This is the best Vegan BBQ Sauce with a subtly smoky flavor and the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. It's also easy to make, requiring just 9 simple ingredients and ready in less than 25 minutes!
Is BBQ Sauce Vegan?
Although usually vegan, there are a few ingredients found in store bought BBQ sauce that can indicate that it is not vegan-friendly.
Here's what to look out for:
Worcestershire Sauce—Worcestershire sauce is traditionally made with anchovies. There is vegan Worcestershire sauce available but most likely won't be used in BBQ sauce unless the sauce is explicitly labeled vegan.
Honey—Honey is sometimes used as the sweetener. Since it is made by bees, which are technically part of the animal kingdom, it is not vegan-friendly. There are vegan honey options but if you see honey on the label of store-bought BBQ sauce, it most likely is not vegan.
Mayonnaise—Some creamier versions of BBQ sauce contain mayonnaise which has eggs in it. This is less common but something to keep in mind.
Why this recipe works
I grew up near Kansas City so I'm partial to the sweeter KC BBQ flavor. It's typically a thick tomato based sauce with a balance of sweet and tangy. I made sure to model my BBQ sauce off this classic and delicious sauce.
And might I add that this is a vegan BBQ sauce you can actually feel good about eating! It's naturally sweetened with dates rather than loaded with high fructose corn syrup often found in store bought ones.
It's also made with easy to find ingredients! There's a good chance you have everything in your pantry already. I made sure to keep the ingredient list simple so that it actually makes sense to make your own—if it takes too long it's just not practical in my opinion.
And this vegan version is full of flavor and better than store bought! Trust me, it's a game changer to all your favorite BBQ sauce-laden dishes with this incredibly delicious homemade barbecue sauce. You'll want to make it often!
This vegan BBQ sauce only requires 9 easy to find ingredients (including water!). Short and sweet! Reference the recipe card at the bottom for exact measurements.
Tomato paste—to mimic that thick tomato-based KC style BBQ sauce.
Dates—for a natural sweetener. You can also use maple or agave syrup or homemade vegan honey instead. Use half the amount listed if using a liquid sweetener.
Apple cider vinegar—gives it the tanginess found in BBQ sauce. White distilled vinegar works well too or try coconut vinegar.
Like it spicier? Add a little chili powder, cayenne powder or some of your favorite hot sauce.
Like it sweeter? Add a little maple syrup.
How to make
This step by step walk-through shows the process of making this vegan BBQ sauce recipe. Exact times and temperatures are available in the recipe card at the bottom.
1. Start by soaking the dates in hot water for at least 15 minutes (especially if you don't have a high-speed blender). Then drain and transfer to a blender along with the rest of the ingredients.
2. Blend until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides of the blender a couple times.
3. Add the BBQ sauce to a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally.
If you're in a hurry you can skip the cooking step as it is technically safe to eat, but heating it allows the flavors to meld together better for a richer flavor.
4. Transfer to a jar and allow to cool before storing. Enjoy!
What to serve with
BBQ sauce is often served with meat-type dishes.
To keep it vegan, this would be so delicious with either tofu or tempeh!
If you enjoy BBQ pulled pork, make it vegan it by using jackfruit and this BBQ sauce!
This sauce would also go great on this Epic Vegan BBQ Sandwich or served with this Vegan Steak. BBQ Sauce is really versatile!
More vegan sauces and dips
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Best Vegan BBQ Sauce
- 1 cup dates, pitted and soaked in hot water for 15 minutes
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, or distilled white vinegar
- ¼ cup applesauce, unsweetened
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- If you don't have a high speed blender, soak dates in hot water for at least 15 minutes to soften, then drain and add to your blender along with the rest of the ingredients.
- Blend until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides of the blender a couple times.
- Add the BBQ sauce to a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Transfer to a jar and allow to cool. Enjoy!
What's the difference between Kansas and Carolina sauce?
I prefer Carolina.
I think it has mustard in it?
So maybe this recipe plus a little mustard?
Do you think the water could be replaced with broth?
Or would that just be weird?
Carolina has a higher vinegar ratio so you could do a cup of vinegar instead of the water and add a little mustard. Maybe a couple tablespoons to a 1/4 cup depending on how much mustard you like in it. Hope this helps! 🙂
I have been looking for a veganized BBQ Sauce for quite some time. So glad I've finally found it!
Woohoo! So glad I could help with that 🙂
Healthy Seasonal Recipes
Thank you for including variations for this recipe! Trying this sauce on tofu as soon as possible.
Happy to share! Enjoy!! 🙂
Love that this uses dates and apple sauce! What a great recipe and delicious sauce! Makes me excited for summer!
I can't wait for summer too! And thank you—the dates and applesauce really do provide the perfect amount of sweetness in this sauce 🙂
This really is the best vegan bbq sauce I've tried! It was sweet, spicy and tangy - perfect for veggie burgers or for dipping vegan wings!
I'm so happy to hear that!! Thanks, Anjali!
We grill year long around my home so this recipe is perfect! I am also in love with smoked paprika - yum!
Yay, I'm so glad! Isn't smoked paprika just the best? 🙂