Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce
“Home grown tomatoes, 
Home grown tomatoes,
What would life be like without homegrown tomatoes?
Only two things that money can’t buy,
That’s true love and home grown tomatoes.”

~~from the song, Home Grown Tomatoes by Guy Clark.

Like it or not, life without tomatoes is a reality for many of us for a number of reasons. First, allergies to tomatoes and other members of the nightshade family are quite common. Second, Dr. Richard Bernstein says tomatoes are too high in glucose for those with diabetes and anyone following the protocol outlined in his book, “The Diabetes Solution,” must eliminate them. And third, those who are on ketogenic diets may just want a replacement that is lower in carbs.

Think of all the foods we eat everyday that are based on tomatoes (spaghetti, lasagna, barbecue, ketchup, chili, pizza, salsa…) and you will appreciate the scope of the challenge. I’m tackling it one sauce at a time and this unconventional, tomato-free Barbecue Sauce is the first to get a makeover.

Use like regular barbecue sauce for basting ribs, chicken, or meatloaf, as a dipping sauce for meatballs, or stir into pulled pork.

½ onion, finely chopped (about 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons cooking fat, bacon fat preferred
2 garlic cloves (¼ ounce), peeled and chopped
2 cups Basic Rhubarb Sauce, recipe follows
½ cup cider vinegar
1 anchovy fillet, mashed, or 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons liquid smoke, hickory or mesquite flavored
1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco, or increase black pepper if avoiding nightshades
1 teaspoon coconut aminos or ½ teaspoon gravy flavoring (like Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master)
Sugar substitute equal to 2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons pomegranate molasses* or black strap molasses, optional
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, more if not using hot sauce

Sauté onion in bacon fat. Add the chopped garlic and sauté a little longer. Mix in other ingredients and simmer, uncovered, on low heat for 30 minutes. Purée in a food processor in batches if you prefer a smooth sauce. Refrigerate until needed.

Makes about 3 cups or 24 servings of 2 tablespoons each.
Per serving—Total Carbohydrate: 1.3g; Protein: 0.3g; Fiber: 0.4g; Fat: 11g; Calories: 17; Net Carbohydrate: 1g
Optional ingredients are not included in nutrition count. Pomegranate molasses will add 0.37g carbs per serving of 2 tablespoons. 

The rhubarb that grows best here in the Northwest is not red. It is pale green blushed with rosy pink–quite beautiful as it is, but it makes a greenish-gray sauce. I happened to be cooking red beets when I made the sauce shown in the picture above so I tossed in a few of the stems and peelings, about the amount from one small beet. Bingo! I fished out the pieces before blending the sauce, but the taste is quite nice so you could leave them in, but they would add a few carbs. If you use the iridescent, candy-apple-red rhubarb sold in most stores, you may not need to add anything for color.

This recipe makes more than you need for the Barbecue Sauce. You can also serve it as a condiment (it’s especially nice with salmon), like applesauce, or as a dessert topping (with more sweetener).

3 pound fresh or frozen rhubarb stalks, sliced into ½ inch lengths
Sugar substitute equal to 2 tablespoons sugar (to taste or up to 1/2 cup for dessert sauce)
½ cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
A pinch of salt
Beet skins or stems for color if needed, optional

Place rhubarb in a large saucepan.Add water, lemon juice, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and cook for about 20 minutes or until cooked down and very soft, stirring occasionally.

Puree in a food processor or blender or use a stick blender if you prefer a smooth sauce.

Use in place of tomato sauce in my recipe for Barbecue Sauce Reinvented. (More tomato-free recipes will be forthcoming for those who are allergic to nightshades and those who follow Dr. Richard Bernstein’s protocol outlined in The Diabetes Solution.

Pomegranate molasses is a thick, zesty condiment used in Middle Eastern cuisines. It is not very sweet, but adds a lot of punch to the sauce. It can be found with the ethnic foods in some groceries, online, and in specialty stores. 1½ teaspoons will add a total of 9 grams of carbs to the whole recipe. You can omit it or use black strap molasses instead.

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(c) 2015, Judy Barnes Baker

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Judy Barnes Baker

The working title for my first book was, “You’ll Never Know What You Are Missing.” It summed up my goal: to make eating for health synonymous with eating for pleasure. Once you discover the secret, you will find that the very best food for weight management, longevity, the treatment and prevention of disease, and over-all health and happiness is also the most sumptuous, satisfying, and indulgent way of eating the world has to offer. You are invited to the feast. Enjoy!
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Judy Barnes Baker
8 years ago

Anonymous: I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner! It seems so obvious now. It can be used in a lot of other recipes to replace high carb ingredients too. I've just scratched the surface.

Thanks for the comment!

8 years ago

Dear Judy: This is timely; I've banned tomatoes and sometimes want to make a bbq sauce but couldn't seem to find a base ingredient that might work. I have rhubarb but never thought of it. Thanks for this tip, it may solve my barbeque problem.