The Meatwave

Sauced: Sweet Baby Ray's Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce

Sauced: Sweet Baby Ray's Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce

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Sauced: Sweet Baby Ray's Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce

Sweet Baby Ray's

Appx. $2.99 for 18 oz. at your local grocery

High Fructose Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Tomato Paste, Pineapple Juice Concentrate, Modified Food Starch, contains less than 2% of: Salt, Spice, Caramel Color, Yeast Extract, Sesame Oil, Sodium Benzoate as preservative, Natural Flavor, Garlic

Sweet Baby Ray's Hawaiian Style Barbecue Sauce


As they say, "The Sauce is the Boss." Well, at the foundation of the Sweet Baby Ray' story, Chef Larry Raymond more correctly is the boss. He's the man behind the brand, which all started in 1985 when this Chicago native entered his sauce into the Mike Royko Ribfest and beat out nearly 700 other entrants. From there, he took his sauce—named after Larry's brother David, who's nickname was Sweet Baby Ray—around the Midwest, selling it in mom-and-pop shops across the region. It was the period between 1996 and 1999 though that the sauce really took off, going national and becoming the ubiquitous brand it is today, purchasable in just about any grocery store and in nine different barbecue varieties.


The initial aroma of this sauce is extra sweet and fruity. There isn't a lot of depth right off the bat, but with some additional whiffs, that sugary profile gains some extra character by way of molasses and a very mild tang. There's also a slight onion-y note mixed in, and no hint of heat at all.

Thickness & Texture

This glossy, smooth sauce has a dark maroon hue and is mostly opaque. Still, it's possible to make out some specs of white and black spices peppered throughout. Its consistancy is medium-thick and falls in two to three very large drips at first. Then one or two smaller drips very slowly release and a thick coating of sauce is left clinging to the silverware.

Out of the Jar

The first taste that comes out of this sauce is a crazy amount of corn syrup. That intense sugary sweetness gets a little balance from a vinegar tang that comes in at the same time a molasses flavor. Then, as the sauce settles on the tongue longer, a strong pineapple component comes out and melds with tomato and an increasing tartness. It's hard to make out, but there's a little garlic and onion in the background, along with the slightest bit of heat that makes an appearance only at the end. The final aftertaste is super fruity, sweet, and tangy.

Sweet Baby Ray's Hawaiian Style Barbecue Sauce

Slathered & Cooked

This sauce coated the chicken in a thick, even layer that baked down great over indirect heat. Then over direct heat there was some nice caramelization without any burning. The flavor profile tilted to even more sweet and fruity than out of the jar. This gave the meat an almost candy like, sugary profile as some of the depth and contrasting flavors, like molasses and vinegar, became very downplayed.

Put to Use

As a supermarket sauce, I've been a believer in Sweet Baby Ray's, whose original recipe has a nice balance and contrasts with great grilling qualities that make it a versatile, readily available sauce. I've experience a bit of a mixed bag with their other varieties to date though, and this Hawaiian recipe didn't leave me singing a lot of praises. To me, it kind of tasted like someone thought adding a ton of pineapple juice will just make the sauce "Hawaiian," but in doing so, it pushed the sweetness factor through the roof and took away some of the depth and contrasts that make barbecue sauce unique. I'm not quite sure what foods I'd want to coat in this sugary and fruity profile, but I think if I were to add in some soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and a little more pepper to this sauce, it would start to become something more balanced and layered. So I'm not recommending this sauce for any meat in particular, but as something you can pick up and just make a few additions to in order to turn it from a sauce that's just alright into one that would go great on some chicken or beef skewers, wings, and more.

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  1. i love the picture in this post. Thanks for sharing !

  2. Tammie I tried sweet baby rays Hawaiian style bbq sauce... normally I love their bbq sauces... but they totally missed the mark on this one... either that or I had a bad batch... either and or... It was disgusting... it tasted spoiled and made my chicken taste spoiled... smh

  3. It's a no from me dog. Like the other comment, this was a BIG OLE miss. It taste awful

  4. Art Flewallen This is the worst tasting bbq sauce made. We had to throw away the pork chops. Made the chops taste sour as hell. I think SBRs owes me $20.00 for refund on my meal.

  5. Lisa hatfield I've used Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce for years but the Hawaiian ruined my pork tenderloin for the 4th of July. Worst tasting BBQ sauce ever. I added garlic and onion powder to try to make it better but nothing improved it. My dog wouldn't even eat it !!! And she'll eat anything !! $20 worth of tenderloin trashed

  6. Stanley Griffin Yep this sweet baby Ray's barbecue sauce tastes horrible, rotten.