paleo homemade barbecue sauce

Slow Cooker Barbecue Sauce {Refined Sugar Free}

My husband loves barbecue sauce. It is his favorite accompaniment to this simple grilled chicken that is a summertime staple in our house. However, I stopped making homemade barbecue sauce when we reduced the amount of added sugar we eat. Instead, I started making other sauces with no added sugar (like this lemon tahini dressing).

But sometimes you just want an favorite meal. So I decided to re-work my homemade barbecue sauce recipe. That meant reducing the overall amount of added sugar. And replacing the refined sugar with honey (or maple syrup if you prefer or want the recipe to be vegan).

ingredients for healthy homemade barbecue sauce without refined sugar
ingredients for healthy homemade barbecue sauce

There was one other problem with my homemade barbecue sauce recipe, and it had nothing to do with ingredients. The sauce required simmering for multiple hours on the stove. That is fine in the fall or winter, but during summer in North Carolina, it is ridiculous to cook something for hours when it is 90+ degrees outside. Thank goodness for this month’s The Recipe Redux’s challenge! We were challenged to “keep the kitchen cool” using a slow cooker, instant pot, or pressure cooker.

The first few attempts at this lower-in-added-sugar barbecue sauce were a little, well, tart. To balance out the flavors, I reduced the amount of apple cider vinegar and added in some oranges (whole oranges – not just the juice). The result was a sweet, tangy, and flavorful barbecue sauce.

homemade slow cooker barbecue sauce paleo

This homemade barbecue sauce can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator or two months in the freezer. The recipe makes about six cups of sauce, so I store the excess in the freezer for future meals. However, if this is just too much barbecue sauce for you, the recipe can easily be halved.

homemade slow cooker barbecue sauce paleo
5 from 1 vote

Homemade Barbecue Sauce {Refined Sugar Free}


  • 2 28-oz cans whole tomatoes*
  • 1.5 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 oranges peeled
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  1. Add all ingredients to slow cooker
  2. Blend with immersion blender
  3. Cook for 12 hours on high heat, stirring periodically, with lid open slightly to allow for evaporation

*Note: I choose to purchase organic tomatoes. Read more on pesticides and produce.

There was another benefit of using a slow cooker over the stove-top simmer method. Much easier clean-up! No matter how much I stir the stove-top version of a homemade barbecue sauce, it always sticks to the bottom of my pot. At best, that can lead to a super messy clean-up. At worst, a burnt bottom sauce that is a little too “smokey” to keep. Even though it takes longer, I definitely prefer the slow cooker method!

Check out the other “keep the kitchen cool” recipes my fellow Recipe Redux Members are cooking up…




  1. I’ve always wanted to make my own BBQ sauce!! Looks so good!

    • Thanks Laura – this is my husband’s FAVORITE sauce to go with grilled chicken. I try to always have some in the refrigerator for him!

  2. Such a smart idea to add a whole orange – I never would have thought of that! I just made pulled pork, so this BBQ sauce is perfect timing 😉

  3. I’ve been wanting to make my own BBQ sauce. Love this one. Looks great!

    • Thanks Marisa! I haven’t bought barbecue sauce in years… homemade from healthier ingredients definitely makes for a tasty sauce!

  4. love that this doesn’t have ketchup in it or any refined sugars!!

    • Thanks so much AZ! We really enjoy this tangy bbq sauce – especially since we have reduced the amount of added sugar we eat each day.

  5. Such a great recipe! So many bbq sauces call for ketchup and sugar. Love the addition of orange and cloves too! I not only pinned this I printed it too:)

    • Thanks Mona – the orange definitely adds complexity to the sauce and gives it some additional sweetness. I hope you like it!

  6. Tried this on lamb chops! yum yum! Thanks for this. By the way I only made half and it was great! Buby J.

    • I never thought to try it with lamb chops – I am so glad you like the barbecue sauce Judi! I have used it as the base of a brisket braise… that was delicious too! Thanks for reading!

  7. Can only imagine how good the flavors of orange and honey make this sauce!

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