Best BBQ Sauces to Buy

Nothing beats that summer taste of sweet, smoky ribs or barbecued chicken. But many barbecue sauces are loaded to the max with added sugars. Here’s how to find the best BBQ sauce at the store that’s tasty without going overboard on the sweet stuff.

Must read: A Dozen Ways to Use a Bottle of BBQ Sauce

A completely unsweetened barbecue sauce won’t taste right—you need some sugar to balance the tang. But when we surveyed 50 different sauces, nearly half had some form of sugar as their first ingredient and delivered as many as 16 grams of sugar per serving. Look for ones that list tomato or vinegar as its first ingredient. And skip sweeteners like corn syrup or sugar that only add sweetness, without flavor. Instead go for those that add great taste too like maple syrup, honey or brown sugar.

But just because sugar isn’t first on the list doesn’t mean you’re totally in the clear. Ingredients are ordered by how much is used, so sometimes food manufacturers keep sugar out of the top spot by using smaller quantities of multiple sweeteners, so remember to check the total sugar on the Nutrition Facts.

As you scan the ingredients, you might also notice some odd-sounding additives, but don’t fret, most are pretty benign—thickeners (including xanthan gum and guar gum) and potassium sorbate (a preservative). Others like caramel color may be more questionable, but they’re used in such small quantities that they shouldn’t impact health.

Our Picks

We tasted BBQ sauces from 4 different flavor categories. These stood out as the best for both taste and nutrition.

Original: Stubb’s Original

Sweet: Annie’s Smoky Maple

Vinegary: Guy Fieri Carolina #6

Spicy: Dinosaur Wango Tango

Most Unique: The Shed Spicy Mustard

Numbers to Look For

Serving Size: 2 Tbsp.
Amount Per Serving
Sugar ≤ 8g
Sodium ≤ 250mg

TAGS: Julia Westbrook,


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