Nightshade-Free Cherry BBQ Sauce

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bbq sauce

With summer BBQ season in full swing, I thought I would share what I have been making as an addition to easily AIP-friendly grilled meats — nightshade-free BBQ sauce! While I was brainstorming about ways I could make a flavorful sauce without all nightshades, one of my friends told me about her mother’s recipe that mostly consisted of sautéed cherries blended into a paste. I made this for our party on the 4th, and it was devoured instantly (on smoked ribs from Beyond Bacon). Here in the photo, it is seen with a smoked whole chicken — divine! If for some reason you have any sauce leftover, thin it with a little olive oil and cider vinegar and you have cherry salad dressing!

4.9 from 17 reviews
Nightshade-Free Cherry BBQ Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 3 cups
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups pitted cherries, fresh or frozen, halved
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt
  1. Heat the coconut oil in a saucepan on medium heat. When it is ready, add the onion, and cook for 7-10 minutes or until browned.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring, until fragrant.
  3. Add the cherries, maple syrup, cider vinegar and smoked sea salt. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the mixture thickens considerably.
  4. Transfer to a blender and blend on high until thoroughly mixed.


About Mickey Trescott

Mickey Trescott is a co-founder here at Autoimmune Wellness and a co-teacher of AIP Certified Coach. After recovering from her own struggle with both Celiac and Hashimoto’s disease, adrenal fatigue, and multiple vitamin deficiencies, Mickey started to write about her experience to share with others and help them realize they are not alone in their struggles. She has a Master's degree in Human Nutrition and Functional Nutrition, and is the author of three best-selling books--The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, and The Nutrient-Dense Kitchen. You can watch her AIP cooking demos by following her on Instagram.


  • How funny, I’ve been working on a BBQ sauce that is based on strawberries! I’ve been trying to do it without honey but I think BBQ sauce needs that depth to balance the vinegar… dates only go so far. Looks good!

    • Mickey says

      Yum! That sounds amazing! I would love to try your version, when you get the recipe up.

      You are right, the honey or maple really adds the right BBQ flavor. 🙂


  • Nicole says

    This looks fantastic! Your postings are a life & sanity saver for me. Thank you! Is this recipe in your cookbook or is there a print-friendly version of it?

    • Mickey says

      Hi Nicole – this one isn’t in the book. You can easily copy/paste into a text editor to print, but I will think of that for future blog layout updates!

  • Erin says

    Oh, my word. What a fabulous idea! Cherries Seems so simple, I bet it is ten times tastier than tomato based barbecue sauce!!

  • Karen says

    You are a kitchen goddess!!! I’m on the AIP and getting really tired of plain, bland food. Salt, lemon and olive oil can only carry you so far, ya know? Gonna try this tonight, but may have to use less syrup because of candida. Thank you for all these amazing recipes. You help people much more than you know. 🙂

    • Mickey says

      Thanks Karen! Let me know how it is with less or no syrup. I imagine it will still taste delicious! 🙂

    • Carol says

      Karen did you try making it with less maple syrup? Or maybe something else? I am also suffering from candida and was wondering what I can do to keep the recipe integerty while avoiding sugar

      • Natalie says

        I am also! I am going to try substituting the maple syrup for date syrup. Date syrup is very easy and quick to make, and I’ve found it to be a great substitute in other recipes! Good luck!

  • Jenn B says

    I made this yummy BBQ sauce today. I used it on slow cooked, grass fed, Short Ribs. They turned out amazing! I loved the sweet and tanginess of the sauce. Thank you for this recipe. I am so grateful for your site, your sharing, your recipes and your recent include/avoid lists. I too have Hashi’s and have been blessed by your information. I also love your e-book! I had it printed because I like paper and being able to reference it in the kitchen. It has been a wonderful tool. Keep up the good work (and the healing!)

    • Mickey says

      I am happy it worked out for you, Jenn! This is one of my favorite recipes. I have really enjoyed grilling this season, anything as long as it is covered in this sauce 🙂

  • Darcie says

    This was such a yummy way to dress up leftovers tonight, thanks so much! Two thumbs up from my hubby who puts bottled bbq sauce on *everything* :-p I didn’t have smoked sea salt but did have a bottle of liquid smoke (no idea whether this is good or evil – ingred says “natural hickory smoke concentrate” whatever that is!), so I used 1 tsp of that. In any case, it tasted great and will have to stock up on cherries to make some more 🙂

    • Mickey says

      Thats awesome! I have also served it to non-AIPers and they loved it. I would say don’t use the liquid smoke all the time, but every once in awhile as a treat it should be fine. Also, if you have any bad reaction to it your body will tell you its a no. 🙂

  • Laura says I could hug you!!! I’ve been dying for some BBQ something or other and I think this will hit the spot.

    Thanks for all your great AIP recipes. Your blog has been crazy helpful for me.

    seriously. hugs.

  • Briana says

    This was soooo good! My mom likes it better than BBQ! Thank you! You’ve made this challenge feasible. Keep up the good work.

  • Alan says

    I made a version of this the other day an added some both broth before the reduction. It turned out really yummy.

  • JudiL says

    This was great!!!! Thank you so much for posting. It starts out being pink but darkens with cooking. I just blended it all up and put it in the slow cooker with a brisket and it was just fabulous.

  • Brandilynn says

    I make up big ol batches of this (sans maple syrup) and flavor them italian, Mexican, and leave plain and use them for everything! pizza topping, “spaghetti” sauce, ketchupness!!

    Thanks MIckey!! Whooot! So delicious!

  • […] from an original recipe by Mickey Trescott. I am sharing with her permission. See the original Nightshade-Free Cherry BBQ Sauce […]

    • Kaitlyn says

      Once made, how long does this keep for in the fridge as well as in the freezer??

      • Mickey Trescott says

        Hi Kaitlyn! About a week in the fridge and a few months in the freezer.

  • Emily says

    I just pinned so many of your recipes to try- excited to enjoy some new spins on the norm! My husband once made some BBQ sauce with cherries as the base- so cool to see others using the same technique! Thanks for all the pretty photos and tasty recipes 🙂

  • christa says

    Pinned it! Can’t wait to try! Love BBQ! 🙂

  • Carly says

    This was absolutely delicious Mickey! Didn’t have smoked salt, so I substituted Celtic and it worked just fine. I loved it even without the smoky flavor. Thanks so much for all you do!

  • Virginia says

    Thank you! I just made this and paired it with some crispy/tender pulled pork flavored with Herbs de Provence. Unbelievable combination!

  • Elizabeth says

    This sounds great. I love cherries. Can this be made ahead or frozen for later use? Also, my mom is allergic to garlic. Any ideas for substitutions? Thank you.

    • Mickey says

      Yes, it freezes well. I would suggest leaving out the garlic, it won’t have that bite but it should still taste good!


  • Risa says

    I am sensitive to vinegar. Do you have any suggestions for a substitute? Thank you!

  • Adriane says

    I made this barbeque sauce for myself along with a non AIP barbeque sauce for everyone else for my sister’s BARBEQUE birthday dinner. My sister and her boyfriend raved about your sauce over the other one. And the other one is made from scratch and quite delicious if i might say….VERDICT: total success, delicious delicious success!! Thank you for such a tasty alternative:)

  • Joanne says

    Wow, this sounds great! I didn’t know I could use Maple syrup on this plan & was bummed, because I just ordered several free range pork spareribs & the sauce I was making before had maple syrup plus un-allowed spices [it had maple syrup, cumin, smoked paprika, chillie powder, chipotle powder, garlic salt, apple wood smoked salt, and pepper – for those of you who have been able to add back some nightshades.] I liked it a lot [and my son was eating my kind of ribs instead of his dads, with sweet baby rays bbq sauce.]
    Your recipe gives me hope of enjoying my ribs, I think it would be good with cranberries also – so it depends which I can get a hold of firs., I like cherries, but have never cooked with them other than pies [I also have to limit the maple syrup, because of candida, but I was getting away with occasional use before, so hopefully it will work fine for me here as well.] Thank You again for great recipes & ideas!

    • Mickey says

      Joanne, yes limited natural sweeteners like maple syrup and honey are OK on occasion. I hope you get to enjoy ribs with this recipe–it is a good one!

  • Pamela says

    I am wondering if you think this bbq sauce would work well on chicken wings?

  • Kristy says

    Mickey, You are kidding me with this amazing sauce!!!!!! Oh my word!!! I made it tonight to serve with dinner tomorrow. I couldn’t find the frozen cherries, so I bought fresh ones and pitted those tricky things by hand without using my teeth. Ha ha ha! This is incredible, and it does not even taste like a substitute!!! It is my new BBQ sauce, my new ketchup, my new everything tangy. I used smoked Danish Sea salt I had in the pantry and followed your recipe exactly. This will be amazing with meatballs, meatloaf, add some celery and carrots for sloppy joes with no bun for me. I can’t wait to think of more things to use this on. Next time I’m going to make a big batch and freeze it in small quantities. It would be cool to see if I could “can” this too.

    • Kristy says

      Thank you so much for testing and posting!

    • Mickey says

      I am so happy you like it! Let me know how the canning goes 🙂


  • I just made this a few days ago and have enjoyed it on roast pork belly and hickory smoked ribs. Utterly fabulous. Everyone I tell is amazed that it is made with cherries! I feel like I can take over the bbq pit this summer with recipes like this!

    • Mickey says

      Thanks for the feedback! I’m actually smoking ribs for the 4th and will be making it as well. I’m so happy you enjoyed it 🙂


  • […] Cherry Barbecue Sauce from Autoimmune Paleo […]

  • heidi says

    On the list of foods to avoid, there is the ground cherry – what is the difference of that and the cherries used in this recipe? I have never heard of a “ground cherry”.

    Looks delicious!

    • Mickey says

      Hi Heidi,
      Ground cherries are in the nightshade family of vegetables (which are to be avoided), while regular cherries are just fine for those on AIP. You can tell ground cherries from cherries because they have an outer husk (kind of like tomatillos). Hope it helps!


  • Janet Jackson says

    Maybe you answered this question (I didn’t read all the comments), but are you using dark sweet cherries or sour “pie” cherries?

  • Deb says

    I have made this sauce several times now and want to thank you for the recipe! I find it very forgiving and have used combinations of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries and all work out to be just as delicious.
    The smoked salt is key I think and easy to find at Whole Foods. I’ve also subbed in honey for the maple syrup and I use shallots instead of the onion. All work perfectly. Thanks again!

  • Joey says

    This Texas girl thanks you soooooooo much! BBQ sauce and ranch dressing are staples around here. Where does one buy smoked sea salt?

    • Mickey says

      I am so happy you like it! I buy smoked sea salt at Whole Foods, but I believe you can also find it on Amazon. Good luck!


  • The recipe gets 5/5 stars! I have been looking for a tasty nightshade free BBQ sauce recipe for some time 🙂
    Do you think the maple syrup could be substituted with honey?


    • Mickey says

      I am happy you like it! Yes, you can use honey but it will change the flavor a little bit. I have also made it with no sweetener (besides the cherries) and it was divine!


  • Jenny says

    What would this taste like with sour cherries instead of sweet?? Would it be any good do you think?

    • Mickey says

      I bet it would, just make sure to taste test to see if you need to add more maple syrup! Let me know how it goes!


  • Stephanie says

    Thank you so much for this recipe! BBQ foods have been my favorite since I can remember. Even before I started on AIP ( about two weeks ago), I noticed a sensitivity to nightshades so I cut them out several months ago. I thought I’d never get to have the foods I love the most. I made this today and have enjoyed it on meatballs and on ribs. I did make a couple of adjustments to the recipe to make it taste more like the sauce I’m used to. I added another 1/2 tsp. of the smoked salt and 1 tsp. of coconut aminos while the sauce was in the blender. The coconut aminos seemed to cut the sweetness just slightly and add another layer of depth to the flavor. I think the amount of apple cider vinegar in this recipe is perfect. It gives just the right amount of tang without overwhelming the other flavors. For someone fighting an autoimmune disease (or three, in my case), even something that seems so small can make a huge difference. Thanks again for sharing this.

    • Mickey says

      Thanks for sharing your additions! I’m happy you liked it 🙂


  • This was so delicious! I didn’t have smoked sea salt on hand so I just used regular salt and it was great. I also subbed canned cherries because I had that on hand. I didn’t miss any of the chili powder or spices I thought were essential to a good barbecue sauce. I love the simplicity of this sauce. I used it on spare ribs in the pressure cooker.

  • Cherylie says

    Finally! BBQ sauce with no added sugars! And I get to use the fancy smoked salt in the cupboard.

    Thank you for posting this recipe!

  • […] stuff was dank! (pretty sure that’s not a cool word anymore but whatever). I decided on the Nightshade-Free Cherry BBQ Sauce from the new Autoimmune Protocol Website with Mickey and Angie. As you can probably already guess […]

  • […] Cherry BBQ Sauce – Autoimmune Paleo  […]

  • […] the sauce, you can make this cherry based BBQ sauce for the whole family. I found it however, that it tends to cost more and my husband likes his […]

  • […] Nightshade-Free Cherry BBQ Sauce – Autoimmune Paleo […]

  • […] Add whatever AIP friendly or paleo sauce you like. I enjoy using garlic and olive oil, AIP pesto, The Primitive Homemaker’s No-Mato Sauce, and Autoimmune-Paleo’s Cherry BBQ Sauce.  […]

  • Geoff says

    Just made this for dinner on day 5 of our AIP diet. It is fantastic! Doesn’t taste a ton like bbq sauce, but very good all the same. Thank you for the recipe!

  • […] maybe the extreme heat that hot peppers bring to the table!). This recipe is based on my popular Nightshade-Free Cherry BBQ Sauce, but instead of cherries, I use apricots as well as some different herbs and spices to give it a […]

  • Brenda says

    Thanks for this recipe! The use of cherries intrigued me, so I had to make it, and wow! It’s delicious and can compete with regular barbecue sauce. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on bbq food with this delicious sauce and can’t wait to use it tomorrow.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      So happy you liked it! Cheers 🙂

  • […] cherry season, when they cost a little less. Then I freeze it for use in grilling all summer long. Here is the link for the recipe.    I have the cookbook a good option if you or someone you know is trying to moderate […]

  • […]  If you’re looking for some BBQ sauce that is approved on TMW, check out this great recipe for Nightshade-Free Cherry BBQ Sauce from Mickey […]

  • […] Spatchcock Barbecue Chicken – Raising Generation Nourished (for AIP, use AIP-friendly barbecue sauce) […]

  • CarolS says

    Made this cherry bbq sauce last week for some pork….have been looking for reasons to use it since…almost gone now, must make more! So good! Huge winner!!!

  • Julie jocksch says

    I’ve been on Aip for about 3 weeks now. I’m seriously missing dips, sauces and dressings. I’m sensitive to garlic which I’ve noticed is in most of the sauces and dips. Also sensitive to avocados… So depressing! Any ideas or recipes that would give my foods some moisture?

  • […] my favorite all-time pizzas. Take the toppings of that pizza – chicken, cilantro, red onion, and BBQ sauce – and combine them into meatballs! These would be great grilled, but I don’t have a grill, […]

  • andria says

    That was delicious! I cooked the recipe with the meatballs and put the sauce on the top we absolutely loved it!!!!goes as salad dressing as well!!PLUS IT TASTES AS BBQ!!!!!!Amazing recipe thank you!

  • Andrew says

    This might sound crazy, but this BBQ sauce is an incredible sore throat remedy. It works much better than the cough drops I’ve been taking!

    I’ve been fighting a sore throat, but my wife made chicken with this sauce tonight and my pain was completely gone while eating (it did come back later), but still it works great!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      I’m not surprised, since one of the properties of cherry is pain relief. Hope you are feeling better!

  • […] to use, find one without sugar or corn syrup.  Better yet, make your own, which is what we do! This is our favorite. Delicious, whether you eat paleo or not.  It’s from Mickey Trescott’s book and website, which […]

  • Anita says

    Hi Mickey,

    Reading the comments I see that some people are asking about sour cherries. I just made my 2nd batch with sour cherries from my garden on the Canadian prairies. I also made a batch with black gooseberries from my garden, I added some ground sage. I love knowing it is safe to eat , from my garden(even the onions) and especially so yummy. I am not even a big Barbecue sauce fan, but this is great. I am going to try the gooseberry sauce on our Muscovy ducks when we butcher some this fall.
    Thanks fr the recipe.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Thank you for sharing, how lovely! We also raise Muscovies here on the farm, they are fantastic!

  • Sherrie Au says

    I want to make short ribs with this s. Do you cook the short ribs first and then out the sauce on, or do you braise the ribs in the sauce? Thank You!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Sherrie! I’d braise the ribs first and then serve with the sauce 🙂

  • […] patties up anywhere you’d normally see hashbrowns (topped with your favorite AIP ketchup or BBQ sauce) or even places you wouldn’t! With its mild flavor and fun little strings, spaghetti squash […]

  • Alicia c says

    Can’t find smoke sea salt. Can I use liquid smoke or something else? I want to remain aip.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Alicia!
      You can use liquid smoke as long as there are no non-AIP ingredients – unfortunately I don’t have a brand or quantity since I’ve never used it before. Have you tried Amazon for the smoked sea salt?

  • Roz says

    what is a good AIP substitute for Apple Cider Vinegar?

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Roz, you can try using lemon juice!

  • Helen says

    I just wanted to compliment your sauce! I made it last week for the brisket and pulled pork that my husband was making. He does not eat my diet all the time even though I’m the main cook, but this time, he did. When I brought out the sauce, he gave it the look he gives any new AIP recipes I try, with a raised eyebrow. But, after trying it, he admitted that it was good. It complimented both the pork and the brisket well. It is a bit tart and smokey tasting all at once. It’s not nearly as sweet as we feared it might be. The only change I made was that I used lard instead of coconut oil. Even though it does not taste like a typical bbq sauce that one might expect, I think that anyone could enjoy this with bbq. Nice work!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      So happy you both enjoyed it! I’ve found a lot of non-AIP folks enjoy this one 🙂

  • Helen says

    This sauce turned out great! Even though it doesn’t taste exactly like a traditional bbq sauce, it does taste like it was made to pair with bbq. It pairs very well with brisket and pulled pork. Even my husband liked it, and he doesn’t always eat the AIP recipes I make. I made one change. I used bacon fat instead of the coconut oil.

    • Helen says

      Hahaha. I was trying again to post my compliments to your sauce because I thought the first one did not come through, but I can see now that the first one just hasn’t been moderated.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Delicious sub Helen!

  • Dawn says

    For the cherry BBQ sauce, what type of cherries do you use? Here in cherry country we have the dark red sweet cherries and the lighter red, sour “pie cherries ” . Which ones do you recommend?

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Both work well, and it really depends what type of flavor you are going for, sweet vs. slightly tangy!

  • Alicia says

    I loved the BBQ and so did my fam! I have half a mason jar left, how long will it keep in the fridge!?

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Alicia! It should last for about a week in the fridge, or you could freeze it!

  • Genna says

    Hi Mickey, I have made and been enjoying this sauce. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    My husband and I also happened to make a pineapple rib sauce the other day based off this recipe. I was getting pineapple out of the fridge for a snack, turned around or a second and it was in the blender. My husband complimented me on my suggested ingredient while I stood around wondering where the pineapple went. It turned out well. We used balsamic vinegar, honey, garlic and powdered onion.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Fantastic, great to hear! I will have to try that soon 🙂

  • Thomas Vincent says

    Trying to find out if pickles are ok on the AIP diet.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Thomas, as long as the ingredients that went into them are compliant!

  • Michele says

    Is this a sauce that you can cook meat in? Like, could I use it in my instant pot and cook ribs in it? Or is it strictly to be used after meat has already been cooked? Thank you.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Yes, you can cook meat in this sauce! I think it would work fantastically in the Instant Pot.

  • […] AIP cherry bbq sauce […]

  • […] Aip cherry bbq sauce […]

  • I love BBQ but have not been able to find a BBQ sauce that does not contain tomatoes. I found a ready made sauce using cherry that I could purchase on Amazon but the price was too much. So I searched for and found this recipe. I followed the recipe and tasted it but it didn’t taste much like BBQ sauce but I still added it to browned pork ribs before putting them into the oven to finish cooking. I browned the ribs in my dutch oven then put the pot into the oven at 300 degrees for one hour. WOW!! That oven baking made a big difference in the taste!!! They were WONDERFUL!! This is my new BBQ sauce staple. Thanks!!!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      I’m so happy it worked out for you Kellie!

  • Sarah Geary says

    Mickey! You saved my summer!! We are all about the BBQ in North Carolina, but I’ve been struggling to make it work without nightshades. This is delicious, and even my husband doesn’t mind the difference. My 10 month old gobbles up anything with this on it! Thank you!

  • Georgie says

    Hi there from Australia! I am new to AIP, but really excited to start my journey, I have hashimotos, bloods come back “normal” although I have been symptomatic on and off for the past 2 years, becoming more chronic the past few months. It was great to stumble across this great protocol. My question is around drinks, I ditched the coffee about a year ago, however still drink a couple of cups of green tea a day along with lots of different herbal teas. Should I be having green tea and are there any particular herbal teas I should be avoiding on the protocol? Many thanks, Georgie xx

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Georgie! Welcome. Green tea is OK in moderation, although it can be immune-stimulating for some people so you will want to pay attention. You want to avoid any herbal teas that can rev up the immune system, like licorice. Hope it helps!

  • Ann says

    I’ve also made with home-grown canned carrots, very good too!

  • Stephanie says

    Is there a substitute for coconut oil in this recipe? I am eager to try this recipe, but I have trouble tolerating coconut oil. Thanks!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Stephanie – you can use any other solid cooking fat, like duck fat, lard, or tallow here!

  • Tyler says

    How long can you store the barbecue sauce?

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Tyler! You can store it in the fridge for about a week or freeze for a few months.

  • Cat says

    Due to allergies, I can’t have the onion or garlic. I was thinking of using galangal for the garlic, but what can I use for subbing the onion?

  • Sara H says


    I needed this for the brisket recipe but didnt have any cherries. I had frozen cranberries so substituted that plus a few frozen mango chunks to soften the tang a bit.

    It is so dang yummy, I can’t stop sampling it!

    Once I get some cherries, I will make again. Next time, larger batch to freeze & have ready for use.

    Thanks for sharing both recipes.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Ooh! Thanks for sharing that sub, Sara!

  • angela says

    I love this sauce so much – I continued making it after I was eating AIP last time, it’s such a lifesaver for otherwise homogenous flavors while on AIP – thank you!

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