Best of Basic: Healthy 5-Minute BBQ Sauce

A tasty sauce, spread or dressing takes a meal from ‘just okay’ to ‘whoa that’s delicious!’ The right sauce adds flavor, personality and complexity to a dish, and having a diverse repertoire of easy, healthy and flavorful sauces, makes clean eating a breeze. I also like sauces that satisfy a multitude of other dietary restrictions (vegan, gluten-free, whole30), making cooking for anyone effortless and easy. Whether using on tofu, meat, poultry or vegetables, a versatile sauce is the perfect way to add a ton of flavor to whatever and for whoever you’re cooking.

This recipe for barbecue sauce is vegan, gluten-free and whole30 friendly. It’s a simple blend of tomato paste, apple juice, apple cider vinegar and spices. There’s no added sugar in the recipe, to please paleo and whole30. Rather, pure apple juice gives this sauce its sweetness. But because most are not following one of these diets, and because I like full-on sweetness in my sauce, maple syrup can be added to taste. Also, because this sauce is homemade, you definitely won’t find anything artificial. But, in my opinion, the best part about this sauce is that it literally takes five minutes to make, with no cooking involved. Talk about a winning recipe, right?

Sweet & Smoky 5-Minute Barbecue Sauce
Serves: 6 (approx. 1/4 cup per serving)  Start to Finish: 5 minutes


1 cup 100% apple juice (or no-sugar added apple sauce for a thicker texture)
1/4 cup tomato paste (about half of a 6-oz can)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt, fine grain
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, plus more to taste (optional)

To Make

Blend all ingredients together using a standing blender or a hand blender. Simmer over medium-low heat if desired. That’s it!

Notes – I’ve had such great feedback on this recipe! Testers really love it, even without the maple syrup for sweetness. I’ve had some comments on the thin texture. If simmering doesn’t thicken the sauce enough, or you’d like to skip the heating step entirely, testers have substituted the apple juice for unsweetened apple sauce with great results. I added this option to the ingredient list and will give it a try myself soon.

12 thoughts on “Best of Basic: Healthy 5-Minute BBQ Sauce

    1. Hi Kristy! Thx for stopping by! To make the sauce thicker, simmer it on the stovetop until reduced to the desired consistency. Although I haven’t tried it, apple sauce sounds like an awesome idea too. If you try it out, let me know how it goes. xx


    1. Hi Sara,

      You are right, maple syrup is not Whole30 approved. That’s why it’s an optional ingredient. When I make this for my Whole 30 client, I do not use the maple syrup, it’s sweet enough on its own with the apple juice. But for myself, and for clients who aren’t following the diet, I add extra sweetness with maple syrup. I also touch on this topic in the body of my post.

      Thx for stopping by!


    1. Hi Jody! Thanks so much for your feedback. So happy to hear that the sauce was tasty. Other testers have noted that unsweetened applesauce is a good substitution for a thicker texture. I’m adding this note to the recipe now. Have a great day!


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