Sauces for BBQ

Probably one of the most important aspects of a good barbecue is the meat. The meat is the main attraction and the star of the show. You can have all the other fixings that a barbecue can bring with it, but if the meat is not cooked to perfection then many people will be disappointed. It is so beyond important that the cut, flavor, wood, technique, etc. all come together to master the perfect kind of barbecue meat that people will never forget. This also includes the sauce of the meat! You can have good techniques with your meat and cook it very tenderly in a way that makes the meat juicy, but that is only a part of what makes barbecue meat exceptional. You need to also have your meat bursting with intricate flavors that leave your friends and family in awe of your exceptionally good barbecue skills. If you find your barbecue techniques performing at high standards, but your flavors might not be performing at similar standards then this may be a sign to you that you need to up your barbecue game. No problem. Reading this will help you immensely in understanding the many different barbecue sauces that exist out there and how you can make them to achieve the most perfect barbecue recipe.

The Four Main Types of BBQ Sauce

There are about 4 different categories that American barbecue sauces tend to fall under according to Lake E. High Jr. President of the South Carolina Barbecue Association. These four categories are vinegar and pepper, mustard, light tomato, and heavy tomato. These are the four main sauces that you see frequent your local grocery stores, the barbecue recipes online, and the sauces that your favorite barbecue restaurant serve with your go-to entree. We are going to go over these sauces a little bit and then offer some recipes that you can check out as well if you are interested in using one of the types of sauces at your next barbecue event!

Vinegar and Pepper Barbecue Sauce

This is considered to be the first barbecue sauce to frequent the barbecue scene, hundreds of years ago. It is one of the simplest American barbecue sauces and it has become the most dominant barbecue sauce of the Carolinas barbecue scene. Typically, the sauce consists of basic ingredients such as distilled white vinegar, cider vinegar, sugar, hot red pepper flakes, and ground pepper. Of course, this is the most basic type of the sauce and other ingredients can be added to produce a more complex vinegar and pepper sauce. Nonetheless it is a sauce that certainly is not a force to be reckoned with and pairs very well with meats like grilled beef, chicken, and lamb. If you are looking for a classic and simple sauce that enhances the meat, but doesn’t take over too much then this sauce may be perfect for you!

Vinegar Barbecue Sauce (
● 1 cup of white vinegar
● 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
● 1 cup of ketchup
● 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
● 2 tablespoons of hot sauce (you can choose any hot sauce that you prefer!)
● A dash of Worcestershire sauce
● 2 teaspoons of Hungarian paprika
● A dash of kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1. In a saucepan, toss in all ingredients, including the salt and pepper to your taste. Warm the saucepan over medium heat and stir gently and occasionally until the sauce has completely warmed through (the mixture does not need to be boiled). Simply let the sauce cook long enough so that the ingredients all blend well with one another. One thing to remind you of is that if you take a little sip of the sauce by itself you will find that it is incredibly acidic in taste. Do not worry at all! You did not make the sauce wrong. The taste has to be strong so that when you put it all over the meat of your choice, it accentuates the meat nicely.
2. Be sure to let the sauce cool slightly for a bit. Pour the sauce into a jar or bottle. From then on you can use it whenever you want for up to one month as long as you make sure to keep it in the refrigerator.

Tangy Carolina Barbecue Sauce
● 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
● 1 cup of ketchup
● ½ cup of brown sugar
● ⅓ cup of yellow mustard
● 1 tablespoon of onion powder
● 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
● ¼ teaspoon of chili powder
● ¼ teaspoon of salt
● A dash of Worcestershire
1. Throw in all your ingredients into a saucepan and set it over low heat. Whisk in all your ingredients so that it can blend well with one another. After doing this, increase the heat to high and bring the sauce up to a boil.
2. Continue to boil the sauce and stir it often for about 5 minutes. Normally the sauce tends to reduce by ⅓ the amount after you have heated it up for a bit.
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and then store in a container of your choice. You can keep the sauce for up to two weeks.
Mustard Sauce

In addition to the vinegar and pepper sauce being popular in the Carolinas, another type of sauce that is a major hit is a kind of mustard sauce. Mustard sauce has become a huge hit, especially in South Carolina. The origins of the sauce are mainly traced through the German heritage within the state of South Carolina. If you were to frequent barbecue restaurants or stay for local competitions in this state then you will see how important this sauce is to the Carolina barbecue scene (in addition to the vinegar and pepper sauce). You will notice a trend with sauces and the regions of the US. The deep Southeast of the US including the Carolinas, tend to go for mustard and vinegar-based barbecue sauces. The further west you go, the more the sauce becomes tangy and sweet with molasses and ketchup-based sauces instead! Either way they are all delicious and great to try. This sauce pairs the best with smoked pork or chicken!

Big Daddy’s Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce (
● 1 cup of prepared yellow mustard
● ½ cup of sugar
● ⅓ cup of light brown sugar
● ¾ cup of cider vinegar
● ¼ cup of water
● 2 tablespoons of chili powder
● 1 teaspoon of black pepper
● 1 teaspoon of white pepper
● 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
● 2 tablespoons of butter
● 1 tablespoon of liquid smoke of hickory flavoring
● Optional: ½ teaspoon of cayenne
1. With a saucepan, combine all ingredients listed but the soy sauce, butter, and liquid smoke. Allow this sauce to simmer on low for about 20 minutes while stirring occasionally. Add in the remaining listed ingredients and then simmer the sauce for another 10 more minutes.
2. After this step, remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool for about 10-15 minutes before you plan to use it. If you are making it ahead of time then it is best that you store the sauce in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator for about 5 days.
3. Once it is time to use it then you can serve it on the side with your delicious smoked pork or chicken! It will even taste great on a pulled pork sandwich! A very South Carolina barbecue style!

The Best Darn Mustard BBQ Sauce Ever
● 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
● ½ cup of minced onions
● 3 tablespoons of sweet red pepper, finely minced
● 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
● 1 teaspoon of ground celery seed
● 1 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
● 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes for mild sauce
● 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
● ½ teaspoon whole dried rosemary leaves that are crushed mortar and pestle
● 1 cups of prepared Dijon style mustard
● ¼ cup of lemon juice
● ¼ cup of cider vinegar
● 1 cup of dark brown sugar that is firmly packed
● 2 teaspoon of tomato paste
● 1 teaspoon of powdered mustard
● 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
● 1 teaspoon of chicken bouillon granules or about 1 cube that is dissolved in about 1 ounce of water
Whew! That is a lot, but I promise it is worth it!
1. Begin by pouring the oil into a quart sized saucepan and then warm it over medium-low heat.
2. Throw in your onion and sweet red peppers and sauté them until the onions are a bit limp. Then follow up by adding in garlic and cooking for an additional one minute.
3. Add in all the dry ingredients except for the sugar. Then cook while stirring occasionally for another 3 minutes. This will help to develop and extract the flavors.
4. After, add in the remaining ingredients and then proceed to mix thoroughly. Bring the cooking to a low boil for about 3 minutes while you stir frequently in order to keep the sugar from burning or sticking at the bottom of the pan. Then continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
5. Then serve with your choice of meat and enjoy!

Light Tomato Sauce

This is the third type of barbecue sauce and it also originated from South Carolina. This sauce was actually the basis of the vinegar and pepper sauce, but then people started to add a bit of ketchup for sweetness and then the sauce begin to take off. It spread all throughout the Carolinas, but then became a huge hit in the Southwest part of the US. It features a certain strong taste that comes from the vinegar and then hits back with a sweet aftertaste from the ketchup. It is the perfect mix for those who love the best of both worlds.

Sweet and Tangy Tomato Barbecue Sauce (
● 1 cup of ketchup
● ⅓ cup of apple cider vinegar
● ¼ cup of firmly packed light brown sugar
● 1 tablespoon of onion powder
● 1 tablespoon of chili powder
● 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
● 1 ½ tablespoons of dark molasses
● 2 teaspoons of freshly ground pepper
1. Combine all ingredients into a saucepan and heat over medium heat while making sure to stir occasionally. After, reduce the heat and then cover and cook, stirring occasionally and heating for an additional 25 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thicker. Cool it for about 10 minutes. Cover the sauce and chill until it becomes ready to serve. Store it up in the refrigerator for another week!

Light Tomato-Based Barbecue Sauce (

● 28 ounces of tomato puree
● ⅓ cup of prepared mustard
● 3 cups of water
● ½ cup of apple cider vinegar
● ¼ cup of corn syrup
● 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
● 2 tablespoons of sugar
● 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
● 2 tablespoons of chili powder
● 1 tablespoon of dry mustard
● 1 tablespoon of paprika
● 2 teaspoons of onion powder
● 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
● 1 teaspoon of salt
● 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
● ½ teaspoon of granulated garlic
Combine all ingredients together and slowly simmer the sauce, making sure that the sugar is dissolved well. Stir the sauce frequently and let cool. Enjoy!

Heavy Tomato Sauce

Last but not least we approach our last barbecue sauce that is commonly used in American barbecues. This sauce is typically found all over the US and has really evolved over the last 60 years. It is the sauce that tends to be the most readily available in stores and in restaurants and is actually the go-to for many across the US as opposed to regionally like the other sauces. Try out these sauce recipes to see if maybe the heavy tomato sauce is the right choice for you!

Heavy Tomato-Based Barbecue Sauce
● ½ gallon of ketchup
● 2 ½ cups of apple cider vinegar
● 1 ½ cups of Worcestershire sauce
● 1 ½ cups of water
● 2 cups of sugar
● 4 cups of dark brown sugar
● ¼ teaspoon of salt
● ½ cup of yellow mustard
● ⅓ cup of vegetable oil
● 3 tablespoons of chili powder
● 3 tablespoons of paprika
● 2 tablespoons of black pepper
1. First begin by combining the ketchup, cider vinegar, Worcestershire, and water. Bring the sauce to a simmer and assist in dissolving up the sugars. Combine all other ingredients and add it to the mixture. Simmer it all together for about 15-20 minutes. Let the sauce cool. You can store it in an airtight container and refrigerate for later use!

Kansas City Barbecue Sauce Recipe (
● 2 cups of tomato sauce or ketchup
● ½ cup of apple juice
● ½ cup of apple cider vinegar
● ½ cup of brown sugar
● 5 tablespoons of butter
● 3 tablespoons of paprika
● 2 tablespoons of chili powder
● 1 tablespoon of chipotle powder (optional)
● 4 finely chopped garlic cloves
● ½ medium onion, finely chopped
● Salt to taste
● Cayenne to taste
1. Heat up the butter in a pot and then heat it for 2-3 minutes. Add in the onion and sauté until the onions turn brown. Add in the garlic and then sauté for another 2 minutes.
2. After, pour in the remaining ingredients and then stir well to combine. Allow the sauce to simmer slowly for another 30 minutes all the way up to two hours.
3. Adjust the heat and salt levels with cayenne and salt before you plan to use the sauce. It works great on ribs, chicken, and pork shoulder!

As you can see there are a plethora of barbecue sauces that you can utilize, producing a myriad of flavors that your family and friends are sure to enjoy! Try them out now and make your barbecue meat the talk of the town!

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