While barbecue sauce is mostly associated with meat, there are plenty of animal-free options for vegan eaters who want to enjoy these sweet and tangy flavors. That said, not all types of barbecue sauces are vegan, and some contain ingredients that not all plant consumers consider to be vegan.
There are a few factors to watch out for when it comes to vegan barbecue sauce varieties, some of which aren’t as easy to spot. Check out our ultimate guide to choosing a vegan barbecue sauce for your next backyard barbecue.
Why barbecue sauce is generally vegan
Typically, barbecue sauce is vegan, although there are a few key ingredients to look out for when shopping at your local grocery store.
Barbecue sauce has a ketchup-like base that is usually complemented with lots of spice and a hint of smoky flavor. It’s meant to be applied to foods before grilling to keep products moist and retain their flavor, but it’s also delicious as a dip or added to side dishes. The main ingredient in barbecue sauce, tomatoes, contains a multitude of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
When isn’t barbecue sauce vegan?
You might be surprised to find that some of the more popular brands of barbecue sauce contain anchovies, a type of small fish included to retain the salty taste and produce an umami flavor. Likewise, a common ingredient in some barbecue sauces is Worcestershire sauce, which is also made from fermented anchovies.
There are also food colors used by large-scale manufacturers that may or may not be cruelty-free, such as those that are tested on animals or are derived from animals (such as carmine), something to be aware of as well. .
Vegans should also keep an eye out for gums and emulsifiers (like gelatin) that are added to barbecue sauce to thicken the texture, some of which may be derived from animal products.
Likewise, natural flavors can be vegan or animal-based, while some cane sugars are refined using animal bones (this is called “bone charcoal”, but organic brands usually refrain from using this method), so some vegans choose to avoid these ingredients. absolutely. In these cases, the safest bet is to look for a “vegan” tampon on the label.
Typically, the biggest red flags for vegan barbecue sauce are anchovies and honey, although the latter is considered by many to be a “controversial” vegan ingredient.
Tree climbing tip
Just because you have a favorite vegan brand of barbecue sauce doesn’t mean that there won’t be different versions that include non-vegan ingredients. Brands often change the composition of their products depending on countries, regulations or the availability of ingredients, or even reformulate their classic recipes over time. For this reason, it is always important to check the ingredient list when purchasing a new bottle of your favorite brand.
What about honey?
Honey is a fairly common ingredient in barbecue sauce, and it tends to be a gray area in the vegan community. Honey is produced from flower nectar collected by bees, which break it down into sugars which are stored, naturally dehydrated in their honeycombs, and coated with beeswax.
Some vegans believe that beekeeping as a form of agriculture exploits insects and argue that taking their honey is harmful to them, making honey a non-vegan product. Others argue that beekeeping does not necessarily count as animal exploitation since insects are also killed in other types of agriculture, such as sugar production. Whichever vegan camp you belong to, don’t be surprised if your barbecue sauce mentions honey as one of the main ingredients.
Types of vegan barbecue sauce
Vegan barbecue sauces are commonly found in most large grocery stores, but you can also head to health food stores or local specialty markets to try something different. As noted above, all ingredients are subject to change, so always check the label before purchasing to make sure the sauce still uses vegan recipes.
Also note that many barbecue sauces contain sugar and it can be difficult to know what type of sugar it is or if it is processed using bone charcoal. The best way to make sure your BBQ sauce uses vegan sugar is to buy products that are certified organic or vegan.
The following barbecue sauces are vegan:
- Annie’s Original Barbecue Sauce
- Annie’s Smoked Maple BBQ Sauce
- Annie’s Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce
- Classic Primal Kitchen BBQ Sauce
- Primal Kitchen Golden BBQ Sauce
- Primal Kitchen Hawaiian Style BBQ Sauce
- Primal Kitchen Mango Jalapeño BBQ Sauce
- Organicville Original BBQ Sauce
- Organicville Tangy BBQ Sauce
- Tessemae Matty’s Organic Barbecue Sauce
- Kraft Original Slow Simmer BBQ Sauce and Dip
- Kraft Hot & Spicy BBQ Sauce & Dip
- Kraft Hickory Smoke Slow Simmer BBQ Sauce and Dip
- Kraft Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Sauce
- Bull’s-Eye Original Barbecue Sauce
The following brands of sauces contain vegan ingredients as well as non-organic sugar:
- Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Barbecue Sauce
- Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet & Spicy BBQ Sauce
- Heinz Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce
- Caroline Heinz Sweet & Tangy Vinegar Style BBQ Sauce
- Heinz Original Mild & Thick Barbecue Sauce
- Heinz Kansas City Style Sweet & Smoky BBQ Sauce
- Bold and Spicy Texas-Style Heinz Barbecue Sauce
- Bull’s-Eye New York Steakhouse BBQ Sauce
- Bull’s-Eye Smokey Chipotle BBQ Sauce
- Bull’s-Eye Roasted Onion BBQ Sauce
- Bull’s-Eye Smoked Bacon BBQ Sauce
- Stubb’s Original Bar-BQ Sauce
- Stubb’s Legendary Dr. Pepper Bar-BQ Sauce
- Stubb’s Bar-BQ Hickory Bourbon Sauce
- Stubb’s Simply Sweet Reduced Sugar BBQ Sauce
- Stubb’s Smoked Brown Sugar BBQ Sauce
- Stubb’s Spicy Bar-BQ Sauce
- Stubb’s Sticky Sweet Bar-Sauce BQ
- Stubb’s Sweet Heat Bar-Sauce BQ
Types of non-vegan barbecue sauce
Of course, there are bound to be sauces on the shelves that introduce honey and other non-vegan ingredients into their products, including the following varieties:
- Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ Sauce
- Sweet Baby Ray’s Maple BBQ Sauce
- Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
- Slow Simmer Kraft Sweet Honey BBQ Sauce and Dip
- Kraft Mesquite Smoked Barbecue Sauce
- Kraft Slow Simmer BBQ Sauce & Spicy Honey Dip
- Heinz Memphis Style Sweet & Spicy BBQ Sauce
- Bull’s-Eye Tennessee Style Sweet Whiskey Barbecue Sauce
- Stubb’s Smokey Mesquite Bar-Sauce BQ
- Legendary Bar-BQ Sauce with Honey and Sweet Spices from Stubb’s
Vegan alternatives to barbecue sauce
When in doubt, make your own barbecue sauce! There are many vegan barbecue sauce recipes on the Internet; most consist of a combination of tomato paste or tomato sauce (or even pre-bottled ketchup), vinegar, spices (including, but not limited to, pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder and mustard powder), Worcestershire vegan, sweetener (such as agave, vegan brown sugar, coconut sugar or maple syrup) and liquid smoke.
Barbecue sauce recipes usually call for mixing all the ingredients in a saucepan, bringing to a boil, and then simmering until the sauce has thickened. In a pinch, vegans can also substitute barbecue sauce for regular ketchup, although it probably doesn’t have the same unique flavor barbecue sauce is known for.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is vegan barbecue sauce gluten free?
The mass-produced vegan barbecue sauce will likely be made in a large facility exposed to gluten or using gluten-based thickeners, so small-batch brands with the certified gluten-free label are a better option if you are allergic.
Keep an eye on the ingredient list for any hidden names of gluten, especially with different flavors of barbecue sauce, like soy sauce.
Is McDonald’s barbecue sauce vegan?
Is vegan barbecue healthy?
It depends on your definition of ‘healthy’, but it’s good to know that some commercially produced barbecue sauces use high fructose corn syrup as the main ingredient, which may not be ideal for those following a diet. low sugar diet.