May 27, 2013

Smoky Mountain Barbecue Sauce

Homemade barbecue sauce is so easy to make. I did an experiment this week. I went to the condiment aisle at my local market and looked at the ingredients of every bottle of barbecue sauce. Can you guess what the first ingredient was on every one? High fructose corn syrup. Bleh. If you haven’t heard about the negative health impacts of this insidious ingredient, check out this article: The Not So Sweet Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup. This is only one of hundreds of articles about this harmful substance. It’s hidden in so many processed foods. Please do not eat it!

This homemade sauce will rival ANY store-bought brand. Not only does it not contain corn syrup, it’s also sugar-free. Its sweet, tangy and spicy flavor is perfect for your outdoor barbecue feasts! With summer around the corner, I thought it fitting to share this recipe with you.


  • 2 cups chopped, sweet onion (about 2 medium sized onions)
  • ¼ cup chopped garlic (about 6-8 cloves)
  • 2 ½ cups strained tomatoes (I used 1 Pomi brand carton, which contains about this amount)
  • 1 TBS yellow mustard
  • 2 TBS tamarind paste, optional but recommended (see notes)
  • 2 TBS raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 TBS black strap molasses
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • 8 medjool dates, pitted
  • 2 TBS grade B maple syrup
  • 1 TBS of your favorite hot sauce (more or less to taste)
  • 1 TBS tamari or other low-sodium soy sauce
  • ½ tsp liquid smoke
my favorite hot sauce!


  1. Place the onions and a small amount of water into a large sauce pan.
  2. Sauté the onions until they are soft and translucent.
  3. Add the chopped garlic and sauté another few minutes.
  4. Add all remaining ingredients, except the dates.
  5. Simmer on low for about 30 minutes.
  6. Transfer about half of the sauce into a blender.
  7. Add the dates and blend until smooth.
  8. Add the rest of the sauce and blend again, just until smooth. DON’T OVERBLEND. You will wind up with too much air in the sauce and it will get too fluffy and thick.
  9. Transfer back to the pot, COVER and cook on LOW heat for about one hour. The longer you cook it the more mellow and rich the flavors become. Make sure you whisk it every so often. Be careful! It’s very thick and can tend to bubble up forcefully when heated. 
Our view of the Smoky Mountains… so inspiring.
Helyn’s Notes: Tamarind paste is something I always like to have on hand. It is a popular ingredient in many Indian recipes and really adds a special flavor note to this sauce. If you can, I recommend using it for this recipe! Most health food stores carry it but you can also buy it here, at a better price.

Makes 1 quart. Enjoy!

Remembering and honoring my dad. One of the few
survivors of the 1st Marine Raiders Battalion, WWII.

It is Memorial Day after all, not Barbecue Day. Let us remember our heroes. Those who have bravely served our country and protected our freedom.


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