It’s time to fire up the grill! As the long, lazy days of summer approach, there’s nothing better than cooking dinner outside on the grill with a cool beverage in hand. Looking for a healthier swap for that store bought barbecue sauce, which is usually loaded with so much sugar that it camouflages the taste of your food? Try one of these healthier recipes for homemade barbecue sauce.

Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce c/o Luvo

Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ onion, diced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce c/o Luvo
Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce c/o Luvo
Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce c/o Luvo


  1. In a medium pot, heat olive oil on moderate heat. Add garlic, onions and red pepper flakes and saute until tender, about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add remaining sauce ingredients, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, until thickened.
  3. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth, or let it cool and then blend it in a food processor. Store extra in the freezer.

Use this recipe for grilled barbecue chicken or shrimp. For meatless barbecue, mix crumbled tempeh with some of the sauce and serve on a hamburger bun for a vegetarian barbecue sandwich. This sweet-tart sauce is also delicious basted over smoky cedar plank salmon.

BBQ Rub 

  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • ½ tablespoon ground coffee
BBQ Rub c/o Luvo
BBQ Rub c/o Luvo
BBQ Rub c/o Luvo

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Prefer dry rub for your barbecue? Try this smoky mix. Rub it over salmon to make smoky fish tacos or over slices of tofu before grilling. The coffee in it also pairs well with steak. Try rubbing it over flank steak before grilling, then slice it into thin strips to pair with grilled mushrooms, zucchini and peppers.

More unique and healthy barbecue sauces:

  • Sticky Fig Barbecue Sauce: This barbecue sauce is sweetened with a surprise ingredient – figs! It also uses a hint of blackstrap molasses, which contains iron, magnesium and calcium.
  • Pomegranate Peach Barbecue Sauce: This unique recipe uses pomegranate molasses to sweeten it. Try it over tofu or fish.
  • Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce: I may be biased when I say this is my favorite barbecue sauce, since my hometown is famous for it! This vinegary sauce is best over pork. Try marinating a pork tenderloin in it, then baste on a bit more while it’s on the grill.
  • Eastern North Carolina Barbecue Sauce: Eastern North Carolina barbecue sauce is all about the vinegar! It’s make for pulled pork, but also delicious over smoky chicken.
  • Date Barbecue Sauce: Mineral rich dates are used in this naturally sweetened sauce.

Share your best barbecue recipes and in the comments section below!

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