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The Best Store-Bought Barbecue Sauce

Not all store-bought barbecue sauces are made equal. Find out which ones are healthier and which can withstand nuclear winter (a.k.a. ones you won't want to eat or feed your kids).

Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce

Sweet Baby Ray’s is a favorite of a lot of friends of mine. And they’re not alone. Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Recipe is an award-winning sauce from Chicago (established in 1985).

+ On the plus side for you celiacs, Sweet Baby Ray’s is indeed gluten free.

 The top ingredient on the ingredients list is High Fructose Corn Syrup. Ergo, this product has a lot of fake sugar in it, which is really, really bad for you.

 One serving is 2 tablespoons (which is only a tiny fraction of what you’d smother all over that big rack of baby backs, right?). If you look at the nutrition label, there are 70 calories in one serving and those calories come entirely from the carbs in this sauce. And 94% of those carbs are the sugar used to make this sauce sweet. You could just as easily eat 4 teaspoons of plain white sugar. Same effect. My take on it: gross.



Hunt’s Original Barbecue Sauce

Hunt’s is a brand you might also associate with tomato products such as ketchup, tomato sauce, pasta sauce and tomato paste.

+ On the plus side, 2 tablespoons of this sauce (as compared to Sweet Baby Ray’s is only 60 calories (10 less per serving).

+ Also on the plus side, the first ingredient on the list of ingredients is tomato juice from concentrate (tomato paste and water), as opposed to straight up sugar.

 That said, the next two ingredients on the back of Hunt’s bottle are Corn Syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup. Read that as: sugar and even more sugar (of even worse quality for you). If your body was a Ferrari, would you fill your gas tank with chocolate syrup? I didn’t think so. While the total amount of sugar in one serving is actually 5 grams less than Sweet Baby Ray’s, it’s still nearly 3 teaspoons.


Bull’s Eye Texas Style Regional Barbecue Sauce

Bull’s Eye Barbecue sauce is a Kraft brand product. Priding itself on bold flavors, the brand offers four flavors: Memphis-style, Texas-style, Carolina-style and Kansas City-style. Cool. I dig the nod to the various types of BBQ here in the US. But that’s where my appreciation for this sauce ends.

+ On the plus side, for 2 tablespoons of this sauce, it’s only 45 calories. Not bad. But what is the source of these calories?

 Ah yes, fake sugar again. High Fructose Corn Syrup is the second ingredient on the ingredients list (after Tomato Puree). If there are two things you should entirely cut out of your diet, they are Trans Fats (which, thankfully, are harder and harder to find on grocery store shelves) and High Fructose Corn Syrup. There are 10 grams of carbs in one serving of this sauce—and 9 of ’em come from sugar. That’s just over 2 teaspoons of sugar per serving of this stuff. Yes, that’s better than the two options above. But not much better.



Bone Suckin’ Sauce

Finally, a product I can get behind. Bone Suckin’ Sauce began when a guy in Raleigh, North Carolina named Phil Ford (no, not the UNC Basketball Star who went on to play in the NBA). This guy Phil, a father of four, was simply trying to copy his mom’s recipe for Western North Carolina-style BBQ sauce. He came up with this recipe in 1987 and went on to win a bunch of awards and successfully bring what was a family recipe to market.

+ This sauce is all-natural, meaning it contains no preservatives, no GMO ingredients, no High Fructose Corn Syrup, and no Canola Oil.

+ This sauce is gluten free so everyone, including celiacs can enjoy.

+ For a 2 tablespoon serving, this sauce wins the calorie contest at only 40 calories a serving.

+ In one serving, this sauce also weighs in with the least amount of sodium per serving—by a landslide.

+ The top 5 ingredients on the label include Tomato Paste, Apple Cider Vinegar, Honey, Molasses and Mustard. No sighting of any kind of sugar from corn, or any processed or refined sugars at all for that matter. Yes, honey and molasses are sugary products, but they are non-refined, naturally occurring sugars from bees and from sugarcane (a plant). While I wouldn’t recommend consuming large amounts of them daily, if you’re going to have a sweet product, better that sweetness come from honey and molasses (and/or plants like sugar beets or sorghum).