Is BBQ Sauce Keto Friendly? Carbs and Calories in BBQ Sauce

bbq sauce keto

With barbecue season just around the corner, many of us are looking forward to firing up the grill.  But before you slather those chicken breasts, pork chops and spare ribs in BBQ sauce, there are a few things to consider first.

Be careful when selecting a store-bought sauce as certain brands of BBQ sauce on the market are bad for your health.  Some contain high amounts of sugar or sodium and others contain harmful additives like high-fructose corn syrup.

If you’re wondering which brands of BBQ sauce are the best options for guilt-free grilling, keep reading for a complete list of healthy sauces.  I did all the research for you so that you don’t have to…  These sauces make the perfect addition to a low carb diet as they’re low in sugar, so they won’t kick you out of ketosis.

Is BBQ Sauce Keto Friendly?

Like ketchup, BBQ sauce tends to contain a lot of sugar, to balance out the tanginess of the vinegar.  Just two tablespoons of honey barbecue sauce can rack up a whopping 22 grams of carbohydrates — that’s enough to turn a healthy cut of meat into a ticking carb bomb.

Choose a low-sugar variety of barbecue sauce to slather on your meat and poultry instead.  There are some great Keto-friendly brands of BBQ sauce available on the market which are mentioned later in this article.

How Many Carbs are in BBQ Sauce?

One tablespoon of BBQ sauce contains around 7 grams of carbs.  If you’re following a strict, low carb diet always check the nutrition label to find the brand that is lowest in carbs.  There are several brands of low sugar BBQ sauce on the market that you can choose for a low carb diet. Or make your own Keto-friendly BBQ sauce with the recipe included in this article.

How Many Calories are in BBQ Sauce?

One tablespoon of BBQ sauce contains 29 calories.  BBQ sauce is fairly low in calories if you stick to one tablespoon, which is enough to flavor a serving of meat or poultry.  Use your measuring spoon rather than pouring the sauce directly out of the jar, to keep calories in check.

Nutrition Facts

Amount: 1 Tablespoon (17 grams) of BBQ Sauce
Calories 29
Total Fat 0.1 grams 0%
Saturated fat 0 grams 0%
Polyunsaturated fat 0 grams
Monounsaturated fat 0 grams
Trans fat 0 grams
Cholesterol 0 milligrams 0%
Sodium 174.6 milligrams 7%
Potassium 39.4 milligrams 1%
Total Carbohydrate 7 grams 2%
Dietary fiber 0.2 grams 0%
Sugar 6 grams
Protein 0.1 grams 0%
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0% Iron 0%
Vitamin D 0% Vitamin B-6 0%
Cobalamin 0% Magnesium 0%

Health Benefits 

bbq sauce calories


Made from ingredients like tomato sauce or puree, vinegar, and various seasonings, barbecue sauce offers some nutrition. BBQ sauce contains Vitamin E, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Vitamin E supports healthy skin; vitamin C is a great immune system booster; while Vitamin A can regulate thyroid hormones and promote healthy vision.

Let’s break down the following main ingredients in BBQ sauce to identify their respective health benefits:

Tomato Paste

Barbecue sauce is usually made from a tomato base.  The antioxidants in tomatoes protect your cells from the damage of cancer cells and cancer-causing free radicals.  Tomatoes also contain lycopene.  Lycopene fights cancer, aids in skin health and helps keep inflammation at bay.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is another popular ingredient in BBQ sauce.  Apple cider vinegar has both antimicrobial and antioxidant effects on the body. In fact, studies show that apple cider vinegar may also aid weight loss, reduce cholesterol, and lower blood sugar levels.

Garlic Powder

Among other seasonings, garlic is a common ingredient in most BBQ sauces.  Garlic is one of the healthiest spices on the planet as it can reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and even lower the risk of heart disease.

Side Effects

Bottled barbecue sauce can be high in sugar, which can spike blood sugar and cause healthy foods to become sugar-laden.  Look for brands with the lowest amount of added sugar and stick to a tablespoon or two for your serving size.   

Shop for brands that are low in sugar and look at the ingredient list to ensure that the sauce doesn’t contain highly processed ingredients. 

If you suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension, purchase brands that are also low in sodium.

Keto Thick and Tangy BBQ Sauce Recipe


  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste  
  • 12 ounces of water
  • 3 ounces apple cider vinegar  
  • 3 ounces red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar Stevia blend
  • 1/2 cup diced onion  
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (1 large clove)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Hickory Liquid Smoke
  • 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter (added after cooking)


  1. Add the first 10 ingredients into a medium saucepan and simmer for an hour.
  2. Measure the remaining ingredients into the BBQ sauce and blend with a handheld blender until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.  
  3. Cool completely, pour into a sterilized airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for a week.

The serving size is 2 tablespoons, containing 1 gram of net carb per serving.

Top 10 Low Carb BBQ Sauce Brands

bbq sauce carbs
  1. Guys Award Winning Sugar-Free BBQ Sauce
  2. AlternaSweets Sweet & Smokey BBQ Sauce (Stevia Sweetened)
  3. Stevia Sweet BBQ Sauce
  4. Simple Girl Carolina Style BBQ Sauce
  5. Lynchburg Tennessee Whiskey Sweet & Mild Sugar-Free Gourmet Deli & Grillin’ Sauce
  6. G Hughes Sauce Barbecue Sugar Free Honey
  7. Keto Dave’s Gourmet Barbecue Sauce – Carolina BBQ
  8. Walden Farms Hickory Smoked BBQ Sauce
  9. Trinity Hill Farms Sauce BBQ (Sugar-free)
  10. Steve’s PaleoGoods, PaleoChef Steak Sauce

How to Make a Healthier Barbecue

Avoid Sweet BBQ Sauces

Brushing your skinless chicken breast in sugary honey barbecue sauce adds so many extra calories, you may as well have your chicken deep-fried.  Avoid brands of BBQ sauce that contain added sugar, such as Honey BBQ flavor.

Choose sauces that are low in sugar or sugar-free, such as the brands mentioned above or make your own low sugar sauce using a natural sugar-free sweetener, like Stevia. 

Include Veggies with your Meat

A key component of healthy eating is a balanced diet that combines all food groups.   At barbecues and picnics, people tend to load up on grilled meats, but they often forget about veggies.

Throwing some vegetables on the grill can be a simple way to add vital nutrients to your meal and compliment whatever meat you choose to cook.

Here are some easy ways to incorporate more veggies in your barbecue:

  • Wrap onions, peppers and mushrooms in tin foil on the grill, for a flavorful side.  
  • Prepare seasoned vegetable kebabs with vegetables of choice; bell peppers, onion, zucchini, mushrooms, and eggplant are some great options.
  • Grill corn on the cob.
  • Pack a leafy green salad brimming with your favorite veggies.
  • Add fresh tomato slices to burgers or skip the bun and wrap your burger in a lettuce leaf.

Lower the Heat

It may take a bit longer to cook meat at a lower heat, but the end result will be juicier and have that slow-cooked flavor that will be so worth it.

Food often gets burned when cooking it at high heats, which can create carcinogens. At high temperatures, there is a higher likelihood of forming heterocyclic amines (HCAs) — chemicals associated with a number of potential health risks.

Pick Choice Cuts of Meat

The healthiest barbecues use the leanest cuts of meat, like skinless chicken and lean cuts of beef.  Fresh meats are always a better option over nitrate-laden processed meats.  Leaner cuts of meat ensure that you consume less saturated fat and cholesterol.

Melissa Marshall

A litigation paralegal and writer. Her first novel debuts this fall. She lives with her kitten, Zoey overlooking the waterfront in beautiful Dartmouth, Nova Scotia - also known as the “City of Lakes”.

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