This vegan BBQ sauce recipe is easy to make using simple ingredients. It’s tangy and sweet with a slightly smoky flavor!
Don’t be intimidated by its (somewhat longer) ingredient list; most are spices to create a robustly flavored sauce. Even with the spices, this is a mild barbecue sauce, but you can make it spicy with extra cayenne pepper.
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Is BBQ Sauce Vegan?
In my experience, there’s about a 50/50 chance that barbecue sauce is vegan (or not). It largely depends on what type of sauce it is, or where you’re located.
If buying store-bought BBQ sauce, read the ingredients carefully to determine if the sauce is vegan. If at a restaurant, ask what type of sauce it is and if you can see an ingredients list.
The main ingredient in BBQ sauce that’s not vegan is Worcestershire sauce, which is almost always made with anchovies. There are vegan Worcestershire sauces, but these are often hard to find and aren’t typically used for barbecue sauce. If you’re vegan, always proceed with caution and assume Worcestershire sauce is not vegan.
There can be other non-vegan ingredients in barbecue sauce too. Honey is probably the second most common ingredient used in barbecue sauce to look for. There are also some sauces that use obviously non-vegan ingredients like bacon.
A third ingredient to be aware of is sugar. Depending on where you live, granulated sugar may be processed with bone char. Some vegans do not consume sugar if it’s been processed this way. It’s very difficult to confirm how the sugar in pre-made barbecue sauce is processed.
Making homemade barbecue sauce lets you to control the ingredients and make sure everything meets your needs as a vegan.
Vegan BBQ Sauce Ingredients
The ingredients in this recipe are basic and ones I typically keep on hand. Everyone has different taste preferences, so adjust the ingredients and seasoning to your liking. There are endless ways to prepare a tasty barbecue sauce. My favorite is with:
- Tomato puree: Many barbecue sauce recipes start with ketchup, but I prefer tomato puree. This base gives a reddish color and brighter, acidic flavor to the sauce.
- Granulated and brown sugar: A main ingredient in BBQ sauce is sugar and this recipe uses a combo of white (granulated) and brown sugar. I haven’t tested this recipe with any other sugars or sweeteners, but you can experiment (although I can’t guarantee the results). If you’d rather a less sweet and more tangy sauce, slightly reduce the sugar, but always taste to make sure you like it before serving!
- White and apple cider vinegar: As with sugar and tomatoes, vinegar is one of the 3 main ingredients in barbecue sauce. This recipe uses mostly white vinegar for a great tangy flavor along with some apple cider vinegar to round out the flavors.
- Dijon mustard: I love the flavor Dijon mustard adds to this sauce, but use yellow mustard or a grainy mustard if you prefer.
- Molasses: For a touch of extra sweetness and a great depth of flavor, I love adding molasses to BBQ sauce. I use fancy/ cooking molasses and not blackstrap molasses which tends to be bitter.
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce: This is a common barbecue sauce ingredient. If you can find a vegan version, use it! Otherwise, substitute for soy sauce or tamari for a gluten free option.
- Garlic and onion powder: These two basic spices add lots of flavor to this sauce.
- Smoked paprika: This sauce isn’t overly smoky, but I love to add smoked paprika to get a subtle smoked flavor. If you don’t like smoky flavor, use a sweet paprika. If you like spicy BBQ sauce, choose a hot paprika. If you want extra smoke flavor, a drop of liquid smoke can easily do the trick!
- Salt and black pepper: A touch of salt and black pepper enhances the flavors in this sauce. You can adjust these, and the other seasonings, to your liking. I often have smoked salt on hand and this specialty salt is a great way to add subtle smoke flavor to the sauce (in addition to smoked paprika).
- Ground turmeric: While not always used in barbecue sauce, I add ground turmeric. This is optional. You can use ground mustard if you want extra mustard flavor.
- Cayenne pepper: While optional, a touch of spicy heat helps round out all flavors. The final sauce is quite mild but adjust the cayenne to your liking. Even if you aren’t a fan of spicy heat, a small pinch of cayenne really enhances the other flavors.
How to Make Sweet and Tangy Vegan BBQ Sauce
This is a very quick and easy recipe to make. It comes together with 2 simple steps. In just 15 minutes, you can enjoy a deliciously homemade, tangy and sweet vegan barbecue sauce!
Step 1: Whisk Ingredients Together
The only prep for this recipe is to measure out all ingredients and add them to a medium-sized pot.
Whisk them together until you have an evenly combined sauce.
Step 2: Cook
Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat on your stovetop. This can take up to 5 minutes and you should whisk occasionally as the sauce heats up.
Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer the sauce. Typically, this is over medium to medium-low heat.
Let your sauce simmer while whisking occasionally for about 5 minutes.
You can serve the sauce right away (if needed) or cooled and refrigerated.
How to Serve this Recipe
My three favorite ways to use barbecue sauce are:
- BBQ chickpeas, perfect for wraps or salads
- Pulled jackfruit sandwiches (vegan BBQ pulled pork)
- Barbecue cauliflower “wings”
My husband loves to make barbecue baked beans to eat on toast for breakfast, which is another tasty option.
How to Refrigerate and Freeze Barbecue Sauce
Refrigerate leftover barbecue sauce in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. It’s best to cool the sauce to room temperature (in its cooking pot) before transferring to a jar or container for storage.
This recipe makes about 2 cups of sauce which may be a lot for one or two people. You can halve the recipe if needed. Otherwise, freeze leftover sauce in any freezer-safe container.
To thaw, simply take out of your freezer and defrost it in the fridge overnight. You can also use a microwave to thaw the sauce or melt it from frozen in a pot over low heat.
If you make this recipe, please rate and comment below to help others benefit from your experience!
Easy Vegan Barbecue Sauce
- 1 cup canned tomato puree (250 mL / 270 g)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (115 g)
- ½ cup brown sugar (85 g)
- ½ cup white vinegar (125 mL / 120 g)
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar (60 mL / 60 g)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (15 mL/ 15 g)
- 1 tablespoon molasses (15 mL / 20 g)
- 1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (5 mL / 7 g) *
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder (5 mL)
- ½ teaspoon onion powder (2.5 mL)
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika (2.5 mL)
- ½ teaspoon salt (2.5 mL)
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric (1 mL)
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (1 mL)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper (1 mL)
Step 1: Whisk Ingredients Together
- Add all ingredients to a medium-size pot and whisk together until well combined.1 cup canned tomato puree, ½ cup granulated sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, ½ cup white vinegar, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon molasses, 1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Step 2: Cook
- Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. This takes up to 5 minutes.
- Once boiling, reduce the temperature until sauce lightly simmers over medium or medium-low heat.
- Simmer, whisking occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- Use the sauce right away or cool to room temperature before refrigerating. This sauce should last for up to 2 weeks.
More Vegan Sauce and Dressing Recipes
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About Nicole Stevens
Nicole is a vegan Registered Dietitian (RD) and founder of Lettuce Veg Out.
She helps people thrive on a vegan diet with balanced recipes and easy-to-understand nutrition science.