Homemade vegan BBQ sauce is super easy to make and way better than store-bought! This recipe whips up in minutes and includes 3 delicious barbecue flavor variations. Bonus: it’s freezer-friendly, so you can have some on hand at all times!
I can’t get into store-bought barbecue sauce. Every time I try a bottle it’s either too sweet or too bland or not spicy enough.
So a while back I took to making my own, but I never really used a recipe. I always just threw a bunch of ingredients together and taste-tested until I was happy with the flavor.
But since we’re smack dab in the middle of barbecue season, I thought maybe you guys would appreciate an actual recipe. So here it is! You’ll never want to buy the bottled stuff again after making this.
BBQ Sauce Ingredients
Ketchup. Sorry not sorry. Here’s the thing: You could, in theory, go more from-scratch, using just tomato paste, vinegar, and sugar. But it’s way easier to start with something that already has a decent flavor balance, as well as a handful of seasonings already in the mix. So we’re using ketchup.
Brown sugar. To add just the right amount of sweetness. Make sure to buy organic, so you know it’s vegan.
Apple cider vinegar. To add some zip.
Tomato paste. Just a little bit, to thicken up the sauce.
Spices. We’re using garlic, onion powder, and a bit of cayenne pepper.
How to Make Vegan Barbecue Sauce
Ready to exercise some serious culinary skill? Okay, get ready: throw everything into a pot and cook it for ten minutes.
Yes, that’s seriously it! I mean, keep an eye on it — you want it to cook at a low simmer, stir it occasionally, and take it off the heat when it thickens up, but that’s really all there is to it.
I promised a few of these, and here they are!
For smoky vegan barbecue sauce, add 1/2 teaspoon (or more) of smoked paprika or liquid smoke.
For extra spicy vegan barbecue sauce, increase the amount of cayenne pepper to 1/2 teaspoon or more. Or add some of your favorite hot sauce.
For whiskey-spiked vegan barbecue sauce, substitute 1/2 cup of whiskey for the water in the recipe.
And yes, I’ve tried all three of these variations in the same batch of sauce and it was awesome.
How to Use Vegan BBQ Sauce
The possibilities are endless! Brush it on tofu or tempeh, and then bake or grill it. Use it for dipping vegan chicken nuggets or tofu bites. Pour it on your veggie burgers or mushroom dogs. Eat it from a spoon if you feel like it!
Vegan BBQ Sauce Tips & FAQ
- Is this stuff gluten-free? Yes, it is!
- What’s the shelf-life of this barbecue sauce? I’ve kept it up to a week in a sealed container in the fridge, though I suspect it would last even longer. You can also freeze it for at least 3 months.
- Feel free to play around with the ingredients to make this recipe your own. Prefer a sweeter sauce? Add more brown sugar. Want it to be more tart? Add more vinegar.
- Why does the sugar need to be organic? Most sugar in the U.S. is processed using animal bones, so it’s not considered vegan. Organic sugar is processed differently, so you know it’s vegan.
- Where can I get vegan Worcestershire sauce? Annie’s and Edward & Sons Brand are both vegan. You can buy them at most health food stores, or online.
Vegan BBQ Sauce
Homemade vegan BBQ sauce is super easy to make and way better than store-bought! This recipe whips up in minutes and includes 3 flavor variations. Bonus: it's freezer-friendly, so you can have some on hand at all times!
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup organic brown sugar
- 1/4 cup vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
Stir all ingredients together in a medium pot and set it over medium heat.
Bring the mixture to a low boil, and lower the heat to a simmer.
Allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reaches your desired level of thickness.
Remove the pot from heat, taste-test and adjust any seasonings to your liking.
Allow the sauce to cool.
Use it immediately, or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer.
For extra woodsy flavor, substitute whiskey for the water.
For smoky barbecue sauce, add 1/2 teaspoon or more of smoked paprika or liquid smoke.
For extra spicy barbecue sauce, increase the amount of cayenne pepper to 1/2 teaspoon or more.
This recipe makes about 2 cups of sauce.