Healthy BBQ Sauce Recipe

Looking for a healthy alternative to ultra-processed bbq sauce for your next rack of ribs, grilled chicken, or even air fryer meatballs? This recipe will give you an all-natural alternative with options to mix and match ingredients that’s customizable with a low-calorie, no sugar diet. 

healthy bbq sauce w sides

What’s in Typical Store-Bought BBQ Sauce?

Some of our favorite store-bought BBQ sauce varieties taste pretty good but come with the downside of many super processed ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and preservatives. After taking a closer look at one of my favorite brands, I was shocked to find out they listed high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and more corn syrup in their ingredients. 

By making my own bbq sauce, I’m able to make a custom bbq sauce that has healthier ingredients and adjust or take out certain ingredients to fit my diet. 

Why This Homemade BBQ Sauce Is Healthier

healthy bbq sauce in bowl

This healthy bbq sauce recipe doesn’t use any preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup to sweeten the sauce. While some homemade bbq sauce recipes use ketchup as a tomato base and sweetener, I also refrained from using premade ketchup to move away from processed and overly sweetened ingredients. 

Instead, I used tomato passata (or tomato puree), which is strained and pureed tomatoes. This provided a good base for the bbq sauce and room to add my own sweetener. Make sure you purchase the unsalted version so you can adjust it based on your flavor preferences.  

Ingredients in This Healthy Bbq Sauce

healthy bbq sauce ingredients in bowls

For this healthy bbq sauce, we used a lot of all-natural ingredients like tomato passata instead of ketchup, apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika, molasses, and dried herbs and spices. To sweeten the sauce, we used blackstrap molasses instead of cane sugar or corn syrup because it has added health benefits like potassium and iron and emphasizes a smoky flavor to the sauce. 

Ingredient Variations and Substitutions

adding mustard powder to bbq sauce

You can use this low-calorie bbq sauce recipe and make your own variations by using the ingredients below:

  • If you can’t find tomato passata: tomato paste and water or pureed tomato sauce
  • For a more savory flavor: sauteed onions and garlic (Note, we prefer using powder because it’s much faster and doesn’t require a food processor to blend the ingredients into a smooth sauce after cooking)
  • For a tangier sauce: distilled white vinegar
  • For a sweet alternative to molasses: honey or maple syrup
  • For no sugar: remove the molasses completely or use a replacement like monk fruit sweetener 
  • For more spice: cayenne or red chili pepper flakes

How to Store This Bbq Sauce

After serving the BBQ sauce, I keep it in an airtight container (like a mason jar) in the fridge for up to one week. Since it’s not made with any preservatives, I like to eat it as soon as possible. 

What to Serve With This Bbq Sauce

healthy bbq sauce with side dishes, meatballs

This healthy bbq sauce can be delicious on grilled chicken or ribs, but it’s also a versatile dip for lots of different foods. Some of my favorite ways to eat this BBQ sauce is with air fryer meatballs and asparagus, on top of tacos, in a burger, or any roasted vegetables like brussels sprouts or air fryer cauliflower.

healthy bbq sauce recipe
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5 from 2 votes

Healthy BBQ Sauce

Learn how to make a healthier version of bbq sauce for your next party!
Course Ingredient, Sauce
Cuisine American
Keyword Grill, healthy condiment, homemade
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 6 oz
Calories 34kcal


  • saute pan
  • spatula


  • 8 oz tomato passata or puree
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tbsp liquid smoke optional


  • Add all the ingredients except liquid smoke in a pan and use the spatula to mix until it’s incorporated.
    mixing bbq sauce ingredients
  • Turn the stove on at medium heat and stir occasionally for about three minutes until it thickens. When you can run the spatula down the middle of the pan and you can make a line, then it’s good to go.
    dragging spatula across pan to show thickness of sauce
  • Taste the sauce and adjust based on your taste. If you want a more tangy flavor, add more apple cider vinegar. If you want a sweeter flavor, add more molasses (be warned not to add too much because it may become bitter).
    adding mustard powder to bbq sauce
  • You have the option to add liquid smoke at the end if you want more smoky flavor.
    adding liquid smoke to bbq sauce


Calories: 34kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 265mg | Potassium: 281mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 362IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 1mg