If you love the sweet and tangy taste of barbecue sauce, you should also be aware that many are unhealthier than you might have ever imagined. A serving of these sauces is just two tablespoons, but there can be a lot of unhealthy content in those two tablespoons. Often, the tastiest, sweetest barbecue sauces are the ones that need a closer label reading.
It's possible to pick a healthier barbecue sauce without reading every label at the store. We've noticed that barbecue sauces with the word "sweet," a type of sugar, or a type of fruit in the name often have more carbs and sugar than some other options. Something else to look for is the types of sweeteners the company uses and any questionable preservatives. The sauces all contain vinegar and sweeteners, which should preserve them just fine. Still, some companies go a step further and add other preservatives as well. There's also far more sodium in these unhealthy barbecue sauces than you would think. The healthier sauces are more often the original version offered by the brand or ones with smokiness rather than sweeteners leading the flavor profile. However, this generalization isn't always true.
We've poured through dozens of barbecue sauce labels for you, taking note of the nutritional content and ingredient list to give you an idea of which sauces out there are the least healthy. Whether that makes you want to go out and give them a try or leave them alone is up to you.
Blues Hog Raspberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Blues Hog Raspberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce is the least healthy sauce on our list, boasting the most calories, carbs, and sugar of any barbecue sauce we encountered in our search. Blues Hog sells half a dozen varieties of barbecue sauce, three of which made our list.
A serving (two tablespoons) of this sauce has 120 calories, which is twice as much as the lowest-calorie ones on our list. However, if sodium is your main concern, you'll be thrilled to learn this has the lowest amount of any on our list at 80 milligrams. Still, that doesn't make up for the 27 grams of carbs and 24 grams of sugar this sauce has. It's about the sugar equivalent of eating a big bowl of one of the most sugary cereals, Post Honey Ohs, and is the carb equivalent of eating about two slices of Wonder bread. The American Heart Association suggests consuming only 25-36 grams of sugar per day (depending on your gender), so just two tablespoons of this sauce is almost your daily quota.
The ingredient list is tempting, including items like raspberries, chipotle peppers, tomato paste, onions, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, cinnamon, ginger, red pepper, and vanilla. However, you'll want to notice that it has six different sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup (HFC), which is an ingredient best avoided for health purposes. HFC may have negative effects on metabolism. Plus, it may cause insulin-resistance issues and contribute to Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Blues Hog Tennessee Red Barbecue Sauce
Another Blues Hog sauce -- its Tennessee Red Barbecue Sauce -- has the distinction of being the sauce on our list with the most sodium. So, be sure to read those Blues Hog labels before buying them if you have specific nutritional concerns.
Blues Hog Tennessee Red Barbecue Sauce comes in at 490 milligrams of sodium per 2-tablespoon serving. So, it's the sodium equivalent of eating about 43 Lay's Classic potato chips. According to the American Heart Association, 490 milligrams represent nearly a third of the amount of sodium adults are recommended to consume in a day (1,500 milligrams). When you add this sauce to salty meat and pair it with salty sides, you're likely to come close to reaching your daily limit in just one meal. Relatively speaking, with only 60 calories, 15 carbs, and 13 grams of sugar per serving, this sauce is on the lower end of unhealthy in comparison with the rest of the sauces on our list.
The flavors you'll enjoy in this sauce come from ingredients like ketchup, salt, onion powder, pepper, and other spices. However, high fructose corn syrup is among the three sweeteners in this sauce, making it a little less desirable.
Buffalo Wild Wings Honey BBQ Sauce
Among the regularly available barbecue sauces from Buffalo Wild Wings, its Honey BBQ Sauce is among the least healthy. The Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant got its start in 1982 to give the rest of the country a taste of the type of wings that the owners enjoyed in Buffalo, New York. Buffalo Wild Wings' sauces -- including several varieties of barbecue sauce -- became popular in their own right, with the company eventually bottling them for customer purchase.
Honey BBQ Sauce is the variety you're most likely to find in grocery stores, and it's fairly unhealthy. It has 70 calories per serving, but it has 17 grams of carbs and 14 grams of sugar. It also has the second-highest amount of sodium of any sauce on our list: 420 milligrams (the equivalent of eating 37 Lay's Classic potato chips).
You'll see some healthy items on the ingredient list, like four types of peppers plus garlic and onions. However, it also includes five types of sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup as the top ingredient. In addition to all those sweeteners, it contains a thickener called maltodextrin, which has a high glycemic index. It also contains potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate as preservatives. While potassium sorbate is considered a safe preservative, there are a variety of health concerns surrounding sodium benzoate, ranging from potential cancer risks at higher levels to possible effects related to inflammation and ADHD.
Head Country Sweet Mustard Bar-B-Q Sauce
Head Country makes delicious Oklahoma-style barbecue sauces, three of which made our list. Most mustard-based sauces we looked at weren't as unhealthy as many of the others. However, when a company places the word "sweet" in the name of its mustard-based barbecue sauce, you might want to give the ingredient list a second glance.
This sauce has 110 calories per serving, which is the second-highest among the ones on our list. So, you might want to watch how much you pour onto your food. It's also edging up there with 350 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbs, and 12 grams of sugar. So, it's still in the breakfast cereal and potato chips range with all that sugar and sodium.
The big flavors in this sauce come from ingredients like yellow mustard, tomato paste, chili pepper, mustard seed, onion powder, smoked paprika, and turmeric. Its sweetness comes from sugar and molasses.
Blues Hog Champions' Blend
Blues Hog Champions' Blend didn't become a champion by being healthy. It's an example of a company that has a flavor without sweet ingredients in its name that is still a health baddie. It hit the barbecue sauce scene in 2019 along with the raspberry chipotle flavor and has been popular ever since.
Adding a serving of this sauce to your food will set you back 80 calories, 350 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbs, and 17 grams of sugar. So, it's still one of the least healthy sauces on our list.
It gets its championship-worthy flavor from ingredients like ketchup, onion powder, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, tamarind, vanilla, and dried garlic. However, it also comes with five different sweeteners, including less healthy high fructose corn syrup. It does provide a gram of fiber to your diet and doesn't have any potentially dangerous preservatives, so it at least has that going for it (besides being tasty, of course).
Whataburger Honey BBQ Sauce
Whataburger Honey BBQ Sauce is another one that deserves a closer label reading. If you've ever gotten the fast food chain's Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich, you likely fell in love with the barbecue sauce. When Whataburger started selling more of its sauces in grocery stores in 2022, its Honey BBQ Sauce was among the offerings. If you can't find it in a grocery store near you, you can buy it online from Whataburger's Whatastore.
While it has only 60 calories per serving, it's heavy on sodium, containing 370 milligrams. Meanwhile, it has 14 grams of carbs and 12 grams of sugar.
The sauce gets its main flavors from honey, tomato paste, mustard, garlic, onion, and spices. However, not only does the sauce have the honey you'd expect, but it also contains other sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup. Another concern is that sodium benzoate is also among its preservatives.
Kraft Slow-Simmered Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Sauce
Kraft Slow-Simmered Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Sauce is the least healthy variety from Kraft that you're likely to find at the grocery store. Kraft was believed to be the first company to get into the commercial barbecue sauce game in the U.S. in the 1950s when it started including a packet of barbecue spices with the cooking oils it sold. Fast-forward several decades, and Kraft has made its way to our list of unhealthy barbecue sauces with its Slow-Simmered Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Sauce.
Don't let the fact that this sauce only has 60 calories per serving fool you. It also has 360 milligrams of sodium, along with 15 grams of carbs and 13 grams of sugar.
With ingredients like tomato puree, hickory smoke flavor, mustard flour, chipotle chili peppers, onion, garlic, paprika, and other spices slow simmering to perfection, it has a delightful flavor. However, Kraft combines high fructose corn syrup with molasses to sweeten it. Luckily, the preservative it uses -- potassium sorbate -- isn't one you have to be concerned about.
Country Bob's Original Barbecue Sauce
Country Bob's is one of the few brands where the original barbecue sauce is the least healthy of the whole collection of barbecue sauces from the brand. So, don't let it catch you off guard. Country Bob didn't rise to fame with healthy barbecue sauce, that's for sure.
While it only has 70 calories per serving, its other nutritional counts make it unhealthy. It has 330 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbs, and 15 grams of sugar. To put it in perspective, the sugar amount is the equivalent of eating about four Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookies. So, it's practically dessert.
Some of the main ingredients that make the sauce taste so great include tomato concentrate, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, tamarind, mustard seed, black pepper, and red pepper. It does have three types of sweeteners, including the unhealthy high fructose corn syrup.
Great Value Honey Barbecue Sauce
Some flavors of Great Value Barbecue Sauce tend to beat out competitors in blind taste tests even though it's Walmart's generic brand. So, if you're curious about trying one, you'll want to know that the Honey Barbecue flavor is the most unhealthy of the bunch.
It comes in on the healthier side of unhealthy on our list with 60 calories, 14 grams of carbs, and 12 grams of sugar. It's one of the sauces on our list with the lowest amount of sugar, but it's still the equivalent of eating a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios cereal. It's also still quite sodium-laden, with 340 milligrams per serving.
High fructose corn syrup is the first ingredient on the list for this sauce, so it's meant to be sweet. Oddly enough, honey only accounts for 2% of the sauce. Some of the other flavors you'll find in Great Value Honey Barbecue Sauce include tomato puree, mustard flour, onion, garlic, paprika, and other spices. It has potassium sorbate as a preservative, but it's not an ingredient to be concerned about.
Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Sweet Baby Ray's has put out a lot of flavors of barbecue sauce since 1985. As the name suggests, all of Sweet Baby Ray's sauces are sweet and contain a multitude of sweeteners and sugar content, including the original one. However, Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Chipotle Barbecue Sauce stands out as being the most unhealthy of the bunch for that brand.
A two-tablespoon serving is 80 calories. However, it has 330 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, and 17 grams of sugar. So, you can have your dessert and your barbecue, too.
We counted six types of sweeteners in this barbecue sauce, with unhealthy high fructose corn syrup as the first ingredient on the list. Honey represents less than 2% of the content even though it's honey chipotle flavor. Some other flavors that round out this sauce include tomato paste, chipotle peppers, pineapple juice concentrate, onions, garlic, mustard flour, celery seed, and tamarind.
Heinz BBQ Sauce Original Sweet & Thick
In 2016, Heinz released several regional barbecue sauces, including several sweet ones. However, it was Heinz Classic Sweet & Thick that was the most unhealthy of them all. So, this is another case where the original flavor isn't necessarily the healthiest choice. The "sweet" part of the name of this sauce should clue you in to its unhealthy side.
Heinz BBQ Sauce Original Sweet & Thick comes in at 70 calories. However, the 300 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbs, and 16 grams of sugar put it into unhealthy territory. It's still the equivalent of eating a very salty dessert with your favorite meat.
Even though the nutrition content is on the negative side, the ingredient list isn't that bad. Sure, cane sugar and black strap molasses are among the ingredients, but barbecue sauce wouldn't be barbecue sauce without sweeteners. Some of the other ingredients involved in the flavor profile include tomato paste, spices, tamarind, onion powder, and garlic powder.
Head Country Apple Habanero Bar-B-Q Sauce
When you read a fruit in the name of the Head Country Apple Habanero Bar-B-Q Sauce, it's easy to mistakenly think the apples make it healthier. However, it just drives up the sugar content and doesn't even give you any fiber because Head Country makes the sauce with apple juice rather than whole apples.
Head Country Apple Habanero Bar-B-Q Sauce has the distinction of having the second-highest amount of sugar of any of the sauces on our list. With 21 grams of sugar in this sauce, you might as well eat two Little Debbie Nutty Buddy wafer cookies. It's an 80-calorie-per-serving sauce that also serves up 21 grams of carbs and 220 milligrams of sodium.
We like that it doesn't have any high fructose corn syrup or artificial preservatives. However, it still uses five types of sweeteners if you count the apple juice. The rest of the flavor profile comes from ingredients like tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, mustard flour, onion powder, and habanero powder.
Jack Daniel's Honey BBQ Sauce
Jack Daniel's has been making whiskey in the U.S. since 1866 and has branched out to making barbecue sauce with its whiskey. Of its three varieties, its Honey BBQ Sauce is the least healthy.
Jack Daniel's Honey BBQ Sauce is only 70 calories per serving. However, it contains 210 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbs, and 16 grams of sugar. So, you can't judge the healthiness of a sauce by its calorie content.
We like that Jack Daniel's relies on cane sugar, honey, molasses, and pineapple juice concentrate for sweetening rather than high fructose corn syrup. However, the pineapple juice increases the sugar content. Some of the other flavors you'll find in this sauce are tamarind concentrate, yellow mustard, dried garlic, dried onion, and other spices. Of course, there's also Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey cooked into the sauce. While the sauce doesn't have enough alcohol to warrant a label warning, anyone who needs to avoid alcohol for health or religious purposes should know that some alcohol still remains behind after cooking.
Head Country Raspberry Chipotle Bar-B-Q Sauce
Head Country makes our list a third time with its Raspberry Chipotle Bar-B-Q Sauce. With two raspberry chipotle sauces on our list, we suggest that you look more closely at the labels for any other brands that introduce a raspberry chipotle sauce in the future since it tends toward the unhealthy side.
This one isn't nearly as unhealthy as the Blues Hog version and is lower in sodium (190 milligrams) than most of the sauces on our list. However, it still boasts 80 calories, 20 grams of carbs, and 19 grams of sugar. So, it makes up for not being extremely salty by having lots of sugar.
Raspberries aren't even on the ingredient list, but tomato puree, chipotle puree, Worcestershire sauce, mustard flour, chili peppers, onion powder, spices, and "natural flavors" are. While there are no artificial preservatives and no high fructose corn syrup contributing to the sugar content, it still has four types of sweeteners on the ingredient list.
Jim Beam Maple Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
Another whiskey-based barbecue sauce that made our list of unhealthy barbecue sauces is Jim Beam Maple Bourbon Barbecue Sauce. Don't let a natural sugar like maple fool you into thinking it's super healthy; it's still sugar.
Using a serving of Jim Beam Maple Bourbon Barbecue Sauce on your food adds 70 calories, 160 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbs, and 16 grams of sugar per serving to your meal. Thus, it's a fairly unhealthy sauce.
While you won't find any high fructose corn syrup or artificial preservatives in this sauce, it does have five sugar sources: sugar, pineapples, pineapple juice, maple syrup, and molasses. Some of the other ingredients that make this sauce unique include onions, lemon juice concentrate, garlic, soybeans, onion powder, and spices. Plus, it has Jim Beam bourbon cooked into the sauce. Like with the Jack Daniel's sauce, this bourbon-based sauce doesn't list its alcohol content, but know that cooking can't eliminate it all if you're concerned about alcohol content for health or other purposes.
Read the original article on Mashed.