Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe (2024)

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This Carolina BBQ Sauce recipe is easy to make and tastes delicious with absolutely everything, from ribs and meatloaf, to chicken, cauliflower and more! Thick, tangy, slightly sweet and finger-licking good, you will want to make this homemade barbecue sauce again and again!

Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe (1)

Hi, friends! Since the weather here has finally turned sunny and warm, I figured it’s high time I share my all time favorite homemade barbecue sauce recipe!

Table of Contents

  • Carolina BBQ Sauce
  • What is Carolina BBQ sauce?
    • What does Carolina barbecue sauce taste like?
    • Is Carolina BBQ sauce sweet?
  • BBQ sauce Carolina styles?
  • How to make Carolina-style BBQ Sauce?
  • FAQs: frequently asked questions
    • Is Carolina sauce gluten free?
    • How to thicken Carolina BBQ sauce?
  • Serving bbq sauce recipes
  • Storing homemade Carolina sauce
    • How long will barbecue sauce last?
  • More barbecue sauce recipes!
  • Homemade Carolina BBQ Sauce recipe
    • Ingredients
    • Instructions
    • Notes
    • Nutrition

Carolina BBQ Sauce

Being a North Carolinian, I am obsessed with our regional barbecue sauces. From Eastern Carolina Vinegar Sauce and Western Carolina Lexington sauce to South Carolina Mustard sauce – I absolutely love them all. However, as much as I adore them each individually, I love them even more COMBINED! And that is what I’m sharing today – a trifecta of yum!

This Carolina-style sauce is a delicious combination of tangy and slightly sweet with a subtle kick! Thick and full of flavor, this multi-purpose sauce is perfect for marinating, grilling, dipping, slathering, smothering and covering EVERYTHING!

Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe (2)

What is Carolina BBQ sauce?

North Carolina BBQ sauce is a southern-style barbeque sauce. While most BBQ sauces are ketchup and molasses based, Carolina sauce is made with a base of vinegar and mustard.

What does Carolina barbecue sauce taste like?

Carolina barbeque sauce is thick and tangy with a very subtle sweetness. While Midwest and southwest style barbeque sauces contain a good amount of sugar and are sweet in taste, Carolina barbeque sauces contains very little sugar which results in a sour, tangier flavor.

Is Carolina BBQ sauce sweet?

Carolina barbecue sauce is very subtly sweet in taste. While other regional barbecue sauces contain a high amount of sugar, this southern-style sauce contains a scant ¼ cup dark brown sugar.

Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe (3)

BBQ sauce Carolina styles?

American barbeque is all about low and slow cooked proteins and complimentary, signature sauces. Most regions have their own style of barbeque sauce, ranging from thick and tomato-based to thinner and vinegar-based.

There are three BBQ sauces specific to the Carolinas:

  • Eastern North Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce – Traditional vinegar sauce contains no tomato products, and instead uses a tart combination of vinegar, hot sauce, and spices. Vinegar BBQ sauce is much thinner in consistency than ‘traditional’ BBQ sauce. Tangy and spicy in taste, this sauce perfectly complements the smokiness of barbequed pork.
  • South Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce – Traditional mustard sauce, also known as ‘Carolina Gold’, contains a mixture of both yellow mustard and vinegar as well as seasonings. Mustard BBQ sauce is rich, tangy and zingy in flavor which pairs well sweet and smoky pulled pork.
  • Western North Carolina – Also known as Lexington-style or Piedmont, this sauce is vinegar based and seasoned with ketchup, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, granulated sugar and spices. Western Carolina sauce is slightly sweeter in taste and pairs well with pork shoulder!

This Carolina-style BBQ sauce recipe is a delicious combination that pays homage to all three of the above BBQ sauces!

Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe (4)

How to make Carolina-style BBQ Sauce?

Carolina sauce is cheap and incredibly easy to make at home!

To make Carolina-style barbeque sauce, combine apple cider vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in a small sauce pan. Bring the sauce mixture to rapid simmer over medium heat. Immediately reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer the sauce, whisking occasionally, for 15-18 minutes or until thickened and glossy.

Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe (5)

FAQs: frequently asked questions

Is Carolina sauce gluten free?

Yes, this Homemade Carolina sauce is gluten free.

Side note: Most ketchup brands are gluten-free, however, if you are someone with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, make sure you double check your ketchup bottle to make sure the label clearly states “gluten-free”.

How to thicken Carolina BBQ sauce?

While this Carolina barbecue sauce has plenty of texture, there are ways to thicken the sauce without affecting the flavor if desired!

  • To naturally thicken sauce – Allow the sauce to simmer for a longer period of time than the 15-18 minutes stated in the recipe.
  • Add a slurry – Mix one tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water and add it to the sauce. Make sure you whisk the cornstarch mixture into the sauce and allow the barbeque sauce to cook over a rapid simmer until the sauce has thickened.

Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe (6)

Serving bbq sauce recipes

This easy homemade barbecue sauce tastes amazing on all your traditional BBQ favorites – from vegetarian favorites like veggie bean burgers to grilled chicken breast and spatchco*cked chicken, or baby back ribs, pulled pork, pork chops, and much more. Or you can use this Carolina sauce in less traditional ways – try it as pizza sauce on doughs, a dipping sauce for chicken tenders or cheddar beer bread, drizzled it over baked potatoes, and use it in baked bean recipes.

Storing homemade Carolina sauce

Homemade BBQ sauce should be stored in an airtight container or bottle in the refrigerator.

How long will barbecue sauce last?

Properly stored, BBQ sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe (7)

Thick, tangy, slightly sweet and full of flavor, this is going to become your go to barbecue sauce and a staple in your house! Easy to make and ready in 20 minutes or less, it’s the perfect condiment to have on hand at all times!!

Until next week, friends, cheers – to getting a little saucy!


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More barbecue sauce recipes!

If you are looking for more delicious homemade sauces, be sure to try these recipes next!

  • Alabama BBQ Sauce
  • Peach BBQ Sauce
  • Strawberry BBQ Sauce

The best homemade Carolina barbecue sauce recipe👇

Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe (8)

Homemade Carolina BBQ Sauce recipe

4.85 from 13 votes

Author: Cheyanne Holzworth

Total Time: 23 minutes mins

Prep Time: 5 minutes mins

Cook Time: 18 minutes mins

Servings: 6

Print Recipe Pin Recipe

This Carolina BBQ Sauce recipe is easy to make and tastes delicious with everything! Thick, tangy and slightly sweet, you will want to make this homemade sauce again and again!



  • Combine all ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan. Whisk well to combine.

  • Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a rapid simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the sauce is glossy and thickened, about 15-18 minutes.

  • Remove from heat. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

  • Allow to cool to room temperature before using. Or, allow to cool to room temperature, transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy with pork, chicken, ribs, on sandwiches – whatever!


Yield: Approximately 1 1/2 Cups


Calories: 81kcal Carbohydrates: 18g Sodium: 743mg Potassium: 158mg Sugar: 15g Vitamin A: 205IU Vitamin C: 2.1mg Calcium: 18mg Iron: 0.5mg

Course: Condiment, Sauce

Cuisine: American

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Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe (2024)


What is Carolina barbecue sauce made of? ›

What Is North Carolina Barbecue Sauce? The base for North Carolina barbecue sauce is vinegar, peppers, and sometimes tomato (in the form of tomato paste or ketchup). This tangy, spicy sauce enhances the pulled pork or whole hog barbecue that's typical in this part of the country.

How to thicken Carolina barbecue sauce? ›

You can use either flour or cornstarch to thicken BBQ sauce. Just mix together 2 tbsp (16 g) of flour and ¼ cup (62.5 mL) of water, or combine 1 tbsp (9 g) of cornstarch with 1 tbsp (15 mL) of water. Continue mixing the thickener until there are no lumps of flour or cornstarch.

What makes Carolina barbecue? ›

Carolina Style BBQ

Carolina style centers on slow-roasted whole hog barbeque and is one of America's oldest methods of cooking meat. Whole hog BBQ is the artful process of cooking an entire hog for 12 to 24 hours. A hog provides three primary sources of meat: stomach, neck, and shoulders.

How long does homemade Carolina barbecue sauce last? ›

Homemade bbq sauce lasts in the fridge for up to two weeks with proper storage and refrigeration.

What is the difference between Western and Eastern Carolina BBQ sauce? ›

In North Carolina, eastern-style N.C. barbecue is known for its vinegar base and peppery bite, which makes it lighter -- and spicier -- than its western counterpart. Western-style, sometimes called "Lexington style" barbecue, features a rich, sweet sauce typically made with butter, sugar and ketchup.

What does Carolina style BBQ taste like? ›

You might use cider vinegar for a base and spices like black pepper, cayenne, crushed red pepper, salt, and hot sauce. Sugar and water are sometimes added too. After basting the pork in the thin, vinegar-based sauce and slow cooking it, the result is acidic, spicy barbecue that leans much more toward savory than sweet.

How do you make BBQ sauce stronger? ›

Hot sauces: I like a bit of kick to my barbecue sauce, and this is something the most common sauces lack. A hit of Texas Pete or a habanero sauce can go a long way toward adding depth and spice to an underwhelming sauce.

How do you thicken BBQ sauce without changing the flavor? ›

Use Flour and Water

Combine 2 tablespoons flour with every 1/4 cup cold water and whisk until smooth. Add the mixture to your sauce over medium heat, and continue to stir and cook until you've reached your desired consistency.

What is the difference between Carolina BBQ and Kansas City BBQ? ›

For example, Kansas City BBQ typically features a sweet tomato-based sauce with a tangy taste. There are many different barbecue styles, but two of the most popular are Kansas City and Carolina. Carolina BBQ typically is spicier and uses vinegar as a base for their sauces.

What are the 4 types of BBQ sauce? ›

Generally, barbecue sauces is categorized into four varieties: tomato-based sauces, vinegar-based sauces, mustard-based sauces, and mayonnaise-based sauces. Each category can have a range of BBQ sauce styles, ranging from sweet and tangy to hot and spicy.

What sides go with Carolina BBQ? ›

Deciding on just two sides has left many a diner in one of the state's many barbecue restaurants saying, "Gonna need another minute." Cole slaw may be barbecue's most famous sidekick, but the flavor-packed line-up also includes baked beans, collard greens, perloo (a rice dish akin to jambalaya), Hoppin' John, smoked ...

Can I freeze homemade barbecue sauce? ›

You can definitely freeze barbecue sauce — and you should if you're not going to use it within two weeks. To freeze homemade barbecue sauce, transfer it to a freezer bag labeled with the date. Squeeze out all the excess air, secure the bag, and lay flat in the freezer. Freeze for up to three months.

Can I leave homemade BBQ sauce out overnight? ›

Since food with a pH value lower than 4.5 is too acidic to support the growth of spoilage bacteria, it's safe to store barbecue sauce at room temperature, in your cupboard or pantry. Conclusion: Keep your BBQ sauce anywhere you want.

How to tell if barbecue sauce is bad? ›

The telltale signs that a BBQ sauce has gone bad include mold or changes in texture, color, and thickness. If you see anything suspicious: Toss it, don't sauce it.

What is the difference between Kansas City and Carolina BBQ sauce? ›

For example, Kansas City BBQ typically features a sweet tomato-based sauce with a tangy taste. There are many different barbecue styles, but two of the most popular are Kansas City and Carolina. Carolina BBQ typically is spicier and uses vinegar as a base for their sauces.

What are the ingredients in Heinz Carolina BBQ sauce? ›

Full content visible, double tap to read brief content. distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, tomato: paste, dark brown sugar, cane sugar, water, salt, spices, corn starch, . xanthan gum, MUSTARD seed, garlic powder, paprika, natural flavor natural smoke flavor, turmeric.

What does Carolina Gold BBQ sauce taste like? ›

Cattlemen's® Carolina Tangy Gold™ BBQ Sauce blends signature flavors like zesty, creamy mustard, sweet molasses and sugar and tangy apple cider vinegar with hickory smoke notes and a hint of perfectly aged cayenne peppers for a complex, unmatched flavor profile and a rich, distinctive golden color.

Where does Carolina Gold BBQ sauce come from? ›

The sauce is believed to have been created in part by German immigrants who brought mustard on their journey west. Mustard is also a sizeable crop in South Carolina today. The sauce itself is becoming increasingly available outside of the region in which it was born, both in restaurants and on grocery store shelves.


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