Home & Garden Home Is BBQ Sauce Vegan? The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Vegan BBQ Sauce By Katherine Gallagher Katherine Gallagher Writer Chapman University Katherine Gallagher is a writer and sustainability expert. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Chapman University and a Sustainable Tourism certificate from the GSTC. Learn about our editorial process Published November 23, 2021 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Treehugger / Joshua Seong Home Sustainable Eating Pest Control Natural Cleaning DIY Family Green Living Thrift & Minimalism In This Article Expand Why BBQ Sauce Is Usually Vegan When Is BBQ Sauce Not Vegan? What About Honey? Types of Vegan BBQ Sauce Types of Non-Vegan BBQ Sauce Vegan Alternatives Frequently Asked Questions Although BBQ sauce is mainly associated with meat, there are plenty of animal-free options out there for vegan eaters who want to enjoy those sweet, tangy flavors. That said, not all types of BBQ sauces are vegan, and some contain ingredients that not all plant-based eaters consider to be vegan. There are a few factors to look out for when it comes to vegan varieties of BBQ sauce, some of which aren’t as easy to spot. Check out our ultimate guide to choosing vegan BBQ sauce for your next backyard cookout. Why BBQ Sauce Is Usually Vegan Typically, BBQ sauce is vegan, although there are a few key ingredients to look out for when shopping at your local grocery store. BBQ sauce has a ketchup-like base that’s usually supplemented with plenty of spices and a touch of smokey flavor. It’s meant to be brushed onto food before it’s grilled to keep products moist and retain flavor, but it is also delicious as a dipping sauce or added to side dishes. The main ingredient in BBQ sauce—tomatoes—contain a wealth of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. When Is BBQ Sauce Not Vegan? You might be surprised to find out that some of the most popular brands of BBQ sauce contain anchovies—a type of small fish that’s included to retain saltiness and produce an umami flavor. Likewise, a common ingredient in some BBQ sauces is Worcestershire sauce, which is made using fermented anchovies as well. There are also some food colorings used by large-scale manufacturers that may or may not be cruelty free, such as those that are tested on animals or are derived from animals (like carmine) which is something to be aware of as well. Vegans should also keep an eye out for gums and emulsifiers (like gelatin) that are added to BBQ sauce to thicken the texture, some of which can be derived from animal products. Likewise, natural flavoring can be either vegan or animal-derived, while some cane sugars are refined using animal bones (this is called “bone char,” but organic brands typically refrain from using this method), so some vegans choose to avoid these ingredients altogether. In these cases, the safest bet is to look for a “vegan” stamp on the label. As a general rule of thumb, the biggest red flags for vegan BBQ sauce are anchovies and honey—though the latter is considered by many to be a “controversial” vegan ingredient. Treehugger Tip Just because you have a favorite vegan brand of BBQ sauce doesn’t mean there won’t be different versions that include non-vegan ingredients. Brands will often change the makeup of their products depending on different countries, regulations, or ingredient availability, or even reformulate their classic recipes over time. For this reason, it’s always important to double-check the ingredients list when purchasing a new bottle of your favorite brand. What About Honey? Honey is a pretty common ingredient in BBQ sauce and it tends to be somewhat of a gray area in the vegan community. Honey is produced using flower nectar collected by honeybees, who break it down into sugars that are stored, naturally dehydrated in their honeycombs, and capped with beeswax. Some vegans believe that beekeeping as a form of agriculture is exploitative to the insects and argue that taking their honey is harmful to them, making honey a non-vegan product. Others argue that beekeeping doesn’t necessarily count as animal exploitation since insects are killed in other types of agriculture as well, such as sugar production. Whichever vegan camp you belong to, don’t be surprised if your BBQ sauce lists honey as one of the main ingredients. Types of Vegan BBQ Sauce HandmadePictures / Getty Images Vegan BBQ sauces are commonly found in most major grocery stores, but you can also go to health food stores or specialty local markets to try something different. As noted above, all ingredients are subject to change, so always check the label before purchasing to make sure the sauce is still using vegan recipes. Note also that many BBQ sauces contain sugar and it may not be clear what type of sugar it is or if it is processed using bone char. The best way to ensure that your BBQ sauce uses vegan sugar is to buy products certified as organic or vegan. The following BBQ sauces are vegan-friendly: Annie’s Original BBQ SauceAnnie’s Smoky Maple BBQ SauceAnnie’s Sweet & Spicy BBQ SaucePrimal Kitchen Classic BBQ SaucePrimal Kitchen Golden BBQ SaucePrimal Kitchen Hawaiian Style BBQ SaucePrimal Kitchen Mango Jalapeño BBQ SauceOrganicville Original BBQ SauceOrganicville Tangy BBQ SauceTessemae's Matty's Organic BBQ SauceKraft Original Slow-Simmered Barbecue Sauce & DipKraft Hot & Spicy Barbecue Sauce & DipKraft Hickory Smoke Slow-Simmered Barbecue Sauce & DipKraft Sweet & Spicy Barbecue SauceBull’s-Eye Original BBQ Sauce The following sauce brands contain vegan ingredients but also non-organic sugar: Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Barbeque SauceSweet Baby Ray’s Sweet ‘n Spicy Barbecue SauceHeinz Carolina Mustard Style BBQ SauceHeinz Carolina Vinegar Style Sweet & Tangy BBQ SauceHeinz Original Sweet & Thick Barbecue SauceHeinz Kansas City Style Sweet & Smoky BBQ SauceHeinz Texas Style Bold & Spicy BBQ SauceBull’s-Eye New York Steakhouse BBQ Sauce Bull’s-Eye Smokey Chipotle BBQ Sauce Bull’s-Eye Roasted Onion BBQ SauceBull’s-Eye Smokey Bacon BBQ SauceStubb’s Original Bar-B-Q SauceStubb’s Dr. Pepper Legendary Bar-B-Q SauceStubb’s Hickory Bourbon Bar-B-Q SauceStubb’s Simply Sweet Reduced Sugar BBQ SauceStubb’s Smokey Brown Sugar BBQ SauceStubb’s Spicy Bar-B-Q SauceStubb’s Sticky Sweet Bar-B-Q SauceStubb’s Sweet Heat Bar-B-Q Sauce Types of Non-Vegan BBQ Sauce Of course, there are bound to be some sauces on the shelves that sneak honey and other non-vegan ingredients into their products, including the following varieties: Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue SauceSweet Baby Ray’s Maple Barbecue SauceSweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle Barbecue Sauce Kraft Sweet Honey Slow-Simmered Barbecue Sauce & DipKraft Mesquite Smoke Barbecue SauceKraft Spicy Honey Slow-Simmered Barbecue Sauce & DipHeinz Memphis Style Sweet & Spicy BBQ SauceBull’s-Eye Tennessee Style Sweet Whiskey BBQ SauceStubb’s Smokey Mesquite Bar-B-Q SauceStubb’s Sweet Honey & Spice Legendary Bar-B-Q Sauce Vegan Alternatives of BBQ Sauce Marc Peterson / Getty Images When in doubt, make your own BBQ sauce! There are plenty of vegan BBQ sauce recipes spread across the internet; most consist of some combination of tomato paste or tomato sauce (or even pre-bottled ketchup), vinegar, spices (including but not limited to pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, and mustard powder), vegan Worcestershire, sweetener (such as agave, vegan brown sugar, coconut sugar, or maple syrup), and liquid smoke. BBQ sauce recipes typically call for mixing all the ingredients in a pan, bringing to a boil, and then simmering until the sauce has thickened. In a pinch, vegans can also substitute BBQ sauce with just plain ketchup, though it likely won’t have the same unique flavor that BBQ sauce is known for. Frequently Asked Questions Is vegan BBQ sauce gluten free? Mass-produced vegan BBQ sauce will likely be made in a large facility that is exposed to gluten or uses gluten-based thickeners, so small-batch brands with the certified gluten-free label are a better option if you’re allergic.Keep an eye on the ingredients list for any hidden names of gluten, especially with different flavors of BBQ sauce, such as soy sauce. Is McDonald’s BBQ sauce vegan? According to Treehugger’s Vegan Guide to McDonald’s, both the tangy barbecue sauce and the sweet and sour sauce are vegan. Is vegan BBQ healthy? This depends on your definition of “healthy,” but it’s good to be aware that some commercially produced BBQ sauces use high-fructose corn syrup as a main ingredient, which may not be ideal for those following a low-sugar diet.