The weather is warming up, and whenever it does I’m reminded of how much I love to grill.  Actually, I am very fortunate to have two charcoal grills at my house (thanks Mom and Dad) and those buggers get used- a lot.  Incidentally, whenever I start to talk about grilling people seem surprised that a vegan barbecues- it’s like if you aren’t roasting animal you can use a grill.  Psh!  Some of my favorite grill items are: Seitan Skewers, Eggplant, Corn on the Cob, Pineapple, Faux Sausages, and marinated mushrooms.  Delish!

I am also a BBQ sauce addict.  I will eat it on pretty much everything.  Tofu, tempeh, seitan, pineapple, eggplant, bean burgers- they all hold the sauce really well.  You end up with a charcoal-y, sweet, spicy flavor that’s just to weep for.  I have always made my own BBQ Sauce, it baffles me that other people don’t do the same.  It’s so easy and way cheaper than some store bought junk.  Plus, it’s really versatile, you can make it out of whatever you have on hand.  Once you know the basics, you can pretty much just eyeball things and instinctively know what flavor combos work together.

The Basics

First things first.  I usually make my sauces to suit whatever I’m putting them on.  For instance, I don’t like to use a super sweet sauce on pineapple since the pineapple is so sweet on it’s own- I’d use a more spicy sauce.  So just think about what you are making the sauce for before you make it, that’s all I’m really saying.

Right.  So, go and grab some stuff.  Like this stuff:

Vegan BBQ Sauce

Sample ingredients for homemade Vegan BBQ Sauce

Let’s talk the base.  The base of BBQ sauce is usually a tomato-type base- for mine I use ketchup.  I know, I know- some folks shudder at using ketchup because of the added sugar, but for BBQ sauce it works out well.  If you prefer, you could use a mix of tomato sauce and paste (to the consistency of ketchup) – be sure to use unsalted tomato sauce since you’ll be adding salt in later (in the form of soy sauce or shoyu sauce).

Now you’ve got to finish up the base of the sauce.  I always add olive oil, apple cider vinegar, molasses, and liquid smoke to my sauces.  The oil binds my sauce and makes it extra smeary, the cider vinegar offers up a nice acid kick, the molasses thickens and sweetens, and the smoke makes it- well  smoky.

Now, from here it gets dicey.  There are so many things that you could add to BBQ sauce, ranging from the salty to the spicy and back around to the sweet- this sauce can take virtually any flavor type you throw at it.  I love to add a dark purple jam/fruit preserve to my sauce- I’ve used blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry, peach and the dark jams work best.  It gives it a fruity undertone and additional sugar (since I normally don’t add additional sugar beyond the molasses, and sometimes, maple) that helps to caramelize on my roasted yum-ness.  Sometimes, if I have it on hand, I use maple syrup (just a dab) for flavor- sometimes I’ll use agave syrup, but sometimes I won’t add either.  I normally spice the hell out of my sauce with tons of fresh garlic, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

As for the typical spices I use, I use the following pretty religiously in my sauce: fresh cracked pepper, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, hot sauce, garlic, and shoyu sauce in place of salt.  You may notice that I add quite a bit of heat to my sauce, I like it hot.  If you prefer a sweeter, smoky sauce just omit the cayenne, hot sauce and garlic.  Add in cinnamon and fresh nutmeg, just a hint- I know it sounds odd with oregano, you’ll just have to trust me.

Once you get all the ingredients together in a bowl, use a whisk and mix it till combined.  Throw it in a small saucepan, cover it and simmer on low for a good 20 minutes.  The longer you simmer it (on low, TRUST ME on this, unless you enjoy cleaning BBQ sauce off of your ceilings then you just go ahead with your rebel self and cook it on medium) the better the flavor.  I try to make a ton of sauce at a time (see: BBQ sauce addict above) and keep it in the fridge (stored in a glass jar)- the sauce will get even better with time.

Once you get the hang of making the base (and figuring out what spices you like the best) you’ll find that you can whip up a batch of BBQ in no time.  I guarantee you’ll prefer your own to store bought- plus you can save the money you’d spend on sauce (aren’t they like $4 – $6 a bottle now?) for more important things.  Fantastic things like this.  Totally worth saving pennies for!

A first-timers recipe is after the jump!

The first-timers homemade BBQ sauce – makes a bunch

  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste

Whisk above ingredients together in a bowl. Add:

  • 1/2 cup dark purple jam such as blueberry or blackberry
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or agave
  • 1 tablespoon shoyu sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (use more if fresh)
  • two dashes hot sauce (or more to taste)
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste

Whisk together until fully combined.  Put in a saucepan, cover and simmer for 20 minutes on LOW.