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What’s bbq sauce made out of?

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

We at Key to the Mountain believe a base BBQ sauce recipe should be:

tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar, spices, salt.

You can make a simple, wholesome BBQ sauce by mixing a pound of tomato sauce, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup brown sugar (or to taste), 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp dried chili of your choice and salt/pepper to taste.

Key to the Mountain's BBQ sauce recipe is a little more involved. We start by browning fresh onions and garlic in butter and oil. When they are tender and caramelized, we add wild huckleberries, our house made tomato sauce from fresh, Montana grown tomatoes, house made apple cider vinegar from organic, Montana sourced crisp apples, house made Worcestershire sauce, flavored with only natural spices, organic brown sugar, organic spices and real peppers. And that's it. No fillers. No weird preservatives. Just a wholesome BBQ sauce like you'd make at home.

Unfortunately other BBQ sauces are often not made from food. Here is a mash up of typical ingredients from store bought bbq sauces.

Sugar comes in many forms: high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, sugar, molasses, corn syrup, barley malt, dextrose, glucose, maltodextrin, honey etc. I question sugar when it is the first ingredient, (and maybe also the 6th, 10th, 11th as well) because it is no longer being used for adding a sweet flavor. Its purpose becomes a way to stretch the product. At some point the sugar is not adding any sweetness or flavor to the BBQ sauce, it’s just increasing the volume and thickening it, and even diluting the other ingredients-hence the need for artificial flavors in my opinion.

Vinegar is also a delicious food, used to safely preserve shelf stable products, and adds great tangy flavor.

Tomato paste

Smoke flavor, spices, and natural flavor I always ask, why is food being flavored with "natural flavor"? Doesn't food already have flavor?

Caramel color creates a darker color, mimicking the color if molasses was added.

Thickeners such as starch, guar gum, gelatin, and carrageenan are added to mimic the texture of browned onions and/or fruit.

Preservatives such as sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate and other long chemical names, increase the shelf life of a product by killing potential microbes once opened. Personally I question these because vinegar is a natural preservative. Also holistically speaking if preservatives are killing bacteria, do you really want those in your digestive tract that thrives on healthy bacteria?

I recommend making your own BBQ sauce or purchasing BBQ sauce you trust.

At Key to the Mountain, we value BBQ sauce in the homemade style combined with the convenience of opening a jar. Take a look at our ingredients, and you will see that our sauces are made with real foods such as tomato sauce, fruit, and spices. We caramelize the onions and garlic and this naturally thickens our sauce. We add just enough sugar and vinegar to flavor the sauce and let the other flavors shine. We even make our own Worcestershire sauce from scratch!

This is truly a “naturally flavored” recipe, meaning flavored with food, not chemicals. The color of our bbq sauces are completely natural and unaltered. We are proud to show them off!

Try our huckleberry chipotle BBQ sauce on chicken, and our huckleberry habanero BBQ sauce on ribs. The wild huckleberries make these BBQ sauces pair fantastically with wild game! Happy Barbequing!

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