What BBQ sauce is good for diabetics?

For people with diabetes, choosing the right BBQ sauce can be tricky. The sugar content of most mainstream BBQ sauces makes them a poor choice for diabetics. However, with the growing awareness of diabetes-friendly options, several brands now offer low-carb, low-sugar BBQ sauces perfect for the diabetic diet.

Quick Overview

Most standard BBQ sauces are packed with sugar and should be avoided by diabetics. Read labels carefully and look for low-carb options with little or no added sugars. Some good diabetic-friendly BBQ sauce options include Stubb’s, G Hughes, Walden Farms, Sweet Baby Ray’s No Sugar Added, and Guy’s Sugar Free. Adding spices and herbs like chili powder, cumin, garlic, vinegar, mustard, and lemon juice to tomato sauce can also make a tasty homemade sugar-free BBQ sauce.

How Does BBQ Sauce Affect Blood Sugar?

The two main factors that affect blood sugar levels are carbohydrates and sugars. Most mainstream BBQ sauces are loaded with sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, honey, and molasses. A typical 2-tablespoon serving of regular BBQ sauce contains around 15-20 grams of carbohydrates, almost all from sugar. This adds up quickly when brushing sauce on meat, ribs, or chicken wings. Too much sugar all at once can cause a sharp spike in blood glucose for people with diabetes. Over time, frequent blood sugar spikes can also lead to inflammation and complications.

Why Sugary BBQ Sauces Are a Problem

To manage their condition effectively, people with diabetes need to keep close track of their carbohydrate and sugar intake. Eating too many carbohydrates or too much sugar in one sitting can overwhelm the body’s ability to produce insulin and properly regulate blood glucose levels. Highly processed sugars like high fructose corn syrup are especially troublesome, as they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar.

Recommended Sugar Limits for Diabetics

Most health experts recommend limiting added sugar intake to no more than 25-30 grams per day for women and 30-38 grams per day for men. Eating an excessive amount of added sugars from one food source, like BBQ sauce, makes it difficult to stay within these daily targets. Just 2 tablespoons of a typical BBQ sauce would use up nearly an entire day’s worth of added sugars for diabetics. It’s best to choose sugar-free or low-sugar varieties whenever possible.

Choosing a Diabetes-Friendly BBQ Sauce

When selecting a store-bought BBQ sauce for diabetes, read nutrition labels carefully and look for the following:

  • Less than 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving
  • No added sugars or sweeteners in the ingredient list
  • Less than 5 calories per serving

Ideally, the best BBQ sauces for diabetics contain no sugars at all. There are now several brands of sugar-free and low-carb BBQ sauces made with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. While artificial sweeteners like sucralose and stevia may be controversial, they do not directly impact blood glucose levels like regular sugar does. Here are some good sugar-free BBQ sauce options for diabetics:

Stubb’s Sugar Free BBQ Sauce

Stubb’s makes a line of sugar-free BBQ sauces in original, spicy, and mesquite flavors. With 0g sugar and only 5 calories per serving, they are excellent options for diabetics. The sauces get their sweetness from sucralose and contain common BBQ seasonings like garlic, spices, onion, and vinegar.

G Hughes Sugar Free BBQ Sauce

This brand offers sugar-free BBQ sauces in hickory, honey, and maple flavors. They are sweetened with sucralose and stevia. Each 2-tablespoon serving contains 0 grams of sugar, 15 calories, and 2 net carbs. The maple flavored sauce also includes cinnamon.

Walden Farms BBQ Sauce

With 0 calories, 0 carbs, and 0 sugars, Walden Farms BBQ sauce is a great option for diabetics. It is sweetened with sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Reviewers say it has a tangy, molasses-like flavor profile.

Sweet Baby Ray’s No Sugar Added

This popular brand now makes a No Sugar Added BBQ sauce sweetened with Splenda instead of high fructose corn syrup. Each serving has 10 calories, 2g carbs, and 0g sugar. It contains tomatoes, vinegar, and spices.

Guy’s Sugar Free BBQ Sauce

From celebrity chef Guy Fieri, this sugar-free BBQ sauce uses sucralose and acesulfame potassium for sweetness. It has a robust flavor with 0g sugar, 15 calories, and 3g carbs per serving. The sauce contains aged cayenne peppers for some heat.

How to Make Your Own Sugar-Free BBQ Sauce

Making homemade sugar-free BBQ sauce is also an option for diabetics. Using tomato sauce or tomato paste as a base, you can add herbs, spices, vinegar, mustard, and other seasonings to create flavorful BBQ sauce without any added sugar. Here are some tips for making your own diabetes-friendly BBQ sauce at home:

  • Start with an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce or tomato paste and mix with 1⁄4 cup of apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar.
  • Add spices like chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, oregano, and a dash of cayenne pepper.
  • Whisk in 1-2 tablespoons of mustard for tangy flavor.
  • Splash in a bit of low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth if the sauce is too thick.
  • For sweetness, add a small amount of stevia or liquid sucralose.
  • Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice for brightness.

Experiment with different herb and spice combinations to create custom sugar-free BBQ sauces with complex flavor. Adding sliced onions or garlic and cooking the sauce down can also boost depth of flavor.

BBQ Sauce Alternatives for Diabetics

In addition to sugar-free BBQ sauces, diabetics can also use the following alternatives:

Dry Rubs

BBQ dry rubs offer big flavor without BBQ sauce. Use chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper and brown sugar substitutes like stevia or Swerve to make diabetes-friendly dry rubs. Coat meats evenly before grilling or smoking.

Mustard BBQ Sauce

Mixing yellow mustard with a bit of apple cider vinegar and spices makes a quick no-sugar BBQ sauce alternative for diabetes. Brush on meats during the last few minutes of grilling only.


Look for low-sugar tomato or mango salsa in the refrigerated section. Use as you would BBQ sauce with chicken, fish, or veggies. Most have only 1-3 grams of carbs per serving.


This fresh green sauce from Argentina makes a flavorful marinade and dip for grilled meats. Mix parsley, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lime, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Zero grams of sugar per serving.


Stir up a batch of homemade pesto with basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. Use as a topping, marinade, or dip that adds lots of flavor without sugar.

Tips for Using BBQ Sauce with Diabetes

If you do opt for a low-sugar or sugar-free BBQ sauce, keep these tips in mind:

  • Count the carbs and use a measuring spoon for accurate serving sizes.
  • Brush sauce on meats during the last 5-10 minutes of grilling only to prevent burning or charring.
  • Avoid dipping cooked foods directly into BBQ sauce containers, as it’s hard to control portions.
  • Drizzle sauce lightly over individual servings instead of drenching.
  • Skip high-carb sides like pasta salads, baked beans or corn bread to minimize carb overload from a BBQ meal.

Healthier BBQ Ideas for Diabetics

These recipes allow you to enjoy delicious BBQ flavor while managing your blood sugar:

BBQ Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Ditch the bun and serve pulled chicken inside fresh lettuce leaves with salsa and guacamole.

Smoky BBQ Salmon

Top grilled salmon fillets with a spicy dry rub and sugar-free BBQ sauce for the last few minutes.

BBQ Portobello Mushroom Caps

Grill portobello caps and fill with shredded bbq chicken, avocado, red onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

Tandoori Chicken Wings

Marinate chicken wings in tandoori spices, lime juice and Greek yogurt. Grill until charred and crispy.

BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad

Chop lettuce, chicken, peppers, corn, black beans, avocado and tomatoes. Top with a drizzle of low-carb BBQ sauce.

Smoky BBQ Shrimp Skewers

Thread peeled shrimp on skewers. Grill and brush with sugar-free BBQ sauce for the last few minutes.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Fill bell pepper halves with cauliflower rice, ground turkey, onions, garlic, and tomato sauce. Serve with chimichurri sauce.

BBQ Steak and Veggie Foil Packs

Wrap steak and vegetables like zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms tightly in foil packets. Grill and open carefully to keep juices in.

Cedar Plank Salmon

Grill salmon fillets on a cedar plank for beautiful flavor. Top with a spritz of lemon and fresh dill.

Jerk Chicken Kebabs

Thread chicken chunks on skewers with peppers and pineapple. Use jerk seasoning dry rub instead of sugar-laden sauce.

Bunless BBQ Brisket

Serve shredded smoked brisket on lettuce leaves and top with pickles, sautéed onions, avocado, and mustard.

Key Takeaways on BBQ Sauce and Diabetes

  • Read nutrition labels carefully and look for low-sugar or sugar-free options.
  • Popular sugar-free brands include Stubb’s, G Hughes, Walden Farms, Sweet Baby Ray’s, and Guy’s.
  • Make your own healthy BBQ sauce at home with tomato sauce, vinegar and spices.
  • Use dry rubs, salsa, chimichurri or pesto as alternatives to sugary BBQ sauce.
  • Limit sauce portions and avoid dipping to control carbs and sugar.
  • Focus on lean proteins and non-starchy veggies to complete your diabetes-friendly BBQ meal.

The Bottom Line

Standard BBQ sauces are packed with sugar and unsuitable for diabetics. Thankfully, there are now many low-carb, sugar-free options available. Look for BBQ sauces with minimal carbs and no added sugars. Making your own sauce or using dry rubs, salsas and herb mixes can also add lots of flavor. Focus on grilling lean proteins and vegetables to put together a healthy, balanced BBQ meal that won’t spike your blood sugar.

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