Sweet and Spicy Homemade Barbecue Sauce- Nutrient Dense Foods

by Kayla Grossmann

Let’s just say it: barbecue sauce is delicious. Messily covering your fingers and smeared sloppily around the corners of your mouth, who doesn’t love to forget their manners every once in awhile? Yet conventional sauces are full of additives, preservatives and emulsifiers that are none-too-pleasing. Next time you are in the mood to add some kick to your meal, try this delicious homemade barbecue sauce. You will probably never turn back.

nutrient dense foods bbq sauce

Here are the ingredients from the label of a conventional storebought barbecue sauce:

INGREDIENTS: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Tomato Paste, Modified Food Starch, Contains less than 2% of: Salt, Pineapple Juice Concentrate, Natural Smoke Flavor, Spices, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate as a preservative, Molasses, Corn Syrup, Garlic, Sugar, Tamarind, Natural Flavor.

Let's take a look at what all this jargon means.

Defining “Natural Flavor”

Nutrition labels can be exceedingly confusing to read. Not only are the fonts impossibly small and many of the ingredients difficult to pronounce, but many of the controversial chemicals that find their way into foods are described under sweeping titles like “flavorings.” What exactly does this mean? Well, there are approximately 2,500 defined “flavoring” substances approved for use in Europe and the United States. These are split into two separate categories: “natural” and “artificial.”

Code of Federal Regulations defines “natural flavoring” as: 

the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional (21CFR101)

The definition of artificial flavorings? Everything else. Or, as it is worded officially:

any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bar, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof (21CFR101)

So, is there any difference when it comes to certified organic foods? Foods complying with National Organic Program Standards must be from ingredients grown using organic farming methods without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, and petroleum- or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. However, according to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances and the National Organic Standards Board, nonagricultural (or nonorganic) products can be used in "organic" and "made with organic ingredient" products if they follow the 95-5 rule, meaning they do not compose more than 5% of the final product. This rule includes flavorings, which do not have to be organic but are to be derived from non-synthetic sources and must not be produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservative.

All in all, these wordy standards leave some gray areas on acceptable practices when it comes to food flavoring. Essentially, most all of these “flavorings,” regardless of their origin, are altered and processed into products that you would never find growing in your garden.  Also keep in mind that these chemicals are being carefully manipulated by teams of creative “flavorists” in a laboratory who work blending compounds to most appeal to your human senses (and conveniently sell the most product). The best way to avoid any questionable flavoring additives? Make your own sauces, marinades, snacks and any baked goods at home so that you can use all of the nourishing real, whole foods your body needs.

Irresistable Sweet and Spicy Homemade BBQ Sauce

This barbecue sauce is very tasty and can spice up any meal without leaving any sort of nasty aftertaste or upset stomach like commercial sauces sometimes do. Additionally, you can gain all of the healing benefit of bovine gelatin from it's homemade broth base. While the initial prep time is longer than opening up a plastic bottle, this can be easily stored in the fridge in a glass jar for repeat use. Best if used in 1 to 2 weeks.

6 ounces tomato paste

1 cup homemade beef stocknutrient dense foods bbq sauce

1/2 small onion, finely minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teasponn black pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pinch cinnamon

In a sauce pan, combine all ingredients and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Stirring frequently, allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved. Use to marinate meat, as a burger topping or mixed into veggies.


Recipe adapted from Nourishing Traditions and Paleo Comfort Foods Cookbook

Overview of Flavor Additives for the USDA National Organic Program and the National Standards Board

Check out this post and other great real food ideas at the Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania


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