BBQ sauce (Paleo and GAPS friendly)


Americans have a love affair with sauces and condiments. Unfortunately, these products are usually more like science fair projects than food. Even (especially) when a product promotes itself with qualifiers like “fat-free!” or “low-sodium!”, you can usually just translate that to “sugar-loaded, chemical explosion!”.

As for barbecue sauce, the number one ingredient is almost always High Fructose Corn Syrup (from GMO corn). You’ll then get a good mix of other seemingly innocent ingredients: tomato paste, vinegar, caramel color. That last one may not catch your attention, but despite its wholesome sounding name, it is in fact linked to cancer and its safety is currently being reevaluated by the FDA.

Because that bottle will be sitting on a shelf for an extended period of time, preservatives must also be added. These usually come in the form of Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate. (The latter of the two forms the known carcinogen benzene when combined with vitamin C)

So unless you feel comfortable eating probable or known carcinogens (and I hope you don’t!) try to avoid these sauces and practice making your own healthier versions. I use this sauce when I make ribs or pulled pork, but it can be used wherever you might have used store-bought BBQ sauce in your former life :)

This makes enough for several meals. Section out in Ziploc bags and freeze until ready to use.


  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 ½ teaspoon tomato paste
  • ½ cup sweet cherries, pitted*
  • ½ tsp each chili powder, paprika, sea salt, pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 ½ tsp ground mustard
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup broth or water

Heat half of oil in pan. Add onions and cook until caramelized (add a little broth or water to deglaze pan and prevent from burning) Next, add remaining ingredients, cover, and cook on medium low for 20-30 minutes. At this point, your pan should look something like this.


Add broth or water if too much liquid has evaporated. Let cool, remove bay leaf, and transfer to blender (I use an immersion blender). Pulse until you achieve a smooth consistency.

*I use cherries to add some sweetness to the sauce. You can also substitute ½ tbs honey.

Note: Most BBQ sauces are full of sugar (or HFCS). Cooking down the tomatoes, carrots, onions, and cherries brings out the natural sugars and alleviates the need for additional sweeteners. All the plant fiber will make this sauce have a consistency closer to marinara. If you want a thinner sauce, use half the amount of diced tomatoes and add an additional  1 ½ tsp tomato paste.

Here are the leftovers that I will freeze for another day




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