This is the perfect recipe to kick off a holiday weekend! I know a lot of you are going to be out grilling this weekend, and you will almost certainly be reaching for some barbecue sauce! Barbecue is my condiment of choice for just about anything – ribs, chicken, fries…you name it. But have you ever looked at the ingredients on a bottle of barbecue sauce? One of the first two ingredients is always sugar! GAH!
Don’t get me wrong, I have a mild addiction to the sugar in just about any form. But I would rather eat my sugar in the form of a cookie than sneaking around in my barbecue sauce.
Which is why I tried to come up with my very own recipe for a sugar free version that I would like just as much as the Sweet Baby Rays in our fridge.
The problem is that barbecue sauce just needs to have some sweetness (in my opinion) to be good. So how can you add that without adding sugar?
I did it in a couple ways. The first, slightly unconventional way, was through the use of a pureed caramelized onion. It may sounds kind of strange, but believe me, it works. I just love the flavor of caramelized onions to begin with, so adding it to the sauce would do nothing but good things.
The second way was through adding in some natural sweeteners like honey and molasses. Most barbecue sauces have molasses or brown sugar in them anyways, so it is an important flavor to add to the sauce.
The last way was by adding a bit of pineapple juice. Amazingly, pineapple juice concentrate is in some of your favorite commercially prepared barbecue sauces anyways. Not sure if its for the flavor, sweetness, or something else. But in my case I added it because pineapple is very sweet, but also has a nice tart taste that balances out the rest of the flavors.
[BT Dubs, that orange thing up there on the right is my honey jar! I found this awesome little mason jar top that I just popped onto a store-bought honey jar. I love it!]
There are lots of other ingredients that go in barbecue sauce, like tomato sauce, vinegar, mustard powder, garlic powder, smoke flavor, etc. etc. Really, the flavors you add are up to you and what you prefer. If you like spicy sauce, add some cayenne. I just chose the flavors and spices that would be found in most of your standard barbecue sauces because that’s what I like!
After a few minutes over the stove, the sauce is pretty much done! It’s really simple actually. If you want a smoother sauce, you could pour it into a blender and give it a couple turns. That also seems to help all the flavors come together even more.
Now the sauce is ready to marinate, slather, bathe, coat, or spread onto any darn thing you like! I immediately added it to a slow cooker with a couple of chicken breasts to make some pulled barbecue chicken. It was delicious! Albeit, not as sweet as that Sweet Baby Rays, but it was still fantastic! A little sweet, a little smokey, and a little tart. Yum!
I recommend storing the sauce in an airtight jar or container. You could also pop it into an old barbecue sauce bottle, or into your own squeeze bottle. It should last in the fridge for a week or two. I will tell you, I have a bottle that is over 3 weeks old in the fridge that still looks good and I’m tempted to use it for dinner tonight. Don’t worry, I will inspect it thoroughly beforehand.
Worst case, I just whip up another batch!
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 tsp oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
- 2 tbsp pineapple juice
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp molasses
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp liquid smoke (or 2 tsp smoked salt)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
- 1/4 tsp mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp chili flakes
- In a small pan over medium low heat, add oil and onion. Slowly cook so that the onion caramelizes without burning. Once onion is completely brown and caramelized, add to a blender with the vinegar. Blend until smooth.
- Add onion puree to a sauce pan. Turn heat to medium-high. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, pineapple juice, honey, molasses, liquid smoke and spices. Whisk to combine. Bring to a low simmer, cover, then reduce heat and continue to cook on low for about 30 minutes.
- Pour sauce back into blender and blend until completely smooth.
- Use immediately or store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.