This homemade BBQ sauce gets its sweetness from dates and blackstrap molasses. Use it just like you would store-bought BBQ sauce!
Darrol Henry is obsessed with BBQ sauce lately, and, by extension, so am I. We’ve been eating BBQ tofu, dipping carrot sticks in BBQ sauce, and using it as the base for homemade pizzas. I even caught Darrol dipping cashews in it. Which, it turns out, is kind of delicious.
The point is, my kid is more BBQ sauce than man right now, and BBQ sauce is not ideal, as sauces go. Like ketchup, it has a lot of added sugars in it, which I’m sure is part of its appeal. This homemade BBQ sauce is me trying to make a healthier version of my son’s favorite thing by replacing some of the refined sugar with whole fruit. And I’m super jazzed with how it turned out!
There are a lot of recipes for homemade BBQ sauce out there, and at their core, they contain pretty much the same things:
- chili powder
- worcestershire sauce
I read dozens of recipes while working on this one, and the main take-away is that BBQ sauce is flexible. If you like more vinegar, add more! If you want it spicy, add hot peppers! If you like it sweeter, use more sugar (or dates! or molasses!). The recipe below suits my tastes, and I encourage you to consider it a jumping-off point for experimentation.
Date Sweetened Homemade BBQ Sauce
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons mild chili powder
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- pinch of cloves
- 1 14.5 ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes If you can’t find fire roasted, plain diced tomatoes will work fine.
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
- 1/4 cup chopped dates packed
- 1/4 teaspoon vegan worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a small saucepan on medium heat, combine the garlic tomato paste, chili powder, paprika, and cloves. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients, except the salt and pepper, and turn up the heat to medium high until they come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can taste as you go along and adjust, if you like, but I recommend NOT adding more molasses or dates until you’ve pureed in step 4. The dates sweeten the sauce as they cook, and they’ll add even more sweetness when you puree.
- When your 30 minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat, then use your immersion blender to puree into a nice, smooth sauce. If you don’t have an immersion blender, let the sauce cool a bit, then transfer to a regular blender.
- At this point, you sauce may be ready to bottle and refrigerate (It will keep for up to a week.). Taste it, and see if it needs any adjusting. This is where you’ll stir in sauce and pepper, to taste. If it does need anything else, turn the heat on medium low, and let any additions cook for a few minutes before you taste again.