Skip to content

Barbecue Sauces of the U.S.

Barbecue sauce is a uniquely American sauce that differs depending on the region that you are in. The majority of them are Tomato and Vinegar based, but depending on the history of the area and the culture of the people living there, they all offer something different.  From deep brown thick sauce, to a white creamy sauce, a yellow spicy sauce or just a kicked up Au Jus, It can be whatever you like.  These are the major variants that can be found and a little history about them.

East Carolina Sauce

Most American barbecue sauces can trace their roots to the two sauces common in North Carolina.[citation needed] The simplest and the earliest were supposedly popularized by African slaves who also advanced the development of American barbecue. They were made with vinegar, ground black pepper, and hot chile pepper flakes. It is used as a “mopping” sauce to baste the meat while it was cooking and as a dipping sauce when it is served. Thin and sharp, it penetrates the meat and cuts the fats in the mouth. There is little or no sugar in this sauce. Due to the sharp taste, it has more of a cult following amongst people not of the region.


  • 1 Cup White Distilled Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Molasses
  • 1 Tbsp Yellow Mustard
  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1 tsp Hot Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp Tabasco Sauce
  • 2-4 tsp Cornstarch


  1. Mix all ingredients into a sauce pot, allow to simmer while stirring for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add in Cornstarch a little at a time while whisking thoroughly to thicken up the sauce until you are happy with the results.
  3. Allow to cool and add to squirt bottle, lasts about 2 weeks in the fridge.

Lexington Dip (Western Carolina Dip)

In Lexington and in the “Piedmont” hilly areas of western North Carolina, the sauce is often called a dip. It is a lot like the East Carolina Sauce with tomato paste, tomato sauce or ketchup added. The tomato helps to smooth out the vinegar bite.


  • 1 Cup Distilled Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Ketchup
  • 1 Cup Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tbsp Tabasco Hot Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  1. Mix all ingredients into sauce pot.
  2. Allow to simmer 5-10 minutes while whisking thoroughly until Brown Sugar is dissolved.
  3. Allow to cool and serve, this lasts about 1 week in the fridge.

Kansas City

This sauce is thick, reddish-brown, tomato or ketchup-based with sugars, vinegar, and spices. It evolved from the Lexington Dip, but it is significantly different in that it is thick and sweet and does not penetrate the meat as much as sit on the surface. This is the most common and popular sauce in the US and all other tomato based sauces are variations on the theme using more or less of the main ingredients.


  • 2 Cups Ketchup
  • 2 Cups Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Molasses
  • 1 1/4 Cups Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 1/2 Cups Vinegar (Your Choice)
  • 1 Tbsp Liquid Smoke
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Celery Seed
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  1. Add all ingredients into a large sauce pan and mix thoroughly until sugar and molasses are dissolved completely.


A variant of the Kansas City style typically having the same ingredients but these tend to have a larger percentage of vinegar and use molasses as a sweetener.


  • 2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Ketchup
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/4 Cup Molasses
  • 1/4 Cup Onion (minced)
  • 2 Tbsp Garlic (minced)
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Mustard
  • 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 2 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 2 tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  1. Add Butter, Garlic and Onions to sauce pot,  cook on medium heat about 5 minutes until Garlic and Onions start to turn translucent.
  2. Turn down heat to Low and add rest of ingredients. Whisk thoroughly, allowing to simmer about 10 minutes.

South Carolina Mustard Sauce

Part of South Carolina is known for its yellow barbecue sauces made primarily of yellow mustard, vinegar, sugar and spices. This sauce is most common in a belt from Columbia to Charleston, an area settled by many Germans. Vinegar-based sauces with black pepper are common in the coastal plains region as in North Carolina, and thin tomato- and vinegar-based sauces are common in the hilly regions as in North Carolina.


  • 2 Cups Yellow Mustard
  • 1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Yellow Mustard
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Chicken Bullion Cube (crushed)
  • 2 tsp Rosemary Leaves
  • 1 tsp Celery Seed
  • 2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  1. Thoroughly whisk all ingredients into a sauce pot and allow to simmer about 10 minutes.


In some of the older, more traditional restaurants the sauces are heavily seasoned with cumin, chile peppers, bell peppers, chili powder or ancho powder, lots of black pepper, fresh onion, only a touch of tomato, little or no sugar, and they often contain meat drippings and smoke flavor because meats are dipped into them. They are medium thick and often resemble a thin tomato soup. They penetrate the meat easily rather than sit on top. Bottled barbecue sauces from Texas are often different from those used in the same restaurants because they do not contain meat drippings.


  • 1 Cup Water
  • 3/4 Cup Ketchup
  • 1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Onion (minced)
  • 1/4 Cup Celery (minced)
  • 1/4 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Brown Mustard
  • 2 Tbsp Honey
  • 2-12 Cloves of Garlic (minced)
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • 2 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 2 tsp Cayenne Pepper Powder
  • 1 Beef Bullion Cube
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste


  1. Add Garlic, Butter, Celery and Onion to sauce pot and cook until Onions and Garlic are translucent.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *