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10 Plant-Based Ways to Cook with Barbecue Sauce

Who says barbecue sauce is only for grilling (or meat, for that matter)? There are so many other great ways to use the spicy, tangy condiment that it’s a shame not to dip into its flavoring possibilities more often. To give you an idea of the seasoning power of a basic barbecue sauce (try Del Sroufe’s easy recipe), we’ve put together this list of ideas. They’re all quick, easy ways to rock your meals with incredible barbecue flavor—without even firing up the grill.

1. Baked Beans: Simmer 3 cups cooked great northern, cannellini, or pinto beans (two 15-ounce cans) with 1 cup barbecue sauce for 5 to 10 minutes to meld the flavors. For spicier flavor, try one or more of these add-ins: 1 teaspoon mustard, ½ teaspoon vinegar, ½ teaspoon chili powder, pinch of cayenne, few drops of hot sauce.

2. Pulled Jackfruit: Drain and rinse canned jackfruit in brine (from a 20-ounce can). Coarsely chop jackfruit, transfer it to a medium saucepan, and stir in ½ cup barbecue sauce and ½ cup water. Simmer over medium-low heat 10 to 15 minutes, or until sauce has thickened and jackfruit is tender. Serve on whole grain buns or in whole-wheat tortillas.

3. Baked Tofu: Brush slices of firm tofu with barbecue sauce, spread the tofu on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 350°F or until firm and beginning to crisp around the edges. Enjoy on sandwiches and in salads.

4. Roasted Squash: Brush slices of winter or summer squash with barbecue sauce and roast on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 20 to 30 minutes at 400°F, or until browned and tender. Serve as a light main dish with whole grains or as a hearty side dish.

5. Whole Cauliflower: Steam or boil a whole cauliflower head for 15 minutes, or until just tender. Brush with barbecue sauce and roast in a 450°F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Slice and serve as a main or side dish.

6. Caramelized Onions: Toss 4 cups sliced onions with ½ to 1 cup barbecue sauce and cook 10 to 15 minutes over medium-low heat or until browned and softened. Use as a garnish for sandwiches, baked potatoes, and Buddha bowls, or as a pizza topping.

7. Crispy Chickpeas: Toss 1½ cups (1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed) chickpeas with 3 tablespoons BBQ sauce and roast on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 30 to 45 minutes at 350°F, or until the chickpeas are browned and crispy. Serve as a snack or sprinkle over soups and salads.

8. Smoky Salad Dressing: Whisk 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons water into ¼ cup barbecue sauce for a salad dressing.

9. Spicy Slaw: Use barbecue sauce in place of traditional creamy dressing when making coleslaw.

10. Quick Pickles: Stir together ¼ cup barbecue sauce, ¼ cup vinegar, and ½ cup water in a lidded container. Add your choice of raw vegetables (cauliflower, green beans, bell peppers, and broccoli work well). Refrigerate 1 hour or overnight. Drain and serve.

And for instant barbecue flavor, you can also try adding a spoonful or two of barbecue sauce to a cup of soup, a baked potato, a container of hummus (or another dip), a bowl of guacamole, or a serving of whole grains—or use as a pasta sauce or a veggie burger topping.

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about the author

Mary Margaret Chappell

When Mary Margaret Chappell first started out in the plant-based food world as a writer, editor, and recipe developer, she was a bacon-loving former pastry chef who didn’t think she could ever cook without butter. Fourteen years, four cookbooks, dozens of cooking classes, and hundreds of recipes later, her favorite thing in the world is sharing the tips, techniques, and recipes that show just how easy and delicious whole-food, plant-based cooking can be. The former food editor of Vegetarian Times magazine has done away with her dependency on butter and is honing her skills at baking with natural sweeteners. 

Mary Margaret lives in France, where plant-based eating can often be a challenge, but the fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes available are simply amazing.

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