the recipe which you can get on amazon or at your local Whole Foods.  Brands I like include Living Nutritionals and Wright’s.  It is KEY to making this taste authentically smoky!

homemade healthy barbecue sauce | pamela salzman

If you are making barbecued chicken this weekend, you can make this sauce right now and store it in the fridge until then.  Just a quick tip about grilling anything with barbecue sauce — it burns easily.  So if you are grilling, you can’t put the barbecue sauce on the chicken (for example) until 2-3 minutes before it has finished cooking.  You can, however, put the sauce into a slow cooker or on chicken for the oven right from the get go.  Hope that makes sense.  Please let me know if you make this!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Serves: 2 cups sauce
  • 1 cup tomato paste (Bionaturae makes an organic paste in a glass jar)
  • ⅔ cup water
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup honey or brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses (unsulfured)
  • 2 teaspoons all natural hickory liquid smoke
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (Wizard’s is GF)
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground chipotle powder (or smoked paprika if you don't want any heat at all)
  1. In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool and use immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Barbecue sauce keeps in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


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  3. I made this sauce this week and smothered it on some chicken too and popped it in the oven. So good! I think the sauce is getting better as it is sitting in the refrigerator. I put some leftover chicken in a pita with extra sauce, lettuce and a few other vegetables for my daughter Kaydee today. She said it was pretty good. I think a pizza might be in my future. 🙂

  4. This sounds amazing! I’ve been looking for a healthy BBQ sauce, thank you. If we use this sauce for your slow cooker BBQ chicken recipe, do we still add the extra paprika, chipotle powder and chili powder or omit that? Also, I’m new to the slow cooker thing. Why does your BBQ slow cooker chicken cook in five hours and your slow cooker chicken tacos cook in eight, if it’s the same amount of meat and the same cooking temp?

    • Good question! Yes, you still use this for the slow cooker chicken recipe with the extra spices because the chicken release liquid and dliutes the flavor. You need to bump up the flavor. I’m going to change the slow cooker tacos to 6-8 on low. All slow cookers cook differently and you can actually cook the BBQ chicken as long as 7 or 8 hours if it’s more convenient.

    • My wife cooked the chicken 8 hours in the slow cooker and it was perfect.

      • Fantastic!

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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

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