I’m a big believer in going for the gold if you are going to do something at all. Since this is a heavily meat and bbq-centric low carb recipe blog, I’m going to combine all of the big hot-button topics that make BBQ fans and low carb dieters lose their minds: keto BBQ sauce, portion-controlled sugar, artificial sweeteners, and Splenda. Some people just want to watch the world burn.
I want to establish something right out of the gate. It’s basically impossible to create a sauce that anyone would want to eat in any proportion without a certain amount of sugar. Without it, what you have is not a keto BBQ sauce, but a really disgusting science experiment. My goal in this recipe is to keep it as low as possible, replacing added sugar with artificial sweeteners where it is viable.
In my way of thinking, a Texas BBQ sauce is really is one the heavily utilizes the “Goldilocks” principle. Not as sugary as a Kansas City sauce (we call that dessert) but not as vinegary as something you might find in the Carolinas (we call that salad dressing). It sits almost, but not exactly, in the middle. In fact, a lot of really lazy food writers just tell you to mix the two. I think we can do better than that and dial in the flavor better while contending with some of the issues that arise when formulating a relatively low-carb friendly version.
Another reason why I really wanted to lead off with Texas Keto BBQ sauce was that it provides me an occasion to talk about the use of artificial sweeteners in a low carb recipe that is not called “bulletproof coffee”.
Let’s be honest. Artificial sweeteners suck. Have you ever heard of children of inattentive parents eating packets of Splenda at restaurants? Nope. The goal is always to make them suck a little less by working them in to the background of whatever you are using them in.
A common strategy, and one we utilize here, is the blending of two or more sweeteners.
The idea here is that each artificial sweetener sucks in its own unique way, and by using several we combine their sweetening power but mute each’s respective aftertaste. This is a more common approach than you might think. Try looking at ingredients in common diet sodas that advertise themselves as “tasting more like sugar”.
Here, we combine the sucralose (generic Splenda) that Heinz so graciously packages with their reduced sugar ketchup with your choice of Swerve or generic erythritol.
The reason why I personally like Swerve has a lot to do with the fact that Swerve itself is a blended sweetener, being composed of erythritol and oligosaccharides. I simply find it the most palatable.
By all means, try to work with what you prefer and fits into your budget. If you’re interested in trying Swerve, I’ve included a link to the “confectioners” version of the product here (affiliate). For the purposes of this recipe, I prefer it to the granular version due to the quicker speed with which it dissolves into the bbq sauce.
All Texas-style BBQ sauces have some sort of “darkly sweet” element, usually brown sugar. Something that is not commonly known is that brown sugar itself is essentially a blend of white sugar and molasses. To adapt this to a low carb diet we retreat in the sugar department, but don’t surrender completely. We replace the sugar with sweetener and add in an amount of molasses that is proportional to what we would have found in the brown sugar had we used that. It’s just a drizzle. It adds a tiny bit of sugar, but we compromise because of the flavor it brings. You would miss it if it weren’t there.
My favorite use of this sauce is cooking or smoking it onto the meat itself. I am a bit in the “Dry BBQ” camp of home pitmasters, and I generally don’t like my ‘cue dripping with sauce. I personally feel like it is messy and gets in the way of the taste of the meat. Let me know how you eat your keto BBQ sauce covered ‘cue in the comments!
UPDATE: This recipe was modified to use my Keto Heinz-Style Ketchup recipe. Heinz’s reduced sugar ketchup still works in a 1:1 substitution, though!
Texas Keto BBQ Sauce
- 13 ounces Keto Heinz-Style Ketchup (Heinz reduced sugar ketchup also works.)
- 4 ounces water
- 4 ounces apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp Swerve (Confectioners-Style Version)
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 drizzle black molasses (Add to taste, but be gentle! This is sugar.)
Combine all ingredients over medium heat. Stir gently to combine and simmer to meld flavors, lowering the heat if necessary.
Swerve can take a little bit to dissolve and incorporate completely, so try tasting it at the end of the 30 minutes before you add more. If you don't mind an additional dirty dish and more mess, you can try grinding it into a fine powder before incorporating to help speed that along. If you'd rather not go through the additional trouble, you can buy the "confectioners" version of the sweetener that already comes in powder form from Amazon.com here (affiliate).