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Smoky paleo BBQ sauce

Quick, before summer ends, throw something on the barbecue! That way, you can smother it in this sauce.

To be honest, I don’t have a barbecue. I live in a little condo in downtown Toronto and I’m pretty sure we aren’t allowed to have them on our balconies. 

Regardless, BBQ sauce was the my first love in the “standard” condiment world, and still remains my favourite. I love how it can be spicy, sweet, tangy, smoky and rich all at the same time. When I was vegetarian, it made those tasteless veggie dogs at the hot dog stand tolerable (and yes, I ate them fairly regularly). Now, it makes pretty much every meat a little happier. Heck, even roasted veggies get a nice little pick-me-up from the stuff.

I started making this sauce when I began slow-cooking baby back ribs in the oven a couple of years ago (and I’m hoping to share that recipe soon, too). I brush some of it on during the last few minutes of cooking and let it get nice and caramelized under the broiler. Then, I put the bowl on the table and let everyone slather a fresh layer over their ribs as they eat them. I love using leftovers on baked chicken, burgers and sausages, or dipping root vegetables into it. It play really nicely with sauerkraut or pickles, too, for extra tang.

Because there is so much vinegar in this sauce, it generally lasts in the fridge for a couple of months. Of course, if you see mold, throw it out. To be on the super-safe side, you could always freeze the leftovers for later, but I like using BBQ sauce a lot, so it’s not really worth it for me.

I used smoked paprika to give this a slight barbecue feel, even if you’re not using the grill. If you don’t have it on hand, it will still taste good; I’ve tried it both ways. For the cayenne (I love this one), keep in mind that the sauce cooks down quite a bit, so the way it tastes at the beginning will not be the way it tastes at the end. To be on the safe side, I’d say go light and add in more closer to the end once the sauce is nice and thick.

Smoky paleo BBQ sauce

Prep Time 5 mins

Cook Time 45 mins

Course: Condiment

Keyword: barbecue, bbq sauce, butternut squash, dairy-free, dinner party, egg-free, gluten-free, grain-free, paleo, sauce, vegan, vegetarian, whole 30


1 cup crushed tomatoes

½ cup apple cider vinegar

⅓ cup maple syrup or honey

1 Tb dark molasses

1 Tb lemon juice

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp granulated garlic

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp smoked paprika

Pinch cayenne

¼ tsp salt


  1. Combine all ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil.

  2. Once it starts bubbling, turn to a simmer and let it cook down for 30 minutes to an hour, until it reaches a nice saucy consistency. Keep in mind it won’t get as goopy as bottled sauces, since there are no thickeners, but it will be thick and smotherable.

  3. Store leftovers in a jar in the fridge.

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