Let’s be honest, if you live in the United States, it’s almost impossible to escape BBQ sauce. It’s served at fast-food restaurants, family dinners, and is widely available in most grocery stores.
Before you start slathering sauce on your veggies and tofu, though, you’re probably wondering, “Is BBQ Sauce Vegan?”
Well, it depends. BBQ sauce, by itself, can be vegan. However, many of the popular store-bought brands of BBQ sauce (and even homemade sauce) are not vegan due to animal products, such as honey, eggs, fish, and palm oil.
In today’s post, I’ll explain why most BBQ sauces aren’t vegan, show you what ingredients to look out for, and answer some other commonly asked questions on the topic. I’ll also show you my favorite homemade vegan BBQ sauce recipe, so you can use it the next time you cook!
When most people think of BBQ sauce, they immediately start to think of pulled pork, beef briskets, and other dishes that are most definitely not vegan. Following that line of thought, there’s no way that BBQ sauce could be vegan, could it?
There are tons of BBQ sauce recipes that are 100% vegan. Although they may not intentionally be made for vegans, a glance at the ingredients will show you that they are, in fact, vegan. If you’ve never tried pan-seared cauliflower with BBQ sauce, let me tell you – it’s one of my favorite snacks!
Unfortunately, most of the BBQ sauces that I see on store shelves aren’t vegan. There are plenty of vegan-friendly BBQ sauces on the market. You can even make your own homemade vegan BBQ Sauce!
The best part is that vegan BBQ sauce doesn’t taste any different than regular non-vegan BBQ sauce; it just uses ethical, vegan substitutions.
The trick is reading the ingredients…
Until you read the exact ingredients on the back of the bottle (or ask the person who made it), you won’t be able to tell for sure whether or not the barbeque sauce is vegan. This brings us to our next point.
While many BBQ sauce recipes don’t require animal products, there are also just as many brands and recipes that use animal products and unethically-sourced ingredients. In the case of BBQ sauce, the usual suspects are usually one or multiple of the following:
- Fish (or Fish Oil)
- Non-Vegan Cooking Oil
Now, let me take a minute to break down why each of these ingredients is not vegan-friendly, so you know what to look out for the next time you’re out shopping.
Although honey is a popular vegetarian item, it is not vegan for the mere fact that it’s produced by bees. The bees are often kept in unsuitable living conditions (in the case of mass bee factories), and the fact remains that bees need honey.
For those who aren’t aware, honey plays an important part in bee society. For one, it’s used to feed young bee larvae. Secondly, it contains all of the key nutrients bees need to survive, and many bees survive the cold winter season by using their honey reserves.
When we take away honey from bees, we’re robbing them of the food stores that could be used to feed their young and support the colony during harsh winter months where they can’t forage. At the end of the day, it’s not any different than consuming milk from a cow.
Honey is one of the most commonly used sweeteners in BBQ sauce. In some cases, this is evident by names such as “Sweet Honey BBQ Sauce.” In other cases, you’ll need to take a closer look at the ingredients list to see if honey is used.
Some of the most popular vegan-friendly sweeteners that are used instead of honey are:
- Cane sugar
- Beet sugar
- Corn Syrup
- Maple syrup
Make sure that you read the full ingredients list, though, as some BBQ sauces use multiple sweeteners (both vegan and non-vegan).
Whole eggs, yolks, and egg whites are used in many store-bought and homemade BBQ sauces. They primarily act as an emulsifier that’s designed to hold all of the sauce’s ingredients together and make for a well-blended product.
However, eggs are not vegan in the slightest. Most chicken and egg farms keep the birds in awful conditions (including many of the so-called “free-range” chickens). From birth, the chickens are enslaved and forced to produce eggs in a harsh environment.
Don’t believe me?
Check out this insider footage of a Kroger egg farm, where thousands of abused hens die on a weekly basis (viewer discretion advised):
Eggs are the beginning of life, and if left unbothered, many of the eggs would have gone on to become full-grown chickens. By consuming eggs, people rob the unborn chicks of life before they even get a chance to survive.
I know what you’re probably thinking… fish isn’t in BBQ sauce! While BBQ sauce may not taste like fish, many BBQ sauce recipes use Worcestershire sauce, which uses byproducts from sardines and anchovies.
Worcestershire sauce has a distinctive flavor that often goes hand-in-hand with barbeque tradition. However, if you see this listed in the ingredients list, then the BBQ sauce is not vegan-friendly.
Sometimes, the fish ingredient is more obviously stated (as is the case with Heinz Memphis Style BBQ Sauce:
Like eggs, it’s not uncommon to find vegetable oil used in BBQ sauces. It’s used to help thicken the sauce and keep everything homogenous. While most vegetable oil is vegan-friendly, one oil, in particular, is not.
While the product itself is vegan (as it comes exclusively from vegetables), the modern palm oil industry is incredibly harmful to the environment and animals. It’s contained in many popular food products, such as M&M’s, condiments, and other processed goods.
In South America, for example, vast acres of natural rainforest are burned to make room for the palm trees used to make palm oil.
When the rainforest is burned, many animals are unable to escape and die excruciating deaths. The animals that do survive are forced into new environments where they must compete for limited resources or face starvation.
If you look at store-bought BBQ sauce you may see the term “natural flavors” branded on the front of the bottle or listed in the ingredients list. For the most part, natural flavors are vegan-friendly, and very few come from animal byproducts.
Many store-bought BBQ sauces are vegan! You just have to take the time to read the ingredients list and do a bit of research on the product before buying it. Here’s a quick table showing the vegan status of several popular brands of BBQ sauce:
|Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Sauce||Yes!|
|Kraft Sweet And Spicy BBQ Sauce||Yes!|
|Kraft Sweet Honey BBQ Sauce||No, not vegan.|
|Bull’s-Eye Smoky Chipotle BBQ Sauce||Yes!|
|Stub’s Original BBQ Sauce||Yes!|
|Heinz Memphis Style BBQ Sauce||No, not vegan.|
As you can see, there are tons of popular BBQ sauce brands that are vegan! They’re not hard to find and typically available in most grocery stores. Just make sure to double-check the labels, as the ingredients are subject to change from time to time.
If you want to be 100% sure that your BBQ sauce is vegan, then I encourage you to make your own sauce. It’s quick, fun, and most importantly – tastes great!
If you’re eating at a restaurant or a friend’s house, then I recommend asking the chef about the ingredients they used to make the sauce.
Here’s my favorite quick and easy vegan BBQ sauce recipe:
- 2 Cups Of Vegan-Friendly Ketchup
- 2 Tablespoons of Molasses
- 1/4 Cup of Organic Maple Syrup
- 1/4 Cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 Teaspoons of Minced Garlic
- 1/2 Teaspoon of Dried Onion Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon of Cloves
- 1/2 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
- 2 Teaspoons of Soy Sauce
- 2 Teaspoons of Sriracha Hot Sauce
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and whisk until the consistency is perfect!
In my opinion, there’s nothing that goes better with tofu nuggets than vegan BBQ sauce! It’s the perfect blend of sweet, savory, and spicy. Plus, it’s 100% cruelty-free!
The best way to make sure that your chosen BBQ sauce is vegan-friendly is to double-check the ingredients list and make sure that no honey, Worcestershire sauce, eggs, palm oil, or any other non-vegan ingredients are used.
The good news is that most major brands have several vegan BBQ sauce options!
For more great tips on vegan condiments, and vegan eating, check out my vegan diet blog here!