Here in Ohio, the weather is finally warming up, and it reminds me of how much I love to grill. I’m 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 as 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 an 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 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 vegan BBQ 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 tastebuds.

How to Make Your Own Vegan BBQ Sauce

First things first, you’ll need to decide what type of flavor profile you want for your sauce.

Choose a flavor that will complement the food it’s going to be used on eventually. For instance, I wouldn’t use a sweet barbecue sauce on pineapple because it’s so naturally sweet on its own. Instead, pair sweet foods with spicy sauces to balance both the flavors. Savory-style foods like tofu, seitan, or tempeh work well with sweeter sauces.

These are 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 vegan BBQ sauce; you can tailor it to your specific tastes.

The Base

Let’s talk about the base for your vegan BBQ sauce.

Barbecue sauce typically has a tomato base, but not always. Some sauces, like the famous 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 use tomato.

My preferred base choice is organic ketchup.

Hold on; I can hear some of you exclaiming over here!

Some folks shudder at using ketchup because of the added sugar, but the added sugar works out well for barbecue sauces. 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 of soy or shoyu sauce. If unsalted tomato products are unavailable, you can leave out the soy or shoyu sauce then.

Once you have the base, you’ll add a 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

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 is a list of ingredients that you can mix and match to help you create the perfect barbecue sauce flavor. Choose one or two components from each category — don’t just add everything from one category — and whisk together for a flavorful vegan BBQ 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 cooled, put it into a glass jar or other air-tight container and place it in the fridge.

During grilling season, I make vegan BBQ sauce in big batches so that I’ll always have some on hand when I want it.

Vegan BBQ Sauce

Vegan BBQ Sauce

Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

A basic but flavorful barbecue recipe perfect for grilling.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups ketchup, no salt if possible
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dark fruit jam such as blueberry, blackberry, or mixed berry
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or agave syrup
  • 1 tablespoon shoyu sauce or soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Two dashes hot sauce or more to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Place all of the ingredients into a large saucepan and whisk to combine.
  2. Cook on low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Notes

Feel free to use this sauce immediately, but the sauce will become more flavorful as it sits. Store sauce in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Now That You’re a Vegan 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!