Grilling season is definitely here, and that means finding new ways to make our favorites. This is the time of year when I go through BBQ sauce like crazy!
But what if you need to be sugar free/low carb/keto? Its tough enough figuring out what went into that bottle of barbeque sauce, but reading the label very quickly reveals a very long list of ingredients which usually STARTS with high fructose corn syrup. (What?? More than tomatoes?) The rest of the list does nothing to reduce your alarm.
That’s why I developed this keto BBQ sauce. It’s easy to make, with pretty standard ingredients.
Bonus for me: I know exactly what goes into every jar.
The origins of this sauce
I’ve tried a few BBQ sauces labeled “sugar free”, and to me they just taste like modified ketchup. So I decided to start with a BBQ sauce recipe I’ve had for a long time, and see what modifications I could do to make it keto friendly.
Of course, a sugar substitute is needed. And happily, Swerve now makes a brown sugar substitute which is perfect for making keto BBQ sauce!
And even though you can find sugar free ketchup most anywhere these days, I decided to start with tomato paste in order to get the thick and rich texture and flavor I prefer in BBQ sauce.
2 other ingredients are worth noting. First, Liquid Smoke. I first fell in love with it when I developed my vegetarian baked beans. This magic ingredient is critical to create the smoky quality we all expect in BBQ sauce.
The other is molasses. I’m calling this out because molasses is definitely not a keto friendly ingredient. However, I feel that it creates more depth in the sauce which is why I include it. The original recipe I used as my starting point used three tablespoons, which I reduced to one. This amount adds less than a gram of carbs to a tablespoon of the final sauce. However, if you want or need to be extremely strict about sugar intake, then simply eliminate the molasses.
How to make the sauce
This keto BBQ sauce is so easy! Simply add all the ingredients to a saucepan and mix well. Heat the mixture and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat, and transfer to a bowl or jar with lid. (I use a Mason jar) Cover and chill for at least an hour to allow the flavors to fully develop.
There are a few things I want to point out. First, if you look at my video, you’ll see I’m using a pretty big saucepan relative to how much sauce we are making. It is, in fact, a 3-quart saucepan. The reason I use this pan to make only about 12 ounces (1.5 cups) of sauce can be summarized with one word: splatter. Any time you simmer a thick, tomato-based sauce (think spaghetti sauce) you will inevitably have red droplets all around the pan. Using a larger saucepan (with tall walls) helps to contain those splatters and minimize all the cleanup.
As always, please use this recipe as a starting point and make adjustments to suit your personal taste, be it more sweet, bold or spicy.
Read the label for your favorite barbeque sauce. The favorite in my house lists high fructose corn syrup as the #1 ingredient, before any tomatoes, which I find astonishing. Also in the long list of ingredients are juice concentrate, sugar, and corn syrup. I guess they include as many sources of pure sugar as they can find!
Needless to say, all this added sugar does NOT make a keto-friendly sauce.
This recipe makes a very thick sauce, thicker than most store brands. If you want a consistency more like those brands, add a little more water when simmering the sauce.
I do not consider this sauce to be spicy. It does have a subtle heat from the chipotle pepper that I really enjoy. If you like more heat, add more chipotle and/or cayenne pepper to the sauce while cooking.
I have used this sauce on BBQ chicken and pork with great success.
More summer grilling ideas
Keto BBQ sauce
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- 6 oz can water
- 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
- ⅓ cup sugar-free brown sugar I use Swerve
- 1 Tablespoon molasses
- 2 teaspoons yellow mustard prepared
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
- Whisk all ingredients in a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a boil and then lower heat. Simmer 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl or jar with lid. Cover and chill for one hour for best flavor.
Nutrition values are estimates only, using online calculators. Please verify using your own data.
I love that this recipe is sugar free!
Yes I really try to keep my sugar intake in check, and this sauce helps!
This quickly became a favorite at my house! We are a huge lover of bbq sauce and this healthy version is perfect!!
Thank you for your kind review! I really do like the reduced sugar in this.
Very pleased! Enjoyed this with baked chicken.
Oh yes I love it on chicken!
Love the thickness of this BBQ sauce. So yummy too!
Yes I really love a thick and rich BBQ sauce!
Wow! This is a great BBQ sauce recipe! I am excited to use this this Summer!
I always have the same thoughts about reading the label on sauces at the store. I know those sugar-free versions just have other stuff that makes it taste fake. I'm so glad I found this recipe, it has all of my favorites and the brown sugar substitute was the perfect find.
I couldn't have said it better Emily. There's some kind of weird after-taste in a lot of the sugar free versions. This sauce tries to keep it real.