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Healthy Vanilla Bean Recipes: Vanilla Barbecue Sauce

Kindi Lantz September 20, 2018

Healthy Vanilla Bean Recipe Series

Post 2: Vanilla Bean and Dark Rum Barbecue Sauce with Cherry-smoked Baby Back Ribs

Healthy vanilla bean recipes can be hard to come by. That’s why we set out to create them for you. You see, like most people, we love the sweet aroma and the unmatchable taste of vanilla beans but we realize that vanilla beans mostly show up in recipes high in sugar and calories. Let’s not limit such an incredible ingredient! Vanilla beans are capable of enhancing dishes with or without those unhealthy additions!

Last week, we developed a healthy vanilla bean dessert recipe, vegan mango ice cream with Tahitian vanilla beans. This week, we continue to feature our incredibly plump and incomparably aromatic gourmet vanilla beans from Tahiti. We used them to develop a recipe for a barbecue sauce that will arouse your taste buds and inspire you to get the grill out year-round!

This vanilla bean and dark rum barbecue sauce is perfect for smoked ribs, especially when using a sweet, hard fruitwood like cherry or apple. Enjoy!

Vanilla Bean and Dark Rum Barbecue Sauce

*Note: The barbecue sauce should be refrigerated for one day prior to use to ensure the flavors have fully melded together.


  • ½ large yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • ¼ cup and 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided
  • vanilla beans 
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 ⅓ cup dark rum
  • 1 tablespoon minced, fresh garlic
  • ½ teaspoon fresh, minced ginger
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon fresh-ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mustard seed
  • ¼ cup maple syrup


  1. Chop your onion in thin, ¼ inch pieces and place it in a medium saucepan.
  2. Sprinkle the onion with the garlic salt and pour the water into the pan. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook until the onions are translucent.
  3. Remove the vanilla caviar (seeds from the vanilla bean) and stir it in with the onions. Try this method that can only be used with Tahitian vanilla beans. 
  4. Add the tomato paste, coconut aminos, 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and dark rum and bring down to a simmer.
  5. Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
  6. Stir in the ginger, sea salt, chili powder, onion powder, cardamom, cinnamon,  vinegar, and mustard seed and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  7. Pull the mixture of the burner and add the maple syrup.
  8. Use an immersion blender to reach the consistency of a thick puree.
  9. Let cool and pour the vanilla bean and dark rum barbecue sauce into a jar.
  10. When the mixture has cooled completely, put the lid on the jar and place the sauce in the refrigerator.  

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve over or alongside your favorite smoked or grilled dishes! This sauce pairs especially well with pork and poultry!


  1. Brine the ribs in a mixture of ¼ cup sea salt, 2 tablespoons onion powder, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 2 tablespoons sugar (optional), and 4 cups water. Let it sit for at least 3 hours.
  2. Fill your steam pan halfway with water and add cherry wood chips to your smoker. Bring the temperature up to 275℉ prior to adding your ribs.
  3. Drain the brine and pat the ribs dry.
  4. Coat your ribs with olive oil and place them on the grill rack.
  5. After 20 minutes, turn the temperature down to 225℉ and cook the ribs for 3 hours.
  6. Generously coat the ribs in the vanilla bean and dark rum barbecue sauce, using a basting brush and return to smoke for another 30 minutes.
  7. Add another layer of the barbecue sauce and smoke for an additional 30 minutes.
  8. Pull the ribs from the smoker and serve them alongside your favorite sides. Consider a Caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes, wilted spinach with fingerling potatoes and melted bleu cheese, and/or garlic and white wine poached mushrooms.

This is another recipe developed for our healthy vanilla bean recipes series. What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate vanilla into healthy recipes?