If you’re a fan of BBQ, then you know that there are many different styles of BBQ sauce out there. From tangy vinegar-based sauces to sweet and smoky molasses-based sauces, each region has its own unique take on this classic condiment.

One style that stands out from the rest is Carolina BBQ sauce. But what makes Carolina BBQ sauce so unique? Let’s explore.

What is Carolina BBQ Sauce?

Carolina BBQ sauce comes from the state of North Carolina and is typically made with a vinegar and mustard base. Unlike other styles of BBQ sauce, which can be thick and sweet, Carolina BBQ sauce is thin and tangy. It’s often used as a marinade for pork shoulder or as a finishing sauce for pulled pork sandwiches.

The Ingredients

Carolina BBQ sauce is made up of just a few simple ingredients – vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, ketchup, and spices. The vinegar gives the sauce its tangy flavor while the mustard adds a bit of heat and depth to the taste. The brown sugar provides sweetness to balance out the acidity of the vinegar, and the ketchup helps to thicken the sauce slightly.

  • Vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Brown Sugar
  • Ketchup
  • Spices (such as cayenne pepper)

The History

Carolina BBQ sauce has its roots in German and African American traditions. German settlers in North Carolina brought with them a love of mustard-based sauces, while African Americans in the region used vinegar as a way to preserve meat. Over time, these two traditions merged to create what we now know as Carolina BBQ sauce.

The Variations

While traditional Carolina BBQ sauce is made with a vinegar and mustard base, there are some variations to the recipe. In South Carolina, for example, the sauce is sometimes made with a tomato or ketchup base instead of mustard. Additionally, some versions of Carolina BBQ sauce include honey or molasses to add sweetness.

How to Use It

Carolina BBQ sauce is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. It’s perfect as a marinade for pork shoulder or ribs, as well as a finishing sauce for pulled pork sandwiches. It can also be used as a dipping sauce for chicken wings or as a topping for grilled vegetables.


So what makes Carolina BBQ sauce unique? It’s the combination of tangy vinegar, spicy mustard, and sweet brown sugar that sets it apart from other styles of BBQ sauce. Whether you’re from North Carolina or just love trying new flavors, give this classic condiment a try and see why it’s been a Southern favorite for generations.