Smoky Hot BBQ Sauce – Paleo and Whole30 Compliant

I’ve never been a big fan of ketchup. Not even as a kid.

In fact, one might even say that I have a true aversion for ketchup.

If you are ever invited to my dinner table, know that nothing insults me quite as deeply as having someone ask me if they could “please have some ketchup with that”.

And that holds especially true if said person happens to be eating something that I put a lot of effort into creating!

If I spent a great deal of time perfecting the flavor of say, Shepherd’s Pie or Tourtière and you go and ask me for ketchup, I feel like you’re basically telling me that the flavor really isn’t up to par and that you need to mask it somehow.

Paleo BBQ Sauce | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Because to me, that’s what ketchup does. Cover up the nasty flavors of not so palatable  food.

I suppose that’s because, when I was a kid, ketchup used to ALWAYS be served with overcooked, dry and grainy liver, in an effort to make it taste better, you know. That, or hot-dogs, which I really, but really could not stand. They literally made me gag.

I think that, somehow, my brain got stuck on a concept that goes something like this: “ketchup = awfully pungent condiment frequently used to cover up the not so agreeable flavor and/or texture of certain prepared foods and dishes.”

And don’t even try and use the French Fries argument on me. You will not convince me that no French Fry is ever truly complete without ketchup. Sorry, I’m a member of the MAYO camp. Mayo mildly complements the delicate and sweet flavor of the fries, whereas ketchup completely overpowers it. Renders it null and void.

Paleo BBQ Sauce | by Sonia! The Healthy FoodieBBQ sauce, on the other hand, now that’s a completely different story!

BBQ sauce actually tastes super good. It is a complex amalgam of many different aromas which actually serve to enhance the flavor of whatever it gets smothered on, especially meat.

I remember a time when I was younger, MUCH younger: I would put BBQ sauce on everything. I think my mostest favoritest way of enjoying it was as a dipping sauce for my pizza crust. BAD, I know! Good thing people change, isn’t it?

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is that I still have a thing for BBQ sauce. A big thing. Especially in the summertime, when I get to grill tons of meat and stuff. And since I choose not to eat any of that sugar laden (and god only knows what other chemicals) store-bought stuff anymore, I decided it was about time I reacquainted with this old friend of mine and tried my hand at making my very own at home.

Paleo BBQ Sauce | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

And so I did. I managed to create a succulent BBQ sauce that not only is far superior to any of the commercial stuff I’ve ever had, it’s also Paleo friendly AND Whole30® compliant.

This sauce turned out absolutely delicious. To me, it had the perfect balance of everything I like to taste in a good BBQ sauce: a little hint of sweetness, a faint point of sourness, an explosion of spiciness, a great deal of heat and a little bit of a smoky finish. I’m telling you, the addition of liquid smoke really took it to the next level.

A word of warning, though. I like my BBQ sauce fairly hot and spicy, and this one truly delivered in that area. If you prefer yours to be on the milder side, use a little bit less chipotle peppers (or use a milder pepper). And if a real fireball is what you’re after, no one’s keeping you from using a few more!

Hey, even my son approved of this one and asked if he could use some to grill his pork chops.

He, who pretty much rebels against everything and anything that would be worthy of receiving a “healthy” seal of approval.

Now THAT is what I call a serious win! :)

Smoky Hot BBQ Sauce – Paleo and Whole30 Compliant

Yield: Yields approx. 2 cups

NF based on approx. 1/4 cup

Smoky Hot BBQ Sauce – Paleo and Whole30 Compliant


  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 small can (14oz) crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup date paste
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp organic Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3-4 dried chipotle peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ tsp all natural liquid smoke


  1. Add all the ingredients to your blender or food processor and process until completely reduced to a fine, liquid puree.
  2. Transfer that puree to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, partly cover and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sauce is nice and thick and darker in color.
  3. Kill the heat and let the sauce come down to room temperature.
  4. If you want a really smooth BBQ sauce, pass it through a fine mesh sieve (you will have to help it through by swirling it around with a ladle), otherwise, just transfer it straight to an airtight container and refrigerate.
  5. This BBQ sauce gets better after sitting in the fridge for a few days and it will keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Paleo BBQ Sauce | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Paleo BBQ Sauce | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Paleo BBQ Sauce | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie


  1. Elaine says

    Hello, I’m Elaine. I love food blogs. My favorite is yours and “Cooking With Mr. C.” on Facebook. (also a blog) Between the two of you, I get the best recipes. Keep them coming. Elaine.

  2. says

    While I do love BBQ sauce as my go to dipping sauce, I have to disagree with you on the ketchup thing with fries.. mayo just does not cut it for me, I need, and love that slightly acidic tomato taste.

    But with fish, I am a mayo girl every time… (so fish and chips means that I have both mayo AND tomato ketchup on my plate. But I don’t let them mix….

    • says

      Oh yeah! Fish and mayo, mayo and fish! On that one, we definitely agree. They do go hand in hand (Ever tried avocado mayo and fish? OH MY!)

      And your not letting mayo and ketchup mix reminds me of yet another abomination from my childhood: mayo and ketchup combined and served as a dipping sauce, or even worse, served over fresh avocado halves. Don’t ever try that. I think I’m still having nightmares about it! 😉

    • Simon L Smith says

      Coconut Aminos is a liquid that has a soy sauce like flavor. But is from coconut (obviously) and not soy.

      I’ve found it at Whole Foods.

      • says

        Exactly! If like me you don’t have Whole Foods nearby, you can also find it online, there are many sources for it, especially if you are in the US. Here in Canada, it’s sort of hard to get, but very well worth the effort.

        Let me know if you need help finding it! :)

      • Merry says

        I just used coconut aminos for the first time and a funny note on using caution–I noticed there was a slight sediment on the bottom so I gently rocked it up and down to mix before I opened the bottle. When I did open it–(don’t think I don’t see you laughing there)–it looked just like a volcano science project! As I waited for the “lava” flow to finish, I started mopping up the flow with a paper towel and squeezing the liquid into my measuring cup-hey, I would be cooking at 350 so I wasn’t worried about germs from the counter! Ha! So you have been cautioned–don’t shake, no matter how gently–the contents before uncapping!

        • says

          Oh my, really? That’s good to know. I’ll make sure to keep that in mind next time I open a brand new bottle. And at first, I thought that you had wiped the precious liquid from the floor to put it back in the measuring cup. I was a tad scandalized, to say the least! 😉 Thanks for the chuckle, and for the warning as well! :)

  3. shari says

    i came cross this recipe while on the whole30 and am making it today! so psyched. i am soooo with you about ketchup. the smell alone makes me want to vomit, even as a kid. i still get the french fries argument: but its homemade, how do you eat a burger? blah blah. and when i see it on eggs or mixed into an over easy yolk…YAK!
    my husband is so amazing that after many years he still will move a bottle of ketchup away from me at a restaurant. i did have to suck it up though since my son loves the stuff.

    • says

      LOL! I never thought that anyone out there could hate ketchup as much, or even more, than I do! Who would want to put ketchup in a hamburger? Mayo and Dijon, that’s the way to go. Or BBQ sauce. But not ketchup, and especially not that bright fluorescent yellow stuff they call mustard.

      I hope that my BBQ sauce recipe gives you satisfaction! :)

  4. says

    oh, My!!! I just made this and made lots of changes as I didn’t have all the ingredients at home. And it turned out fantastic!!
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. erin says

    Making this for the first time (very excited!)- one question- do you rehydrate the chipotle peppers before you add them or chop the dried peppers and add to the mix?

  6. C B says

    I am on a round of Whole 30. I made this sauce tonight. It was really good! I didn’t have time to let it simmer…it would probably be even better if I did.


  7. Renee Zimmerman says

    I noticed the date paste recipe has vanilla. That is not Whole 30 compliant is it? I’m going to try and make it without the vanilla do you think that will be a big deal??

  8. Jenny says

    I cant wait to make this to try with the Nom Nom Kalua Pig recipe. I have so much of it left over that I have to freeze it in small portions. This bbq sauce will be a welcome variety to the left overs!

    • says

      I’ve yet to try Michelle’s Kalua Pig recipe. I keep reading about it and it seems like everyone has nothing but great things to say about it. I think it’s about time I rectified the situation and gave the dish a go. And as luck would have it, I happen to have some of that BBQ sauce in the freezer, so I can even give that combo a try. Thanks for the inspiration, Jenny!

  9. Stacey says

    I don’t have liquid smoke and feeling a tad too lazy to head out to the store; especially for one item. Do I really need it?

  10. Clayton says

    I had to comment. I just had to.

    I love ketchup.

    I don’t agree with any of your points about it masking anything. It adds so much depth to so many delicious things. A burger without ketchup is a fallacy. I just had to come to its defense, because I couldn’t believe how much someone could hate it. I don’t put it on everything, but assuming people only use it to “mask” instead of “enhance” was almost offensive to me! I love ketchup!

    That being said, thanks for the recipe. Will try it out soon!

  11. says

    This looks amazing! I’m going to try this recipe next weekend when we have company coming over. But where does one get “liquid smoke”? I’ve never seen it before.

  12. Stacie says

    Hey Sonia,

    First off, I LOVE all the recipes you have shared! keep up the great work.

    Just a quick question, where I live, I cannot get whole dried chipotle peppers, could I use chipotle powder?

    Thank you


    • says

      Absolutely, Stacie! That would not be a problem at all. Just add as much, or as little as you want so your sauce reaches the level of spiciness you’re after. Keep in mind that the sauce will get hoter after it’s cooked, so don’t go overboard! 😉

      And thanks a bunch for your kind words, I greatly appreciate them! 😀

  13. Courtney says

    Love this sauce! Ever try freezing it? I just made a huge batch, but don’t think I’ll get through it all. Thanks for the recipe!

  14. Amy says

    I am halfway through my first Whole30! I searched what seemed like every bbq sauce bottle in Whole Foods and couldn’t find one that was compliant! So, Google to the rescue, which led me here. I originally shied away from the long list of ingredients, but truthfully I had most of them already. It’s currently simmering on the stove and smells amazing. Two confessions: 1) I omitted fish sauce. Gack. 2) I missed the link for date paste when I was making my grocery list and was so frustrated I couldn’t find it in the store! Haha! Luckily, I bought the dates and figured it out later! Thank goodness for creative people like you…it’s making this month easier and fun!

    • says

      Happy to hear Google led you here! Hopefully you’ll find many more recipes to help you through your Whole30 challenge.

      Hope the sauce is to your liking. Honestly, I don’t ever buy the ready-made stuff anymore. I find this one taste so much better. And for the record, you really can’t taste the fish sauce at all. It just enhances the flavor a lot! Next time, you may want to throw it in. Take my word for it, your sauce won’t taste fishy at all. :)

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