You can mix up sweet, flavorful vegan BBQ sauce in just 15 minutes! This recipe is easy to customize and tastes just like store bought.
- Diet-friendly: vegan, vegetarian, nut-free, oil-free, soy-free, gluten-free (just double check the Worcestershire sauce!)
- Ready in just 15 minutes using mostly pantry staples
- Inspired by sweet brown sugar barbecue sauces like Sweet Baby Ray's
- Super easy to customize and make your own
Ingredients and substitutions
Worcestershire sauce traditionally contains anchovies but store brand Worcestershire sauce is often accidentally vegan/anchovy-free.
Tomato sauce is the rich, tomato-y base of this sauce. Choose plain canned tomato sauce, not the kind with Italian herbs or other spices added.
Mustard: I love using whole seed mustard for extra depth. You can use ground mustard or spicy brown mustard but it will slightly alter the flavor. You can use leftover whole seed mustard as a natural salad dressing emulsifier!
Brown sugar and molasses make this a very sweet sauce. You can adjust amounts to taste. Choose regular molasses, not blackstrap molasses.
Onion and garlic powder: Fresh onion and garlic will not work in this recipe.
Step by step instructions
This recipe is as simple as stir and simmer.
- Add all ingredients to a small sauce pot. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat.
- Once simmering, reduce a to a slow simmer over medium low heat. Simmer uncovered until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon without sliding off. Scrape down the sides of the pot with a spatula as needed.
Recipe FAQ and expert tips
- Make it spicy by adding 1-2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes. You can also add 1-2 teaspoons hot sauce.
- Ketchup vs tomato sauce: I used to use ketchup when I made this recipe but now I prefer tomato sauce. Ketchup will make a thicker sauce from the get go but it is a less standard ingredient than tomato sauce. You can use an equal amount of ketchup in place of tomato sauce.
- Sweetness: This is a very sweet sauce. I recommend decreasing brown sugar before decreasing the molasses because molasses contributes a lot of flavor.
- Serving ideas: I use this sauce for my BBQ jackfruit tacos, portobello tacos and baked beans. It is great as a dipping sauce with tofu nuggets or on a black bean burger.
- Check out my "BBQ Jackfruit 2 Ways" video on YouTube to see my favorite way to use this sauce!
For best quality keep refrigerated in a closed container for 4-5 days.
Yes! BBQ sauce freezes well. Transfer cooled sauce to a room temp container. I like using Ball jars. Make sure to leave at least ½ inch at the top. Cover and freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the fridge when ready to use.
Always simmer sauce uncovered to allow liquid to evaporate. You may need to bump up the heat a little bit, but be careful not to burn the sauce. There should be bubbles constantly forming and popping. When in doubt, just keep simmering and eventually the sauce will thicken. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
Looking for more recipes?
Sweet Vegan BBQ Sauce
- 12 ounces tomato sauce equal to 1 and ½ cups, see note #1
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup molasses
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 and ½ tablespoons whole seed mustard see note #2
- 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes optional
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- salt to taste
- Stir together all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat.
- Reduce to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer uncovered for 4-5 minutes, scraping down the saucepan sides with a spatula as needed. The BBQ sauce is ready when the sugar is melted and the sauce has thickened to desired consistency. Taste for salt and spice. Note that the sauce will thicken as it cools.
- Tomato sauce: Choose an unflavored sauce. You can use an equal amount of ketchup in place of tomato sauce but it will yield a thicker and sweeter sauce.
- Mustard: I love using stone ground mustard for extra depth. You can use ground mustard or spicy brown mustard but it will alter the flavor slightly.
- Leftovers: For best quality keep refrigerated in a closed container for 4-5 days.
- Freezing: Transfer cooled sauce to a room temp container. I like using Ball jars. Make sure to leave at least ½ inch at the top. Cover and freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the fridge when ready to use.
Note: This post was originally shared on May 20th, 2018. It was updated on March 23rd, 2021 with a video and tips. The recipe remains the same except ketchup was replaced with tomato sauce.