The Carolinas are home to countless mouthwatering local dishes such as She-Crab Soup and Shrimp n' Grits, but one of the region's most iconic specialties is Carolina barbecue. No matter where you go in America, every state serves its own style of smoked meats, but not all pulled pork sandwiches are the same. What makes Carolina BBQ so unique is its savory signature Carolina BBQ sauce recipe.
Instead of the more familiar thick and sweet Midwest-style barbecue sauce made with a tomato and molasses base, Carolina-style uses vinegar and mustard to create a light, spicy, slightly sweet sauce that perfectly complements the smokey flavors of grilled meats. This zesty barbecue sauce comes together in under 30 minutes using just a handful of everyday ingredients.
Carolina Style barbecue sauce is easily adjustable to fit your taste, diet, or what you have handy in the pantry:
- For a vegan version, swap the soy and Worcestershire sauce out for liquid aminos.
- If you're out of brown sugar, replacing it with honey, molasses, or white sugar works fine.
- Instead of yellow mustard, try using a dijon or whole grain for more spice and texture.
- Adjust the spice as you like by increasing or decreasing the amount of cayenne and red pepper.
How to Store and Freeze
When stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, this Carolina BBQ sauce will keep for about two weeks. If you are making a big batch ahead of time, you can freeze the sauce in a freezable container, freezer bag, or an ice cube tray with plastic wrap for up to 6 months.
Ways to Enjoy Carolina BBQ Sauce
Traditionally, Carolina BBQ sauce is poured over a plate of pulled pork or smoked brisket, but there are many more ways to spread this versatile sauce! It's a great way to add a tangy layer of flavor to chicken, beef, veggies, and fish.
- Create a spicy dressing for your favorite summer salads and slaws by mixing this sauce with some white vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Combining this sauce with mayo, sour cream, or Greek yogurt makes a tasty topping for burgers and tacos or a tangy dip for fries, potatoes, and chips.
- Carolina barbecue sauce makes a fantastic flavor enhancer for grilled veggies like zucchini, peppers, broccoli, and corn.
Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce Recipe
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup yellow mustard
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup of water more if needed for consistency
- Combine the apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, red pepper, black and white pepper, salt, and water in a medium saucepan. Whisk until thoroughly mixed.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Lower the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Stirring frequently.
- Remove from heat and allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before using.
- Transfer the sauce to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for two weeks