Oil-free Smoky BBQ Sauce

Smoky BBQ Sauce by An Unrefined Vegan

I know that there is a cult of barbecue sauce. I know that for some, sampling sauces is not unlike wine-tasting in Napa, collecting hot sauces, or sussing out the subtleties in various kinds of dark chocolate. Noble pursuits, to be sure, but barbecue sauce was never a biggie in my life. Perhaps that’s because I grew up in Ohio – not exactly ‘cue country (though my hometown does have an annual “ribfest” along the shores of Lake Erie…). Barbecue (how I instinctively want to spell it: barbeque or BBQ) sauce is kinda…glorified catsup (how I instinctively want to spell it: catch-up), and I’ve never been a fan of catsup – or ketchup, for that matter.

But on certain occasions (Labor Day being a possible one), barbecue sauce is a must. On those occasions, I turn to the Joy of Cooking and I turn to my mother. Every once in a while mom would make pulled pork sandwiches or ribs, which she always dressed in the sauce that inspired mine. I loved the warm vinegar-y scent coming from the stove and the rich, dark red of the cooked sauce. It’s simple, but has all of the classic elements: tang and bite, subtle sweetness, and a hint of smoke. 

Suggestion: if you’re going to use this sauce to make “pulled” jackfruit BBQ (and you should!), I recommend using this base recipe – sans the oil -S and using Native Forest Organic Young Jackfruit. It’s very tender and eerily (in a good way!) mimics pulled pork. A yummy, tangy side that complements any vegan BBQ sandwich to a T is Paulie’s Slaw.

Vegan Smoky BBQ Sauce by An Unrefined Vegan


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Oil-free Smoky BBQ Sauce

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  • Author: Annie
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Total Time: 30


The ideal partner to a pulled jackfruit sandwich – this tangy, slightly sweet sauce is a cinch to prepare. No added oil.


  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 12-ounce bottle chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup water or low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Medjool dates, chopped
  • 1 4-ounce can chopped mild green chiles, optional
  • 1 tsp. molasses
  • 1 tsp. dried onion flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dried mustard powder
  • pinch sea salt


  1. Add a generous splash of water or vegetable broth to a small saucepan and sauté the onion for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add all of the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.


  • Serving Size: 8
  • Calories: 77
  • Sugar: 10
  • Sodium: 648
  • Fat: 0
  • Saturated Fat: 0
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 16
  • Protein: 2
  • Cholesterol: 0

Vegan Smoky BBQ Sauce by An Unrefined Vegan

Vegan Smoky BBQ Sauce by An Unrefined Vegan


20 thoughts on “Oil-free Smoky BBQ Sauce

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      I use it sometimes when I bake tofu that’s been thinly-sliced, or “pulled” jackfruit, or seitan “ribs!” Good stuff! It’s probably a bit like a British product, the name of which has escaped me (I think it has a bit of curry in it?). Kind of a spicy catsup.

      1. tearoomdelights

        We have a thing called Worcester sauce, which is quite spicy. You can get barbecue sauce here too but it’s something I think I’ve only been aware of in recent years. I didn’t know what catsup was until I read on in your post and saw the familiar word ‘ketchup’. 🙂

  1. Angela @ Canned Time

    It’s really strange to me that I rarely ever used BBQ sauce in my pre-Vegan life. Now I slather it on all kinds of grains and veggies. My requirement is that it be served warm like a gravy…heavenly for dipping hot potatoes or carrots, celery is just a spoon for the sauce.
    Problem is so many have animal products in them so this is awesome to have a recipe safe and delicious, thanks!
    I don’t seem to have the appetite that some Vegans do for ‘fake’ BBQ as far as meats go. I felt that with ‘The Homemade Vegan Pantry’ when I saw her array of faux meat recipes. I can’t get myself around pretending it’s meat for some reason. May be just me but it makes me a little nauseous now, like when I smell the fish or meat department at the grocery, and I don’t want it.
    Anyway, sorry if that’s silly. But boy do I love the sauce on veggies and breads….MMMMMmm!! Love that you used the dates too, got to try that ♥

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      We don’t go out of our way to make/eat meat substitutions either. I guess I don’t look at them as replacements for something I miss or am missing, if that makes sense – but more as a food group all of their own. But for sure there are some that eerily mimic the texture of meat and once you get that into your head – well, best to stick to bread and veggies :-)! (After all, what most people really enjoy about something like BBQ is the flavors of the SAUCE, not the meat.)

  2. Jenn S.

    I LOVE BBQ sauce. The more vinegar, the better! But, yes, has to have a smoky flavor too! And you’ve just reminded me that I need to get a new pastry brush…mine broke just last week.

  3. Cathy

    Mark likes vinegary BBQ sauces, I wonder if that is based on upon where one lives? He grew up in N.C.
    He even goes as far as to say that here in Ca. the BBQ sauce is tomato based, where as back there its a vinegar base.
    Regardless, this one sounds good, I like the ingredients, so I am going to plan on making this very soon!
    Thanks Annie

  4. The Vegan8

    Annie, I am not kidding you one bit, my mouth literally started salivating. I think you know how much I love BBQ sauce! It is my #1 favorite flavor in the entire world…then it would be Mexican. I totally related to your statement about the vinegar-ness…that is what gets me…I love to sniff the bbq sauce and no joke, immediately I’m dribbling with drool. I am basically drooling as I type this. I love making homemade bbq sauce, so much better than commercial. I love the smokiness of bbq sauce too. I love to use liquid smoke because it’s such a strong, distinct flavor. I am dying to try this….one question, I have all the ingredients except on the chili sauce, I’ve seen so many at the store. What brand should I look for or specifically for it to say?

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Haha! Vinegar makes me drool, too! Crazy, huh? I use Heinz Chili Sauce as my mom did ;-). It does have HFC in it (argh!), but I haven’t found one w/out it. By all means if you find one without it – use it! And let me know the brand… Another option would be to use tomato puree and add more vinegar, plus some garlic and onion powder – that’s pretty much the ingredient list on chili sauce anyway!

  5. MaryEllen@VNutrition

    I wish I found this before Labor day – I was looking for a new bbq sauce for my veggie burgers. No big deal, my husband and I will probably be grilling for the next month or so (he’s trying to get a new grill this weekend while they’re on sale) so I’ll definitely be trying your sauce soon. 🙂

  6. Pingback: Oil-free Smoky BBQ Sauce | Harvey Diamond Fan Page

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