Barbecue Sauces: Regional Recipe Differences

If you think all barbecue sauce is the same, you haven not experienced the variety of styles that the southern states pride themselves on creating.


If you think all barbecue sauce is the same, you haven not experienced the variety of styles that the southern states pride themselves on creating. Barbecue sauces range from sweet to sour, with colors from yellow to red and brown. Many different spices are used to create unique flavors from region to region. From the Carolinas to Texas, barbecue is more than just a sauce; it is a culinary staple. Try all of the unique varieties of barbecue sauce, and you may find a new favorite. Save money by buying small bottles or sample packs rather than committing to a large volume of sauce from each category.

Kansas City sweet sauce is the most popular barbecue sauce style. It has a sweet-tart tomato base enhanced by molasses or brown sugar and vinegar. Liquid smoke is a common ingredient in this variety, giving a charcoal flavor to even meats prepared indoors. Kansas City style sauces are used as a finishing sauce because it is too thick to penetrate meats. It may burn easily on the grill; so these sauces are used at the last minute to flavor meats that have been thoroughly cooked prior to flash finishing on the barbecue.

South Carolina mustard sauce has a distinct flavor all its own. Rather than the tomato sauce favored in many regions, South Carolina sauces use tangy mustard as the base of their barbecue. This style evolved from the German immigrants that settled the region, and their names continue to grace the most popular brands of this barbecue sauce genre.

East Carolina mop-sauce is a unique barbecue style that has no heavy tomato or mustard base. This sauce is made from vinegar mixed with hot pepper flakes and seasonings and used to “mop” the meat as it cooks. The flavors of East Carolina mop-sauce penetrate deep down into the meat, rather than sitting atop it. This style of barbecue sauce is not sweet, as it uses very little sugar if any at all. Lexington dip sauces come from the western reaches of North Carolina. This variety combines the best of East Carolina mop-sauce with a hint of tomato sauce or ketchup for added body and sweetness. These are less tart than the East Carolina varieties and are more popular for this reason.

Texas mop-sauce is similar to Lexington’s version but tends to be much spicier due to heavy Mexican influence. Cumin, hot sauce, onion, chili powder and cumin are common in this vinegar-based sauce, which only uses traces of tomato sauce or ketchup. The success of Kansas City style barbecue has caused a recent trend in sweetness for Texas mop-sauce.

Louisiana hot sauce is different from spicy Texas mops. While both contain hot sauce, it is the base of Louisiana barbecue. Chili peppers, mustard, peppercorns, mix with Creole seasonings to make a unique barbecue sauce. Tomatoes are used to finish and round the flavors of the spicy sauces, so Louisiana sauces have a brighter red color than what is found in molasses varieties.

Memphis dry rub, while not a sauce, must be included in a barbecue discussion. Second only to Kansas City, Memphis a town known for excellent barbecue. In this region, sauce is replaced with a blend of spices and sugars. Meats absorb these flavors for up to 24 hours before being smoked or grilled on the barbecue.

The author of this post is Sara Woods, who writes for Coupon Croc. Spend a lot of time in the kitchen? Visit us and grab a discount code to save on kitchen appliances, tools and more.

Author: TheSaltyChef

The Salty Chef lives in AZ

2 thoughts on “Barbecue Sauces: Regional Recipe Differences”

  1. Thank you for sharing this to us. I really want to try making one of this. Cheers.
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  2. As American as the concept of a big cookout called a barbecue might be, the word is not even an English word, but comes from a group of Caribbean Indians that dried their meat on a high wooden platform. Nowadays, most people used the shortened form of ‘bbq’ to describe this wonderful cooking party.

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