Better-for-you BBQ sauce

BBQ sauce was on my plate with almost every single dinner growing up. I wasn’t a fan of tomato sauce (or ketchup, to some of you). It just didn’t have that smokey sweetness that BBQ sauce did. And so BBQ it was. On my sausages. On my burgers. On my rissoles. On my chicken. On my veggies. I won’t lie. I still love it.

Have you had a look what’s in that smokey sweetness lately though?

Ingredients of a popular brand of BBQ sauce
Ingredients of a popular brand of BBQ sauce


Looks like real food to me. Not.

Let’s break the ingredients down:

  • Tomatoes (from concentrate) – pretty self explanatory. This is usually a form of tomato paste, to which water is added.
  • Sugar – the second ingredient, meaning this is chockers of the stuff. Sugar, the common name for sucrose which is made of 50% glucose and 50% fructose, has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, immune issues, gut issues, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, behavioural issues… the list goes on.
  • Wheaten cornflour – wheat-derived and full of gluten.
  • Acetic acid – may be genetically modified and synthetically derived from methanol. Suspected to cause respiratory, cardiovascular and liver issues.
  • Citric acid – may be genetically modified.
  • Caramel 150c – ammonia caramel. May be genetically modified. Prepared from carbohydrates and ammonium compounds. May cause issues to gastrointestinal system, liver and reproductive system. May cause hyperactivity.
  • Vegetable gum (pectin) – may cause allergic and hyper-sensitive reactions. May affect asthmatics.
  • Yeast extract – hidden MSG. MSG can cause a host of issues including dizziness,  headache, heart palpitations, nausea, rash, depression, learning difficulties, etc.
  • Onions – onions are probably the most real ingredient in here. Shame it makes up so little of the sauce.

Scary, huh?

I look at this list and think it’s no wonder I’ve ended up with a host of health issues when this was a staple food for so long, even well beyond the day I moved out of my family home.

I made meatloaf last week and was really craving BBQ sauce to not only glaze the meatloaf, but also to smother it in once it was on my plate. I had a jar of passata and a cupboard full of spices, so I set to work. Here’s what I came up with. It’s not perfect, and I plan to improve it, but at least it resembles real food.


Better-For-You BBQ Sauce

Makes almost 2 cups – around a large jar-worth

You’ll need:

  • 350ml of passata
  • 1/2 cup of rice malt syrup (note: I’ve used rice malt syrup as it’s fairly neutral tasting and is also fructose free, which is one of the biggest improvements on this recipe. If you want to use either honey or maple syrup, cut down the amount you use to about half, as both are much sweeter than rice malt syrup)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon of onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard (I used some of my home made fermented mustard, which is quite similar to wholegrain, but with more kick)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Water

Add all ingredients except the salt, pepper and water to a cold saucepan and mix well. Put the saucepan over a low heat for about 10 minutes, then taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Once you’re happy with the seasoning, add a touch of water to dilute the sauce to your desired consistency. Store it in a glass jar or bottle in the fridge.

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