Sweet and Smoky Barbecue Sauce is the perfect, made from scratch, barbecue sauce. My homemade barbecue sauce is the perfect blend of sweet and smoky flavor with just a little bit of heat. Once you make your own barbecue sauce, you won’t buy another bottle.

At our house, we like to grill, smoke meats, and dip our chicken. I am no stranger to cooking and baking with sugar, but I love having the option to make a sauce that is both flavorful AND healthy.

A jar of barbecue sauce with a ribbon around the top on a gray wooden background.
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Does anyone else’s dog go belly up for scratches when you are trying to get things done?

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🥘 Ingredients Needed

Ingredients for Paleo barbecue sauce sitting on a black stove.
  • Smoked Paprika – You can use regular paprika, but it won’t have the same smoky flavor.)
  • Dates and Water – Heating up the dates in water softens them and makes them easier to work with.
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Black Pepper
  • Chili Powder
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Coconut Aminos
  • Garlic
  • Kosher Salt

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🍽 Equipment Needed

  • A Saucepan or Small Pot – You want a pot that is around 3 or 4 quarts – any bigger, and your barbecue sauce will spread out too much on the bottom of the pot and will be hard to blend when finished.
  • An Immersion Blender (or a regular blender) – If you’re using a regular blender, just be sure to let the sauce cool a little before blending.
  • Measuring Spoons

How Do You Make a Sweet Barbecue Sauce without Sugar?

The trick to adding sweetness to a sauce without any processed sugar is by using dates. You want a little sweetness in your sauce to balance out the smoke and heat, but sometimes, you just want to eat real food and avoid the extra sugar!

🥣 How to Make It

To make this paleo barbecue sauce, being by making a “date paste.” It will be a bit messy and sticky.

The best way to get the most sweetness out of your dates and the easiest way to cook them is to heat your dates up in some water! Cut your dates up into small pieces and remove the pit. (You want each piece to be about the size of a marble.)

Then, cover your dates with some water (a few tablespoons is plenty) and microwave them for a minute and a half to 2 minutes. Break the cooking time up into 30-second intervals and make sure that there is still water in the bowl for the dates to absorb. They should start getting really sticky and soft.

A small white bowl of chopped dates that have been heated in water to soften.

Next, combine all of your ingredients, including the dates and the leftover (sweet) water in the date mixture in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Stir the sauce a few times while it is coming to a boil to ensure that the bottom is not burning. Then, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring as needed.

Once the Whole30 barbecue sauce has simmered for 20-25 minutes, blend the sauce using an immersion blender or dump it into a regular blender. If you are using a regular blender, let the sauce cool before blending so that you don’t end up with a fiery explosion of tomatoes.

A white pot with reddish brown barbecue sauce simmering in it and an immersion blender pureeing it.

If your pot is on the wider side, it will be too shallow to use the immersion blender. If you run into this issue, simply tilt your pot to the side. You want the openings on the sides of your immersion blender to be submerged, otherwise, hot tomatoes will spray everywhere.

Recipe Tip

And again, if you are using a regular blender, be sure to let the sauce cool before adding it to your blender and hold down the lid – blending hot liquids is very dangerous!

I like to leave the sauce a little chunky, so I puree until the date and tomato chunks are well blended, but there are still some visible tomato chunks. (The texture looks like a can of crushed tomatoes.)

You can stop here, but I like to simmer the blended sauce for another 5-10 minutes to help get richer and deeper flavors.

A white pot with reddish brown barbecue sauce simmering in it.

How Do You Get a Smoky Flavor?

You can achieve a great smoke flavor in your barbecue sauce by adding smoked paprika instead of regular Paprika. If you do not like a smoky flavor, you can use regular paprika.

🥫How Do You Store Homemade Barbecue Sauce?

You can use your barbecue sauce immediately or store it in the refrigerator once it has cooled.

Homemade barbecue sauce will last 10-12 days in the refrigerator (you can keep it longer, but the quality of the sauce will not be as good), or it can be frozen in portions and defrosted as needed.

A jar of barbecue sauce with a ribbon around the top on a gray wooden background.

Enjoy My Other Whole30 Sauces and Condiments:

Have You Tried This Recipe?

Please rate it and leave a comment below. I would love to hear what you think!

A jar of barbecue sauce with a ribbon around the top on a gray wooden background.

Sweet and Smoky Whole30 Barbecue Sauce

5 from 8 votes
Sweet and Smoky Barbecue Sauce: Ever wonder how to make barbecue sauce from scratch? My homemade barbecue sauce is the perfect blend of sweet and smoky flavor with a little bit of heat. Once you make your own barbecue sauce, you won't buy another bottle.
Author: Kari
Servings: 8 servings
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Cooling Time: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour


Date Mixture

  • 5 small dates
  • 5 tbsp water

Barbecue Sauce


Date Mixture

  • Chop your dates into bite-size pieces (around the size of a marble) and mix with water.
  • Heat for 30 seconds and check to make sure that there is still water. Repeat 3-4 times so that dates are soft and water is sweet. (1:30 – 2 minutes total.)

Barbecue Sauce

  • Combine all ingredients to your saucepan, including the date and water mixture.
  • Mix well and bring to a boil.
  • Once the sauce is boiling, decrease the heat to a simmer.
  • Simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  • Blend with an immersion blender* (making sure that the blender is fully submerged.) *If you do not have an immersion blender, let the sauce cool and add to a regular blender. Be sure that it is cooled before blending as it is dangerous to blend hot liquids.
    A white pot with reddish brown barbecue sauce simmering in it and an immersion blender pureeing it.
  • Return to heat and simmer for 5 – 10 more minutes if you would like a deeper flavor or use right away.
  • Serve with meats – ribs, chicken, pork – whatever your heart desires!


Store your homemade barbecue sauce in the refrigerator once it has cooled off. The shelf life of homemade barbecue sauce is about 10 – 12 days. If you think that you will not use all of your sauce, you can freeze half of it – it freezes and defrosts really well! (You can also do a double batch and freeze it in portions so that you have some ready to go when you need it 😉 )

Special Equipment Needeed


Serving: 2tbspCalories: 35kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 697mgPotassium: 165mgFiber: 1gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 555IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 25mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is approximate and is automatically calculated, so should only be used as a guide.

Course: Condiments, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: bbq, paleo, whole30
Did you make this recipe?Mention @southernbytes or tag #southernbytes!

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Hi, I'm Kari!

I am a newlywed, food blogger, health coach, and mama to a hot mess of a border collie. I love to put a new spin on old family recipes and I try to make as many meals as possible with an Instant Pot.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I’m always looking for tasty sauces, especially paleo for my daughter-in-law. Coconut aminos are the best! We are really cutting down on sugars, though, and wonder how few dates you could use? They have a pretty distinctive flavor and I overdid it with them not long ago trying to make a GF date bar. Could I use two or three?

  2. 5 stars
    I love making my own sauces too, they’re SO much better than store-bought, great flavor combo here smoked paprika makes everything better! lol