By KD Angle-Traegner, Founder

Here in Ohio, the weather is finally warming up. Warm weather reminds me how much I love to grill.  Actually, I am very fortunate to have two charcoal grills at my house (Thanks mom and dad!) and they get used a lot.  Incidentally, whenever I start to talk about grilling people seem surprised that vegans like to barbecue- it’s like if you aren’t roasting animal you can’t use a grill. Psh! There are loads of options for vegans. Some of my favorites are; seitan skewers, corn on the cob, any fruit, marinated portobello mushroom caps, potatoes, celery root, polenta, pizza- I could go on and on.

I am also a self-admitted BBQ sauce addict. I will, and have, eaten on nearly everything. BBQ tofu? Yes, please. BBQ tempeh? Yup. Eggplant? Sure. Pineapple. Why not? I have always made my own BBQ sauce for two reasons; one, I like the way I make it and two, it’s way cheaper than that store bought junk. Now listen, making sauce is a snap so don’t worry if you’re not particularly savvy in the kitchen. Once you know the basics, you can tailor the flavors to suit your own tastebuds.

How to Make Your Own Barbecue Sauce

First things first, you’ll need to decide what type of flavor profile you want for your sauce. Choose a flavor that will to suit the food it’s going to eventually be used on. For instance, I wouldn’t use a sweet barbecue sauce on pineapple because it’s so naturally sweet on its own. I would pair pineapple with a spicy sauce to balance both the sweetness of the pineapple and the spiciness of the sauce. I pair sweet sauces with more savory-style foods like tofu, seitan, or tempeh.

These are just my preferences however, you should go with your gut. In this case I mean that literally—go with what your belly likes. That’s the great thing about making your own barbecue sauce, you can tailor it to your specific tastes.

The Base

Let’s talk about the base for your sauce. Barbecue sauce typically has some type of tomato base, but not always. Some sauces, like the popular South Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce, contain no tomatoes at all. While I enjoy all types of sauces, the ones I make at home tend to have some type of tomato base.

My preferred base is an organic ketchup. I can hear some of you exclaiming all the way over here! Some folks shudder at using ketchup because of the added sugar, but the added sugar works out really well for the barbecue sauce. If you prefer, you can skip the ketchup and use a mix of canned tomato sauce and paste that has the same consistency as ketchup.

Note: If you do decide to start your base from canned tomato sauce + paste, choose unsalted tomato products since you’ll be adding sodium later in the form or soy or shoyu sauce. If unsalted tomato products are unavailable, you can leave out the soy or shoyu sauce later.

Once you have the base, you’ll add some type of vinegar and a bit of olive oil. The oil binds the sauce and makes it extra smeary, and the vinegar is the acid you’ll need to cut through the sweetness of the ketchup.

Choose Your Flavor Profile

Once you’ve selected your base it’s time to talk flavors. What type of sauce do you want? Something spicy? Sweet? Maybe a little of both? Remember, choose a sauce that compliments the recipe you’re using it in.

Here are a list of ingredients that you can mix and match to help you create the perfect barbecue sauce flavor. Simply choose one or two components from each category—don’t just add everything from one category—and whisk together for a flavorful sauce.

The Salty

  • Soy Sauce
  • Shoyu Sauce
  • Salt

The Sweet

  • Molasses
  • Maple Syrup
  • Agave
  • Date Paste
  • Organic brown sugar
  • Fruit Jam

The Heat

  • Jalapeno or other hot peppers
  • Chilies
  • Onions
  • Hot sauces
  • Red chili flakes
  • Cayenne pepper

From the Spice Rack

  • Sweet paprika
  • Oregano
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice
  • Garlic
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt

The Smoke

  • Liquid Smoke
  • Smoked paprika
  • Smoked / Roasted bell peppers

This list is meant to help inspire you and give you ideas, it is by no means an exhaustive list or recipe.

Patience is a Virtue

Once you choose your ingredients, whisk them together and simmer on the stove for about 20 minutes on low heat. Boom! You have homemade sauce. I like to prepare barbecue sauce a day or so before I want to use it because this sauce will only get better with age. When the sauce is done (and cooled), put it into a glass jar or other air-tight container and place it in the fridge. During grilling season I make barbecue sauce in big batches so that I’ll always have some on hand when I want it.

Now That You’re a BBQ Sauce Master

Now that you know the basics of barbecue sauce, it’s time to make your own. I’ve put together a quick little recipe, but once you master the basics you’ll be off creating sauces all your own. Do you make your own sauce? I want to know about it. Tell me about it in the comments or tag me on Instagram using #yourdailyvegan!

Homemade Vegan Barbecue Sauce
A basic but flavorful barbecue recipe perfect for grilling.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. • 2 cups no-salt ketchup
  2. • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  3. • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
  4. • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  5. • 1/2 cup dark fruit jam (blueberry, blackberry, mixed berry)
  6. • 1/4 cup maple syrup or agave
  7. • 1 tablespoon shoyu sauce (or soy sauce)
  8. • 2 cloves garlic – minced or pressed
  9. • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  10. • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  11. • two dashes hot sauce (or more to taste)
  12. • fresh cracked pepper to taste
  1. Place all of the ingredients into a large saucepan and whisk to combine. Cook on low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Your Daily Vegan