Homemade BBQ Sauce – without ketchup!

4.58 from 52 votes

homemade bbq sauce

Being from the South, I love BBQ’s and all the fixin’s, but it isn’t exactly the healthiest of meals. The meat is usually over-cooked and the side dishes are typically mac ‘n cheese, potato salad and cornbread – a carbohydrate explosion!

One of the worst offenders is bottled BBQ sauce. Most commercial preparations include high fructose corn syrup, food starches, and preservatives like sodium benzoate. One serving, which is typically “two tablespoons” can include as much as 18 grams of sugar —  but we all use much more than that!

homemade bbq sauce

So, I decided to come up with my own quick version that includes whole food ingredients and half the sugar…and doesn’t require any ketchup. You can ramp up the sweetness or the spiciness, according to your tastes.

homemade bbq sauce
4.58 from 52 votes

No Ketchup BBQ Sauce

By: Cindy Santa Ana
This quick BBQ sauce has half the sugar of commercial barbecue sauce, but doesn't use any ketchup!
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 21 minutes
Total: 26 minutes
Servings: 2 cups


  • 2 cups organic tomato sauce, preferably homemade, or jarred
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses, or maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • pinch cayenne pepper, to taste


  • Whisk all of the ingredients over medium high heat in a saucepan. Boil for 1 minute, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Pour into a mason jar and allow to cool. Then, seal and store in the fridge. Once opened, it will last about 3-4 weeks. 
    homemade bbq sauce


Calories: 312kcal, Carbohydrates: 77g, Protein: 3g, Sodium: 1898mg, Potassium: 2066mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 73g, Vitamin A: 1060IU, Vitamin C: 17.2mg, Calcium: 205mg, Iron: 6.5mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About the Author

Unprocessed Living: 3 Easy Steps to Transition Into Healthy EatingCindy Santa Ana is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, speaker and author of Unprocessed Living: 3 Easy Steps to Transition Into Healthy Eating.

Having lost 50 pounds herself by cutting out processed foods, Cindy now helps her clients maintain their happy weight and get back their energy by creating a personalized “roadmap to health” that suits their unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals.

Learn more about Cindy at Unlock Better Health, and of course you can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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September 17, 2023 3:14 pm

5 stars
This was super easy and super delicious! I would never buy store bought bb sauce as there are too many unhealthy ingredients. This is perfect. Thank you!

November 26, 2022 11:15 am

5 stars
So yummy. I may make a double recipe of this and use it for everyday.

November 15, 2021 6:54 pm

My grandaddy made this best sauce. He said that the secret to his sauce was to not put anything red in it. Unfortunately his recipe passed away with him. I’ve never been able to replicate it but I’m looking forward to trying your recipe. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Rene(e) She/her/hers
January 1, 2021 4:13 pm

5 stars
Hi, I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing this recipe! It was super quick, easy and adjustable! 😀 My sis has an allergy to allium (garlic and onion) so we left that out and used honey in place of the molasses or syrup, so we had the former already here. It is my favorite bbq sauce yet, is much easier to dispense than those in the store bottles, brought joy to my sis who can finally have bbq sauce and was even super enjoyed by those that don’t even desire bbq sauce often. I have already shared the recipe and will definitely be making more. As well as exploring your website some more. Happy 2021 and thanks for what you are doing!

Reply to  Rene(e) She/her/hers
January 4, 2021 10:40 am

Thanks for your sweet and kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe.

December 20, 2019 3:31 am

5 stars
This recipe saved my day. We are hosting a birthday party for one Brother-in-law and like most imported products here in the Philippines, you can NEVER depend on local grocery stores to have stock. NO BBQ sauce to be had. My taste buds tell me that tomorrow when we all sit down for lunch, this wonderful homemade sauce will be a huge hit!!! I am already planning several variations. Thank you very much for posting this.

Art Ramos
February 11, 2019 10:24 am

4 stars
I’ve experimented with not putting any sugar, molasses, honey, etc. What I have done is sauted finely chopped onion to get some sweetness into the recipe. For your recipe, 1/2 a small onion should suffice.

Rita Maphis
October 22, 2018 8:09 pm

5 stars
Tonight We grilled chicken breasts and basted them with the sauce just before they were done. Everyone loved them. I accidentally used 1/2 tsp of garlic, onion, and pepper. But it was still really good.

Rita Maphis
October 22, 2018 7:29 am

I can’t wait to try this. My grandkids love ketchup on everything. Any suggestions for tweaking this recipe into plain old ketchup?

May 11, 2018 6:09 pm

1/2 Cup Molasses=126g Sugar

Reply to  Sean
October 22, 2018 1:31 pm

That’s for the entire jar. This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups. A serving would be 2 tbsp.

Art Ramos
Reply to  Sean
February 11, 2019 10:37 am

2 1/2 cups equals 40 tbs. each 2 tbs serving will have 5.3 grams of carbs. You could replace the mollasses with Agave syrup which will cut it down to 4.2 grams of carbs. Or, you can try my suggestion above and saute some onion to bring some natural sweetening to the barbeque sauce!