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Barbecue sauce comes in a variety of flavors and can make for a great addition to vegan foods, which can sometimes feel bland. A good BBQ sauce will add that sweet, tangy flavor that can turn any meal into a mouthwatering dish. Having said that, if you’re vegan, the last thing you want is to use a BBQ sauce that’s not vegan-friendly. Many people have asked, is BBQ sauce vegan? Well, that depends on the ingredients. While you can find animal-free options, some may contain ingredients that plant-eaters may consider to be not vegan. So, how can you tell if BBQ sauce is vegan? We tell you how in this article, and share tips on how to make your own vegan BBQ sauce at home!

Is BBQ Sauce Vegan? A Look at the Ingredients

BBQ sauce is a type of sauce used as a topping, marinade, basting, or condiment for meat cooked in barbecue cooking style. It also makes for a delicious dipping sauce or added to side dishes. Typically, BBQ sauce is vegan, but the ingredients will vary depending on specific brands.

Usually, BBQ sauce has a ketchup base that’s supplemented with liquid smoke, vinegar, tomato paste, onion powder, and other spices like black pepper, and mustard, as well as sweeteners. The common animal ingredient you can find in BBQ sauce is honey, but sugar and molasses can also be used. Other brands use mayonnaise as a base.

When Is BBQ Sauce Not Vegan?

Kraft, Heinz, and Sweet Baby Ray’s are some of the original BBQ sauces brands. But, if you want a vegan BBQ sauce, be sure it doesn’t contain animal derivatives like anchovies, mayonnaise, and honey.

That’s why you should pay close attention to ingredients when choosing a BBQ sauce. Some sauces use food colorings to give them a richer appearance, some of which are derived from animals, like carmine. Others are integrated with gum to give them a nice thick texture and emulsifiers, which prevent the sauce from separating in the bottle. While this is fine, you may want to look out for certain ingredients that may not be vegan.

Xanthan gum, for example, is a stabilizer and gelling agent produced by a bacteria culture. Usually, the bacteria are fed sugars, but they may also be fed on animal products.

Another potential non-vegan ingredient in BBQ sauce is “natural flavors”, which can be derived from plants or animals. This is a blanket term that covers many different substances, whose main function is flavoring rather than nutritional.

Likewise, if you see Worcestershire sauce on BBQ sauces, you may want to avoid it. This sauce is made using fermented anchovies, a type of small-sized fish, which certainly aren’t vegan. Some cane sugars are refined using animal bones (known as ‘bone char’), making the sugar non-vegan.

Why Is Honey Controversial

Most BBQ sauces contain honey, which can be somewhat of a gray area for vegans. Honey is a by-product of bees, produced using flower nectar collected by honeybees. The bees then break it down into sugars, store them in their honeycombs, capped with beeswax.

According to some vegans, beekeeping is a form of agriculture that’s exploitative to these insects, arguing that taking their honey is harmful to them. That’s why they deem honey a non-vegan product. Others don’t view beekeeping necessarily as exploitation since insects are also killed in other types of agriculture like sugar production.

Whichever vegan camp you fall into, honey is a common BBQ sauce ingredient, and it’s up to you to decide whether you consider it a vegan or non-vegan product.

Vegan-Friendly BBQ Sauces

Here’s a look at some of the most popular BBQ sauce brands in the market that are vegan friendly:

  • Kraft Hot & Spicy Barbecue Sauce & Dip
  • Kraft Original Slow-Simmered Barbecue Sauce & Dip
  • Kraft Hickory Smoke Slow-Simmered Barbecue Sauce & Dip
  • Bull’s Eye Original BBQ Sauce
  • Primal Kitchen Mango Jalapeno BBQ Sauce
  • Primal Golden BBQ Sauce
  • Primal Hawaiian Style BBQ Sauce
  • Annie’s Smoky Maple BBQ Sauce
  • Annie’s Original BBQ Sauce
  • Tessemae’s Matty’s Organic BBQ Sauce
  • Organicville Original BBQ Sauce

Non-Vegan BBQ Sauces

These are non-vegan friendly BBQ sauces that you might want to avoid:

  • Heinz Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce
  • Bull’s Eye Tennessee Style Sweet Whiskey Glaze
  • Smokey Bacon BBQ Sauce
  • Honey Barbecue Sauce
  • Heinze Original Sweet & Thick Barbecue Sauce
  • Stubb’s Smokey Mesquite Bar-B-Q Sauce
  • Stubb’s Sweet Honey & Spice Legendary Bar-B-Q Sauce
  • Bull’s Eye Roasted Onion BBQ Sauce
  • Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue Sauce

How to Make a Vegan BBQ Sauce at Home

The good thing about BBQ sauce is that you can easily make it at home. There are dozens of recipes online on how to do this and some common ingredients include tomato sauce (or bottled ketchup), vinegar, spices (including smoked paprika, chili powder, pepper, onion powder, and mustard powder), sweeteners like (vegan brown sugar or maple syrup), and liquid smoke.

All you have to do is mix all the ingredients in a pan and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce until it thickens.

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