Primal BBQ Sauce

The summer grilling season is upon us, which means we have a full-on craving for meat slathered in BBQ sauce and grilled to crispy, caramelized perfection. In anticipation of firing up the grill, we’ve been searching for the perfect BBQ sauce and a quick scan of the grocery store aisle confirmed exactly what we expected: if we wanted a perfect sauce, we were going to have to make it ourselves.

When we say “perfect” BBQ sauce, we mean one without high fructose corn syrup, loads of granulated sugar and other unnecessary ingredients like caramel color, modified food starch and preservatives. To avoid all of these things in BBQ sauce, you pretty much have to make it yourself. This didn’t deter our plans to grill. Making Primal BBQ sauce is quick and easy and can be made from ingredients many of us already have in our kitchen.

Our other requirement for a perfect Primal BBQ sauce was that it had to taste good (duh) because while we don’t like what goes into jarred sauce, we do like the sweet, spicy and tangy flavor. We also wanted a versatile sauce that we could use on everything from beef to pork to chicken.

By using an array of warm spices, a little bit of hot sauce and honey and a tomato paste base flavored with tamari and vinegar, we’ve achieved the perfect BBQ sauce for all your grilling needs. Our sauce is slightly spicy, slightly sweet and a bit tangy. You can adjust all these flavors to your own liking by using more, or less, of the hot sauce, honey and apple cider vinegar. The result is a full-flavored sauce that pairs well with any type of meat and is good enough to serve on the side for dipping.

So fire up the grill, make a big batch of Primal BBQ sauce and slather it on to your meat of choice.  Leave the forks and knives inside, as this is the type of meal you’ll be eating with your hands. And leave the napkins inside too –  with sauce this good, you’ll be licking your fingers clean.

Makes 1 cup of sauce


  • 1/3 cup (about 3 ounces) tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons tamari
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1?4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1?4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1?4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1?2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1?2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder


In a small bowl mix together tomato paste, butter, hot sauce, honey, vinegar, tamari, mustard and water.

In another small bowl mix together allspice, cinnamon, pepper, chili powder, paprika and onion powder.

Mix the spices in with the wet ingredients.

Brush on meat before grilling or dip cooked meat into the sauce.

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76 thoughts on “Primal BBQ Sauce”

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  1. This is one to save for sure! I wonder if this is different then the recipe in the first cookbook? I’ll have to make them both and compare!

  2. Thank you sooooo much. My family loves BBQ chicken and I was at a loss for what to do. Even the Cooks Illustrated bbq sauce recipe uses store-bought ketchup as a base!

    Will definitely be trying this soon!

  3. This came at the perfect time, thank you!!! I’ve made the BBQ sauce from the first Primal cookbook dozens of times. Sometimes though, I just don’t feel like the extra step of making the ketchup first. I like this version with the tomato paste, it sounds simpler. I will try it soon, we’ve been BBQ’ing all the time!

  4. When Mark says “mustard” does he mean any mustard of our choice or, like, mustard seed?

    1. In the instructions, it’s mixed in at the wet ingredient stage, so I’d assume prepared or dijon (depending on your tastes) rather than mustard seed or dry mustard. The mustard blob in the ingredients photo looks like dijon to me.

  5. Also good- half sriracha/ half cider vinegar. Easy!

    For those who don’t know, Sriracha is a Vietnamese hot sauce- good stuff!

    1. Sriracha is awesome, but for those who are strict Paleo or Primal it doesn’t fit the bill.

      1. @ Susan Kelly, why doesn’t sriracha fit primal? It’s simply garlic, crushed red peppers and vinegar, though I suppose there are some brands that may be loaded with preservatives….

        1. i’m a little late to the conversation, but the pureed version of siracha in the squeeze bottle usually has sugar. the ‘chunky’ kind does not. 🙂

  6. Getting this out there: consume bee pollen and ginseng! Bee pollen contains about 30% protein, 10% fat, 10% carbs, and lots of vitamins and minerals plus enzymes produced by bees. It’s the raw fuel the bees use to make honey and royal jelly. Ginseng is an adaptogen – something that helps you adapt to stressors – and contains gynsenosides that are able to substitute missing compounds in your body so that you can function better and be healthier. Both bee pollen and ginseng have antioxidant properties.

    1. Be careful if you have hay fever type allergies. I had a bad allergic reaction and went into anaphylactic shock from bee pollen. Supposedly it can cause that type of reaction in some people that have allergies.

  7. ahahaha woowwww what is with this website reading my mind lately!?

    I just made short ribs last night and was wishing I had a good primal recipe for BBQ sauce…they would have been so much tastier. Good thing I have more in my freezer so I can give this sauce a go. Thanks guys.

    1. HAHA No Kidding!!! I Just made something so similar to this a couple days ago trying to get a recipe going!

  8. Awesome! BBQ sauce has always been a staple for me, but since going Primal, I’ve had to cut back on it substantially. Thanks for the great recipe!

  9. I go for simple recipes. For barbecue sauce, I combine tomato paste and balsamic vinegar with chipotle powder and/or smoked paprika, depending on how much heat I want.

  10. I’ve recently been trying to make a good primal BBQ sauce without success, this sounds like it might be the one! 🙂 Thanks MDA!

  11. Unit CalsFat (g)Carbs (g) Prot (g)
    Total 447 24.1 60.3 6.0
    here is the break down as per fit day…
    enjoy a little. as i see it, ya got 40 grams more for your micro nutrients.

    1. Oh, thank you so much for doing that so I don’t have to! 🙂 Made the sauce last night but heated the spices in the butter first (halved the honey, cinnamon & allspice) before adding the rest of the ingredients and simmering a bit. It was delicious on some leftover grilled pork tenderloin from a few nights ago!

  12. Looks tasty! But I’d also suggest people look a bit outside the “Kansas City” style BBQ sauces.

    In the Carolinas, many traditional sauces such as Lexington Dip and East Carolina mop-sauce are traditionally vinegar-based and sugarless.

    Unfortunately, the thick, sugary style of BBQ sauce is the only one that really caught on, but there are plenty of other tasty alternatives!

    1. Also in the sugarless, outside-the-Kansas-City-style box, marinades and dipping sauces from the Marianas/Guam, Micronesia and the Philippines often follow the vinegar/citrus base.

      Guam’s favourite dipping/all purpose sauce (which I use for BBQ too) is lemon juice (or lime, or white vinegar, depending on what’s available, soy/tamari tot taste, with then TONS of small, finely chopped, extremely hot “boonie peppers” (birdseye chilies? Scotch bonnet are slightly less hot so not sure of equivalent) and finely chopped onion.

      This can be quite mild, or blow-your-socks off strength, depending on how you do it.

      (Now watch a Chamorro reader come in and tell me how you really do it! Apologies in advance for my “haole” interpretation!)

    1. You should be able to find it in the Asian section of your grocery store – with the soy sauces, etc. If you’re lucky enough to have a Whole Foods, Sprouts or Trader Joe’s type stores near you they should all have it as well.

      It’s just a glorified soy sauce made with extra soy beans for a smoother, richer flavor so if you can’t find it, then just use regular soy sauce. With all the other flavors/spices in this BBQ sauce, I don’t think you’ll notice that much of a difference.

      Personally, I’m going to use Coconut Aminos instead of soy sauce and Balsamic vinegar instead of the apple cider vinegar to make up the difference.

      1. Look for the Wheat-free Tamari if you are gluten-free or strictly Primal. Regular tamari (and regular soy-sauce) contain wheat. I do not think TJ’s tamari is wheat/gluten free. San-J makes an organic, wheat-free tamari which we can buy at Safeway.

    2. Tamari is a naturally fermented soy sauce. The cheap soy sauce has wheat and hydrolized bad stuff in it.

      Look for anything that says naturally brewed on it.

      Fortunately, the most famous national brand Kikoman meets the qualification.

  13. Fitting! I specifically came to the site today looking for some inspiration for baby back ribs.

  14. Did this today; first time.

    Doubled recipe; missing onion powder,
    so slow-fried super-finely diced onions
    to almost caramelization, and added

    Cut honey in half.

    Rest of the ingredients fresh and/or

    It came out *very* well. Thanks
    for this post.

    Folks with “fire tongue” might want
    to add pepper, etc.

    But…wow…great flavor, without
    that heavy, ‘2-dimensional’ cloying
    sticky-sauce taste.

    A keeper

  15. This looks like a money pairing for some grass fed beef short ribs in the slow cooker!

  16. Making some tonight. Hopefully it’ll go well with the beef ribs that are slow cooking as we speak.

  17. I’ve got a whole chicken on the grill coated in this delicious recipe as we speak.

  18. So you don’t heat this up as you’re making it? When I do a sauce, which sadly isn’t often, I always prepare it over flame.

  19. Used this to make pork back ribs last night. Definitely a hit, although my heat-sensitive partner asked me to cut the chili components back a bit for next time. I love hot food, as does he, but his digestive system is not so fond of it.

    I used the full teaspoon of hot sauce, so next time, I’ll use half a teaspoon and maybe cut back a touch on the chili powder (the bottle of it in my cupboard is particularly hot).

  20. wow it sounds delicius BUT since im all new to the primal diet and primal community im really confused about HONEY (sugar!!!?) and TAMARI (my eyes popped off – SOY BEANS COMPRESSED IN ALCOHOL AND SUGAR ???..) ??

    1. Honey is fine in moderation. If you are going to use Tamari, get the wheat free organic brand.

  21. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve been meaning to search for some homemade bbq sauce recipes. This looks good. It’s amazing to me how many commercial sauces have HFCS as teh FIRST ingredient. Sheesh!

  22. Hey are there primal recipes for crock pots????? I work full time with 2 small children and a house to keep– any thing helps

    1. Almost any meat that you could put on a grill you can put in a Crock Pot. Just put your ingredients in the pot, i.e., onions, kohlrabi, etc., well-season your meat, turn the pot to low, and let it cook away. (The pot I have doesn’t require additional liquid.) I made baby back ribs this way once (I had to cut the ribs to fit the pot); but after about six hours on low, the onions were almost melted, and the ribs melted in my mouth! I use the Crock Pot whenever I can!

    2. I haven’t gotten it yet but here is some info. on one from US Wellness Meats.

      We were lucky enough to receive a preview copy of the new Paleo Slow Cooking cookbook this week. Some of our favorite winter soups and stews are featured with different twists that we can’t wait to try. We also have our eye on many new breakfast recipes big enough to feed the whole family! It’s not all slow cooking though – there are some delicious salad and side recipes to go along with your main dish that don’t require a CrockPot. Author Chrissy Gower from Growing Up Paleo explains her Paleo journey and shares a wealth of kitchen and cooking information along the way. We give it 2-Thumbs-Up!

  23. I have to say that I have been loving the recipes in the Quick and Easy Meals cookbook. I just made the Turkish eggs on Saturday and was blown away by how good they were. I used a full-fat plain Greek yogurt and the combination was to die for. 🙂

  24. I just made this. I tinkered with the spices a bit, added some balsamic vinegar, and simmered it for about 15 min. The cooking smoothed out the flavors and consistency. Oh, and I gave it a generous splash of Maker’s Mark Whiskey…YUM!

  25. Are you kidding me, Mark!!!! This BBQ sauce recipe is one of the best I’ve EVER tasted and it’s actually primal. I almost feel bad for the people who are drenching their ribs in sugar coated off the shelf stuff. Keep it up cause you are an absolute legend!

  26. YES! I have been wanting a primal way to do BBQ sauce!! This and the Meatza recipes have made life much more delicious.

  27. Just tried this. Left out tamari and substituted honey for unsweetened applesauce. Very tasty!

  28. Awesome recipe! I actually like this one better than the recipe in the PB Cookbook. The non-Primal husband declared this “the bomb” (love a victory!). I made this and then we BBQed some ribs. Yumola!

    1. I don’t think it is acidic enough to be water bathed canned, but if you have a pressure canner you could do it in that and it would be safe.

      1. Actually it could as I just realized it has apple cider vinegar in it, so yeah it is acidic enough to be water bath canned

  29. I know so many people would freak about soybeans, but in Korea they have ssamjang, which is red pepper paste (kochujang) mixed with fermented soybean paste (dwoenjang). You could probably get it at a Korean/Asian grocery store in the States. Anyway, I mention it because it always comes with BBQ in the restaurants in Korea and it goes perfectly with it.

  30. Made this sauce tonight for my crockpot pulled pork… VERY delicious. Best BBQ sauce I’ve had. (Subbed balsalmic for the apple cider vinegar)

  31. I Threw in a little cumin and some lemon juice and its perfect!

  32. Made pulled pork and used this bbq sauce tonight-yum! Huge win for the family!

  33. This barbecue sauce is SO good. I hesitated to make it, thinking there is no way it is worth it. It is so good, I am tossing any and all store bought varieties. Thank you for a great website! I reference it all the time.

  34. My wife and I made this tonight and grilled some chicken. It was wonderful!

  35. Delicious awesomeness! I didn’t even have tamari so I just left it out and it was still great! I like a sweeter BBQ sauce so I used the 2tbsp and only about 1.5tbsp of the vinegar. Threw everything into a small sauce pan and heated over low heat to melt the butter and melt the spices. My husband is going to be SO happy that BBQ items are still on the menu!

  36. I was under the impression, that soy was not primal on it’s own. I understand soy sauce has wheat in it and that you can get wheat free versions, but it’s still made from soy. Does the fermentation cause it’s negative effect to be altered in some way or is this part of that 20% I can get away with?

    1. I too am confused because I can’t see how soy would be considered to Paleo/primal? I personally won’t eat soy at all because I am intolerant to it and consider it to have negative effects on the body. I do however realise that some consider fermented soy to be better for you. I didn’t think primal man had soy beans or any bean for that matter?

      I’m going to try this recipe to go with my grass fed rib eye steak tonight! Mmmm

  37. I dunno if people in states outside South Carolina get this in their grocery stores, but “Carolina Treet” isn’t all that bad on sugar or preservatives. Probably because it’s vinegar-based and therefore doubly delicious. 🙂

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