Kevin's Paleo Original BBQ Sauce
Kevin's Paleo Original BBQ Sauce
$6.99 for 9.5oz at Kevin's Natural Foods
Water, Coconut Nectar, Tomato Paste, Apple Cider Vinegar, Balsamic Vinegar, Sea Salt, Smoked Granulated Onion, Tamarind Puree, Smoked Paprika, Yeast Extract, Mustard, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Spices, Turmeric, Black Pepper, Monkfruit Extract, Stevia Leaf Extract
Kevin McCray's journey to starting his Natural Foods brand was born out of necessity after developing an auto-immune disorder in his twenties that sent his health into a nose dive, finding himself in and out of hospitals for five years. It wasn't until he adopted a paleo diet, cutting out refined sugars, that he was back on track to good health. Knowing that the paleo diet was in his future to stay, Kevin began focusing on making what he was eating taste better after finding many paleo recipes and dishes lacking in the flavor department. In doing this, he noticed a gap in a paleo market that was concentrated on snacks and desserts, but was missing out on important main dish proteins. This led him to create Kevin's Natural Foods in 2019 to fill that hole, creating meats and other mains that are quick to prepare for the consumer and, most importantly, centered good flavor and healthy eating. The brand found quick success and Kevin's Natural Foods products can already be found in grocery stores throughout most of the United States with a deep bench that includes offerings like seasonings, sauces, and sides on top of the main dishes that started things out.
A strong tang that has a bright and fruity tomato base fills the nostrils on first whiff of this sauce. While those familiar barbecue traits are primary, there's a deep complexity and savory quality that makes the aroma unique because it doesn't have the standard Worcestershire or molasses components to it. Instead, there's tamarind doing a fair amount of the work with the slack being picked up by a host of spices, of which onion and peppers pop the most, with the later likely responsible for earthy and smoky undertones that are also present. Although we know from the paleo label that there are no refined sugars in the sauce, there is a hefty sweetness that's well balanced with the vinegar tartness and fruity tomato.
Thickness & Texture
This glossy sauce has a dark maroon hue and is opaque, but despite those traits, it's not hard to see a lot of small spice specs in orange, black, and white. The sauce's thickness is medium-thin, and combine that with the smooth texture and lightly syrupy consistency, the sauce falls from a suspended spoon in a fast and even pour. It only takes a few seconds for the majority of the sauce to release and the stream to change to a few final drips, leaving only a thin coating of sauce left clinging to the silverware.
Out of the Jar
The first taste matches the aroma pretty exactly with an initial mellow sweetness that quickly gains an equal tart tomato partner. The complexity experienced in the aroma also makes a quick entrance, with sour and savory notes of tamarind arriving along with the tomato, while smoky and oniony flavors soon follow. It takes some settling on the tongue for the peppers to add earthy notes, and then a little heat soon after. As the sauce exits the mouth, the vinegar and tamarind dial up a few notches, as well as the heat, melding with a more diminished tomato sweetness to impart a light tongue tingle to a pretty balanced and full-flavored aftertaste.
Slathered & Cooked
This sauce coated the chicken in a medium and even layer that baked down well over indirect heat. This adherence ensured little sauce loss when moved over direct heat, and there was also good caramelization with no burning. Like out of the jar, the sauce proved to be robust, giving the chicken a very familiar and pleasing barbecue flavor. Unlike in the raw state, it was harder to pick out the tamarind and other ingredients that gave the sauce a more unique quality, but the chicken did still have a noticeable depth and savoriness that isn't always present. The heat was also pretty on par with what was tasted out of the jar with just a mellow kick that mainly came in after taking the last few bites of the leg.
Put to Use
I've been consciously adding more sugar free sauces into my review mix as I see the offerings in this category increase as the demand for them rises. So far. the level of success has varied greatly as different folks try different ingredients to fill the hole of sugar. This sauce is not really sugar free (Kevin's Natural Foods does offer a true sugar free version though), but rather omits the refined sugars and uses things like coconut nectar and monkfruit extract to introduce sweetness, and I've found this is definitely more of my speed. That being said, gaining sweetness without refined sugar isn't this sauce's greatest accomplishment—it's providing a unique and pleasing savory depth and spice layer that really makes this sauce its own, while cementing it solidly as barbecue without the more common ingredients you normally find that do this, such as Worcestershire or soy sauce. Also, the fact that this tasted really great on and off the grill and demonstrated ideal cooking properties leveled it up in my mind and had me adding another half a star between my initial impression and a second take when writing up this review. Whether your following a paleo diet or not, I do think just about everyone will find something to like in this sauce, and it's pretty all purpose, so feel free to slather it on ribs, dress a pile of pulled pork in it, use it as a condiment for fried chicken, and so much more...I don't think you're going to go wrong no matter what scenario you throw it into.