5 Best Substitute For Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue Sauce Substitute

Barbecue sauce, a luscious amalgamation of sweet, tangy, and smoky flavors, is the culinary magic that transforms ordinary meals into extraordinary ones. This versatile condiment, with its roots in American cuisine, is often characterized by its robust flavor profile typically derived from ingredients such as vinegar, tomato paste, sweeteners, and spices. This balance of flavors makes it an essential part of various dishes, from grilled meats to sandwiches, and even as a dipping sauce.

But what happens if you run out of this sauce or want to experiment with different flavors? The best substitutes for barbecue sauce are those that can replicate or complement its unique flavor palette, bringing a refreshing twist to your meals. These alternatives range from common pantry staples like a ketchup and Worcestershire sauce blend to exotic choices like hoisin or plum sauce. Each substitute carries its own distinctive taste and texture that can introduce a whole new dimension to your cooking. So let’s embark on this flavorful journey to discover the best substitutes for barbecue sauce.

What is Barbecue Sauce?

Barbecue sauce is a flavorful condiment often used as a marinade, basting or topping for meat cooked in the barbecue style. Its ingredients vary widely even within countries, but most include some variation of vinegar, tomato paste or ketchup, sweeteners, and spices. This balance of sweet, sour, and spicy components gives barbecue sauce its unique appeal. Its application is not just limited to barbecue, as it has found a home in various dishes like pizza, salads, and sandwiches, making it a versatile ingredient in any kitchen.

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Quick Fire Substitutes For Barbecue Sauce

  • Ketchup and Worcestershire Sauce Blend
  • Hoisin Sauce
  • Plum Sauce
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Salsa

Best Substitutes For Barbecue Sauce

In the world of sauces, there’s plenty to choose from when it comes to replacing barbecue sauce. The choice depends on your taste preferences, dietary restrictions, and what’s readily available in your pantry. Here are five incredible substitutes, with each of them bringing a unique taste and texture to your meals.

Ketchup and Worcestershire Sauce Blend

Often sitting at the forefront of most pantries, the blend of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce can make an excellent barbecue sauce substitute. Both carry unique flavor profiles: ketchup with its sweet tomato base and Worcestershire with its savory and tangy notes.

By blending the two, you can create a new sauce that mirrors the sweet and sour aspects of barbecue sauce. A ratio of 1:1 works well, but feel free to adjust the quantities based on your preference. Add a bit of brown sugar or honey if you prefer a sweeter sauce. For a spicy kick, add a dash of hot sauce or a pinch of chili flakes.

Remember, this concoction may lack the smoky flavor typically found in barbecue sauce. To emulate that, a small dash of liquid smoke or smoked paprika can do wonders. You’ll find that this blend not only works well for grilling but also as a splendid dipping sauce.

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce, a mainstay in Chinese cuisine, can be a delightful substitute for barbecue sauce. It’s sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy with a consistency similar to barbecue sauce, making it an easy swap.

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What sets hoisin apart is its unique umami flavor derived from fermented soybeans. This depth of flavor can bring an exotic touch to your regular barbecued dishes. If you’re grilling chicken or ribs, consider using hoisin sauce as a glaze.

However, hoisin sauce tends to be quite sweet. If you prefer a less sweet sauce, you may want to mix it with a bit of soy sauce or vinegar to balance the flavors. Given its rich and strong flavor profile, using it sparingly at first is recommended.

Plum Sauce

Plum sauce, another gem from the Chinese culinary world, is a sweet and tangy sauce made from plums, sugar, and vinegar. It carries a fruity zestiness, setting it apart from most other sauces.

As a barbecue sauce alternative, plum sauce shines when used as a glaze or marinade for grilled or roasted poultry, adding a sweet, fruity twist to the dish. Like barbecue sauce, it also works well as a dipping sauce for fried foods.

While delicious, remember that plum sauce lacks the smoky and spicy elements of barbecue sauce. If you enjoy those flavors, consider adding a bit of chili flakes and liquid smoke to create a more rounded sauce.

Teriyaki Sauce

If you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine, you’re probably familiar with Teriyaki sauce. This sweet and savory sauce is traditionally used as a glaze for grilled or broiled dishes in Japan. Its primary ingredients include soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, creating a delicate balance of umami and sweetness.

As a barbecue sauce substitute, Teriyaki sauce adds a Japanese touch to your dishes. It works beautifully as a marinade for chicken or beef, infusing them with a rich umami flavor. However, like some other substitutes, it lacks the smokiness found in barbecue sauce. Adding a touch of smoked paprika can help to achieve that smoky note.

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Salsa, Spanish for ‘sauce,’ is a tomato-based sauce widely used in Mexican cuisine. Depending on the type, it can range from being mildly sweet and tangy to very spicy. Salsa comes in many varieties, including salsa roja, salsa verde, and pico de gallo, each carrying unique flavors.

Salsa can be a refreshing substitute for barbecue sauce, particularly for dishes that can benefit from a touch of tangy freshness. It can be used as a marinade, a glaze, or even as a serving sauce on the side. However, note that salsa tends to be more liquid than barbecue sauce, so it may not cling to the food as well. If you wish for a thicker consistency, consider reducing it on the stove before use.

Substitutes for Barbecue Sauce: Nutritional Profile

Nutritional facts per ¼ cup:

SubstituteGlutenCaloriesFat (g)Carbs (g)Fiber (g)Protein (g)
Ketchup and Worcestershire Sauce BlendLow700.1170.50.6
Hoisin SauceYes10012411
Plum SauceNo6001500
Teriyaki SauceYes9002101


Exploring substitutes for barbecue sauce not only gets you out of a culinary bind when you’ve run out of this staple sauce but also opens up new horizons of flavors for your meals. From the pantry staples like ketchup and Worcestershire sauce blend to exotic alternatives like hoisin or plum sauce, these substitutes are sure to take your cooking to new heights. Remember, the key to a successful substitute is to understand the flavor profile of the original ingredient and aim to mirror or enhance it in a way that complements the dish. Happy grilling!

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