Recipe Spotlight

7 Great American Barbecue Sauces to Have in Your Arsenal

From Alabama to Texas, nobody does barbecue sauce quite the same.

Published June 2, 2023.

As an Aussie expat living in the U.S., I am constantly astounded by the regional differences across America’s culinary landscape. And when it comes to a cookout, there’s no exception. 

I, like many others, love a good, juicy cut of meat or a slew of blistered veggies on the barbecue. But what I get really excited about? The sauce.

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Any old sauce will do for me. A splash of ketchup (that’s right, don’t let anyone tell you it’s too pedestrian—though I do prefer our homemade version), a swoosh of horseradish sauce, or a dab of lemon aioli is always welcome on my plate.

But during grilling season, I simply can’t pass up a good barbecue sauce. Smoky, sweet, savory; no matter your preference, there’s a regional option to suit your (and your friends’) tastes. That’s why we’re giving you a roundup of our favorites, along with recipes so you can make them for your next cookout.

Alabama White BBQ Sauce

Alabama-style white barbecue sauce—a seasoned mayonnaise and vinegar mixture that was made famous at Big Bob Gibsons BBQ in Decatur, Alabama—is the sauce for you if you’re looking for something creamy and bright to accompany your dinner. Its traditionally used on chicken, which inspired us to develop a recipe for Alabama BBQ Chicken, where we use this slightly spicy spread two times during the cooking process, so the hot chicken absorbs the sauce and is flavored through and through.


Alabama BBQ Chicken

We re-create this classic Alabama BBQ dish, one that features an ingredient unfamiliar to most cooks: white barbecue sauce.
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Eastern North Carolina–Style Barbecue Sauce

In eastern North Carolina, a barbecue meal is paired with a slightly thinner, punchier sauce that has plenty of kick from hot sauce, red pepper flakes, and cider vinegar. This tangy base is then tempered with sweet brown sugar to tame the punch, while also offering a pleasant, molasses-y flavor. This sauce is also enjoyed on barbecue pork, and there’s a whole story about the battle that rages between North Carolina’s two styles of barbecue pork. You can read that here.


Eastern North Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce

This sauce is meant to be tangy and spicy to balance the rich smoked pork.
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Lexington-Style Barbecue Sauce

Speaking of tangy sauces, Lexington has their own take on the bright-red barbecue sauce. Eastern North Carolina’s barbecue sauce has no ketchup or tomato flavor at all, lending it a sharper overall flavor. Lexington barbecue sauce, named for a barbecue mecca in central North Carolina, is based on ketchup and vinegar, rather than hot sauce; this results in a slightly sweeter, less spicy, but still pleasantly piquant sauce, perfect for any grilled dinner.


Lexington-Style Barbecue Sauce

This sauce is meant to be tangy and salty to balance the rich smoked pork.
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South Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce

This classic regional barbecue sauce goes heavy on the sharp flavors to produce a result that is both bold and tangy but still deliciously balanced. As the name would suggest, yellow mustard is added for extra tart and tangy flavor, which, paired with a generous glug of distilled white vinegar, is amplified for a sauce you won’t want to miss.


South Carolina Pulled Pork

Slathering a tangy mustard-based sauce on barbecued pork is a good start, but this regional specialty demands more than just a last-minute dose of bold flavors.
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Kansas City Barbecue Sauce

In Kansas City, barbecue is slathered with a thick, tomato-based sauce—the kind of barbecue sauce you would be most closely familiar with. In our recipe, two unexpected ingredients (dark corn syrup and root beer) give our sauce recipe the sticky, sweet, and smoky characteristics the city’s barbecue is known for and will be sure to elevate your cookout beyond the bottled variety.


Kansas City BBQ Sauce

In Kansas City, barbecue is slathered with a thick, sweet, smoky, and sticky tomato-based sauce. Bottled sauces aren't bad, but the homemade version is tastier and easier than you think.
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Oklahoma Barbecue Sauce

Traditionally, Oklahoma barbecued chopped pork is served with homemade relish and tangy barbecue sauce on the side. Like most things, homemade sauces just taste better. That’s why we developed this flavorful mixture of ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce to offer a rich, umami accompaniment to the meat.


Oklahoma Barbecue Sauce

Oklahoma Barbecued Chopped Pork is not complete without authentic Barbecue Sauce.
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Texas Barbecue Sauce

When you think of barbecue, you think of Texas—and for good reason. While some Texas barbecue purists insist that real barbecue is so good that it doesnt require sauce, many tables in Texas barbecue restaurants are still adorned with bottles of sauce. This regional barbecue sauce sets itself apart from the rest as it blends the usual suspects (vinegar, brown sugar, and molasses) with dry mustard, pepper, and chili powder for spiciness. Savory Worcestershire sauce added depth, while tomato juice (in place of ketchup) provided tangy flavor and helped thin the sauce out, making an absolute flavor bomb of a sauce.

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Make sauce your secret weapon in the kitchen with this unique new cookbook. Start with sauce and then plan your meal, or start with your protein and find the perfect sauce with our pairing suggestions.

So which sauce will you be making for your next cookout?

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