Sweet & Spicy BBQ Sauce (Sugar-free/ Whole30/ Paleo)

A sweet, smoky and spicy BBQ Sauce you won’t believe doesn’t have a lick of sugar in it. Perfect for Paleo and Whole30!!

Whole30 Paleo Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce by PictureTheRecipe I’m not even going to begin to make any excuses of why I haven’t posted a recipe in almost a year. I’m back now and that’s all there is to it.

After a little downward spiral of being plain ol’ lazy about food and cooking, a lot of junk food and eating out, I decided to turn things around kick-starting with the Whole30 Program (Read about why I’m doing the Whole30 and my experiences here). With the Whole30 program came a whole new bunch of challenges to try and bring familiar old flavors we were used to, into the foods we were eating while keeping them Whole30 compliant. I’m not talking about bending the rules or recreating junk food that they so strongly advise against doing. Just figuring out whole30 compliant sauces, marinades and ways to make dishes more like the comfort food you were used to.

When I told my husband I was planning on making ribs for him and friend on his movie night, he said “no barbecue sauce though right?”. That got me thinking why not? After all, half the joy of ribs is that sauce caramelizing and it’s solely responsible for making the ribs sticky, sweet and a mess to eat (messier the better, right? ;-) ). So after a little research from the ingredient list on the back of regular bbq sauces and a glimpse at some online Paleo and Whole30 recipes, I decided to devise my own simple whole30 bbq sauce.  

Whole30  Paleo - Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce by PictureTheRecipe I kinda nailed it on my first attempt. No big deal! I tried not over complicating it and kept the ingredients very simple and minimal enough to where I wouldn’t mind making the sauce at the drop of the hat. I also didn’t simmer the sauce for too long like a lot of recipes suggested, mostly cause I’m not a very patient cook. Plus, it tasted great without the hour long simmer…so there. If you are more patient than I, by all means simmer away.  My husband absolutely loved it, as did his non whole30 friend. I have since made the sauce 3 more times adjusting a few things to perfect the recipe to post here.

When I first tasted my recipe where I used 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper, I thought it was quite spicy (know that I love spice and have a very high tolerance to it).  It had me a little worried, as my husband’s friend wasn’t such a fan of spicy foods. But, after brushing it on the meat it didn’t have a noticeable kick to it just a pleasant hint of spice. So if you plan on using the sauce more for dipping and aren’t a fan of spice I’d reduce the amount of cayenne you add. For me it was the perfect taste of initial sweetness, followed by slightly tangy with the right amount of kick from the spice and finished with a smokiness that made it what BBQ Sauce should be. It’s the liquid smoke that really makes it a barbecue sauce. You just want to be careful with the ingredients in the liquid smoke you pick if you are doing the Whole30, as some have molasses and other non-compliant ingredients. As always I feel like you can adjust the quantities of ingredients in my recipe to better suit your own palate.

I’ll stop blabbing about the sauce for now and let you try it yourself (do share what you think of it if you do in the comments below) -

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce- Whole30 Paleo - Recipe - Part 1 (PictureTheRecipe) Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce- Whole30 Paleo - Recipe - Part 2 (PictureTheRecipe) Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce- Whole30 Paleo - Recipe - Part 3 (PictureTheRecipe)


Sweet & Spicy BBQ Sauce (Sugar-free/Whole30/Paleo)
Yields 16
A sweet, smoky and spicy BBQ Sauce you won't believe doesn't have a lick of sugar in it. Perfect for Paleo and Whole30!!
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
  1. 5 Medjhool Dates (Pitted and Soaked in warm water)
  2. 1/4 cup Tomato Paste
  3. 1/2 cup Organic (unsweetened) Apple Juice or Pineapple Juice
  4. 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  5. 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  6. 1 tsp Paprika (smoked would be better)
  7. 1/4- 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper Powder (depending on your spice level)
  8. 1/2 tsp Salt
  9. 2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  10. 1 tsp liquid smoke
  1. - Pit and soak 5 dates in warm water for about 15 minutes or so.
  2. - In a medium sauce pan, mix together all the above remaining ingredients except the liquid smoke (i.e- tomato paste, apple juice, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper powder, salt, apple cider vinegar) and heat them through gently on medium to low heat. Bring to a low simmer.
  3. - In the meantime blend the dates into a smooth puree, using some of the water they were soaking in.
  4. - You can now simply add the date puree to the simmering sauce and mix it well...OR (Optional step) I add the sauce to the date puree in the blender (as my blender doesn't do a great job pureeing small quantities) pulse it all together a few times until it's a smooth sauce.
  5. - If you blended the sauce with the date puree, return the sauce to the sauce pan on low heat and add a tsp of liquid smoke to the sauce. You can rinse out the blender with a little water and add it to the sauce.
  6. - Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionaly until it thickens and reaches the consistency you'd like.
  7. - Let the sauce cool and there you have it Smoky Sweet and Spicy BBQ sauce ready to use on meats or veggies and even as a dipping sauce!
  1. While it may seem too spicy if you put 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper when you taste the sauce as is, It really isn't the case once it cools down as well as when you brush it on whatever meat you're cooking. I taste tested it on chicken and ribs and didn't get any complaints from family memebers you have pretty low tolerances to spice. If used as a dipping sauce you can note more of the zip from the Cayenne.
Picture the Recipe http://picturetherecipe.com/


  1. Amanda says

    This is so incredibly delicious. My boyfriend and I are on W30 and made some for a friend’s BBQ. We made a sweet version for me and he made one for himself with some cayenne. We thought the sauce tasted good but then added the liquid smoke and that took it to a whole new level. Now it *really* tastes like BBQ sauce. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. He was really craving sauces. Pretty sure he will be eating this sauce on everything as we wrap up the W30. :)

    • Emr says

      Read the ingredients of the liquid smoke. Most contain SUGAR so is not W30 compliant. I’m still looking … the recipe sounds great. I want to try it …

      • Noreen says

        Sorry you’re having a hard time finding liquid smoke without sugar. The Wright’s brand Hickory Liquid smoke (pictured in the ingredients photo) is what I used. It doesn’t have sugar.

  2. DSM says

    I’ve been unable to find liquid smoke. Is there something else to use or have you tried it without it all together?

    • Noreen says

      I’ve kept the sauce in the fridge for up to 2 weeks and it’s been fine. You can can it to make it last a lot longer.

  3. Sam says

    I just made this tonight for a BBQ chicken casserole and it is delicious! I will definitely continue to make this even after whole 30. Any idea how long it will last in the fridge?

  4. Me says

    This BBQ sauce was amazing! Doubled the recipe and poured over a slab of Baby back ribs in the crockpot at high for a few hours, meat fell off bone and we were licking the pot almost bc the sauce was so good. Thank you thank you! And folks, the liquid smoke is necessary. We bought a w30 compliant one on Amazon. Only ingredient was liquid smoke.

    • Noreen says

      The Wright’s brand Hickory Liquid smoke (pictured in the ingredients photo) is what I used. It doesn’t have sugar.

  5. Robert Bryant says

    Thank you for this recipe!!! I bought Whole 30 compliant BBQ sauce and it was AWFUL! This was way better and pretty easy to make.

  6. Patrick says

    where can you get liquid smoke from?love the idea will give it a try thanks
    kind regards

    • Noreen says

      You can find liquid smoke from most big grocery stores in the U.S usually where they keep the spices.

  7. chris says

    I made this today. I put it on pork I made. I went back for fourths (yes, fourths). it was good. thanks!

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