Can you eat BBQ sauce on a low-carb diet?

Many people attempting a low-carb diet wonder if they can still enjoy flavorful BBQ sauce. The good news is that you can definitely eat BBQ sauce on a low-carb diet. However, you need to be mindful of a few things.

First, not all BBQ sauces are created equal when it comes to carbs. Some commercial BBQ sauces are loaded with sugar and can easily derail your low-carb efforts. The trick is to read labels carefully and look for low-carb options. There are many brands of BBQ sauce that fit into a low-carb lifestyle.

What to look for in a low-carb BBQ sauce

When shopping for low-carb BBQ sauce, read the nutrition labels and look for these characteristics:

  • Low in sugar – Aim for 5 grams or less per 2-tablespoon serving
  • Doesn’t contain high-fructose corn syrup
  • High in fat – Look for at least a couple grams of fat per serving to balance the carbs
  • Made with low-carb sweeteners like erythritol, monk fruit, or stevia

You’ll also want to watch out for thickeners like corn starch or flour, which can add unnecessary carbs. Try to find BBQ sauce that uses natural thickeners like xanthan gum instead.

Some good low-carb BBQ sauce brands

Here are some examples of popular BBQ sauce brands that offer low-carb options:

  • G Hughes Sugar Free BBQ Sauces – 1g net carbs per 2 tbsp
  • Guy’s Award Winning Sugar Free BBQ Sauce – 0g net carbs per 2 tbsp
  • Stubb’s Less Sugar BBQ Sauces – 2g net carbs per 2 tbsp
  • Walden Farms BBQ Sauces – 0g net carbs per 2 tbsp

Making your own low-carb BBQ sauce

Another great option is to make your own homemade low-carb BBQ sauce. This gives you full control over the ingredients. Here is a simple recipe to try:

Simple Keto BBQ Sauce


  • 1 cup sugar-free ketchup
  • 1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown mustard
  • 1 tbsp erythritol or other low-carb sweetener
  • 1 tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp each chili powder and smoked paprika


  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until thickened.
  4. Let cool and transfer to an airtight container. Keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

This easy homemade sauce has about 1g net carb per 2-tablespoon serving. Feel free to tweak it to your tastes by adding more spices or sweetener if desired.

How much BBQ sauce can you eat on a low-carb diet?

When pouring on the BBQ sauce, moderation is key. Here are some guidelines for how much you can safely consume:

  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) per meal is a safe amount for most low-carb diets like keto.
  • Read labels and count net carbs – aim to keep it under 5g per serving.
  • Measure carefully rather than pouring from the bottle.
  • Use sparingly as a condiment rather than a main component.

Dousing your food in BBQ sauce or drinking it by the spoonful is probably not the best idea. But used wisely as a flavor enhancer, BBQ sauce can be enjoyed guilt-free on a low-carb diet.

Tips for using BBQ sauce on a low-carb diet

Here are some tips to integrate BBQ sauce into your low-carb lifestyle:

  • Choose meat, veggies, and other low-carb foods as your base rather than breads, buns, or high-carb sides.
  • Opt for dishes like BBQ chicken wings, meatloaf, ribs, or pulled pork where sauce is not the main component.
  • Look for sauce brands with no sugar added or make your own.
  • Use sparingly as a condiment – 2 tbsp per meal is plenty.
  • Count the net carbs in the sauce as part of your daily carb limit.
  • Skip sauce with high-carb sides like baked beans, macaroni salad, or corn on the cob.

With a little planning, you can incorporate small amounts of BBQ sauce to liven up low-carb meats, veggies, salads, and more without sabotaging your carb intake.

How does BBQ sauce fit into different low-carb diets?

The amount of BBQ sauce you can eat will vary slightly depending on the specific low-carb diet you are following. Here’s a breakdown:

Keto Diet

  • Aim for under 5g net carbs per serving
  • Count BBQ sauce carbs in your 20-50g daily limit
  • Use sparingly as a condiment, not a main ingredient

Atkins Diet

  • In Phase 1, avoid BBQ sauce entirely
  • Phase 2 allows up to 15g net carbs daily from sauce
  • In Phase 3 and 4, eat moderate amounts tracking net carbs

Paleo Diet

  • Look for sauce without added sugars or preservatives
  • Make your own sauce using Paleo-friendly ingredients
  • Fruit-based sauce ok in moderation – watch added sweeteners

Whole30 Diet

  • Avoid BBQ sauce entirely during the 30 day clean eating program
  • After, choose compliant sauce without added sugar, soy, etc.
  • Read labels carefully and make your own sauce to be safe

The key for any low-carb diet is to read labels, know the carb counts, and enjoy BBQ sauce in sensible portions as part of an overall low-carb eating pattern.

Low-carb foods to eat BBQ sauce with

To stay low-carb diet friendly, enjoy BBQ sauce with these kinds of foods:

  • Chicken – wings, drums, thighs
  • Pork – ribs, pulled pork, chops
  • Beef – brisket, burgers, meatballs
  • Fish – salmon, tuna, trout
  • Veggies – cauliflower, zucchini, carrot “fries”
  • Cheese – cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss
  • Nuts – pecans, walnuts, almonds
  • Leafy greens – kale, spinach, lettuce

Avoid pouring BBQ sauce over high-carb foods like bread, baked beans, pasta, rice, or French fries if watching your carb intake.

What about sugar free BBQ sauce? Can diabetics consume it?

Sugar-free BBQ sauce is a good option for people with diabetes or others looking to further restrict carbs. However, diabetics still need to take a few precautions:

  • Read the nutrition label and count carbs from all sources like tomatoes and vinegar
  • Moderation is key – stick to 2 tbsp portions
  • Look for low-glycemic sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol
  • Test blood sugar levels to see personal effects
  • Avoid brands with maltitol syrup as it can spike blood sugar

Overall, sugar-free BBQ sauce can fit into a diabetic diet in small amounts. But use caution, read labels, and monitor your response.

Low-carb BBQ sauce recipes

To take total control over carbs, sugars, and ingredients, try making your own homemade low-carb BBQ sauce using one of these tasty recipes:

Low-Carb Keto BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup sugar free ketchup
  • 1⁄4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp each apple cider vinegar, mustard, and erythritol
  • 1 tsp each garlic powder, paprika, and salt

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Let cool before using. Makes about 11⁄2 cups.

Tangy Paleo BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tsp each Dijon mustard, chili powder, and smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp each garlic and onion powder

Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Use immediately or store in the fridge up to 5 days.

Simple Low-Carb BBQ Sauce

  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp each yellow mustard, erythritol, and Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly. Cool and serve.

Get creative with homemade sauce and add your own low-carb ingredients like spices, herbs, mustard, hot sauce, and sugar-free sweeteners. The options are endless for DIY low-carb BBQ deliciousness.

Common questions about low-carb BBQ sauce

Can I use molasses in low-carb BBQ sauce?

Molasses is high in sugar and carbs so is not the best choice for low-carb BBQ sauce recipes. For sweetness, opt for low-carb alternatives like erythritol, stevia, or monk fruit instead.

Do low-carb BBQ sauces taste as good?

The best low-carb BBQ sauces rival the taste of full-sugar versions. Brands like G Hughes use smart ingredient swaps to maintain signature BBQ flavors while slashing carbs and sugar. With homemade sauce, you’re in total control – add extra spices, vinegar, and low-carb sweeteners like erythritol to optimize the taste.

Can I make my own sauce if I don’t like the store-bought options?

Absolutely! Read labels and you may be surprised at all the hidden sugars in commercial BBQ sauce. Make your own using low-carb staples like tomato paste, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire and sugar substitutes. Add any spices you like for amazing flavor. Homemade lets you control the carbs.

Are there any high protein low-carb BBQ sauce options?

Certain brands like Bone Suckin’ Sauces offer high protein, low-carb BBQ sauce options. They add whey protein powder to help balance the carb to protein ratio. You can also DIY it by mixing protein powder into your homemade low-carb sauce.

What about using low-carb ketchup as a base for BBQ sauce?

Yes, ketchup and BBQ sauce are very similar, so swapping in a low-carb ketchup is a smart idea. Brands like Heinz make sugar-free ketchup with under 1g net carb per serving. Use this as the base for DIY BBQ sauce along with spices, vinegar, mustard, and sweetener.

The bottom line

Barbecue sauce can be enjoyed in moderation on a low-carb diet like keto or Atkins. Read labels carefully, watch portions, and choose whole food-based sauce with low sugars. Or better yet, whip up your own homemade low-carb BBQ sauce so you control all the ingredients. Used wisely, a touch of BBQ flavor can bring delicious zest to low-carb meals.

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