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Slow Cooker Barbecue Sauce {Refined Sugar Free}

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, barbecue sauce is typically loaded with added sugar, so I stopped making homemade barbecue sauce when we started to reduce the amount of added sugar we eat.

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 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. 

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 an orange (a whole orange – not just the juice). The result was a sweet, tangy, and flavorful barbecue sauce.

homemade slow cooker barbecue sauce paleo

This homemade barbecue sauce recipe makes about three cups of sauce and can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator or two months in the freezer.

Healthy Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipe {Paleo, Gluten-free, Vegan}

homemade slow cooker barbecue sauce paleo

Homemade Barbecue Sauce {Paleo, Gluten-free, Vegan}

Yield: 24 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 11 hours 40 minutes
Total Time: 11 hours 45 minutes

Sweet and tangy healthier barbecue sauce that is refined-sugar free.


  • 1 28-oz can Whole Tomatoes*
  • 3/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Yellow Mustard
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Orange, peeled
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 1/2 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


Recipe makes approximately 3 cups of sauce.  Nutrition information is based on a 2 tablespoon serving.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 23

*Note: Tomatoes consistently test positive for pesticide residues, including organophosphate pesticides.  That is why I choose to buy organic or pesticide free tomatoes.  Read more about 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!

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