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A Guide to Regional American Barbecue Sauces


Feges’ Signature BBQ Sauce Sampler

Whether it’s brisket cooked slow and low or freshly baked ribs slathered in sweet and tangy BBQ sauce, we love a saucy BBQ feast. Most BBQ lovers equate barbecue with smoked meats like chicken and ribs slathered in a sticky, sweet, tangy, and smoky dark brown or red sauce.

But there’s far more to this iconic savory condiment than those little rectangular containers you get at your favorite fast food joint. Grab some napkins and let’s ketchup on the different regional American barbecue sauces that are finger lickin’ good.

Read More: Types of BBQ: Regional American Barbecue Styles Explained

What are the different types of bbq sauce?

There are many different types of BBQ sauce, but there are generally four types:

  • Mayonnaise-based: a thin, white sauce enhanced with vinegar and black pepper that originated in Alabama
  • Mustard-based: a bright yellow sauce that is made with mustard, apple cider vinegar, and sugar that is most popular in South Carolina. 
  • Tomato-based: depending on the region, this sweet red sauce is either runny or thick and what most people think of when they think about BBQ sauce.
  • Vinegar-based: a tangy thick sauce made with vinegar and pepper that is particularly popular in Eastern North Carolina.

In addition to these four iconic barbecue sauces, there are many regional variations and restaurant-specific sauces that range from mild and sweet to hot and spicy.

How many types of BBQ sauce are there?

There are almost as many barbecue sauces as there are barbecue restaurants in the U.S. Over the years, regional styles of barbecue sauces have emerged. The main regional American barbecue sauces are:

  • Alabama White Sauce: a mayonnaise-based sauce with vinegar, black pepper, and, oftentimes, lemon juice, apple juice, and horseradish. It was invented at Decatur, Alabama’s Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q.
  • Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce: This is the thickest BBQ sauce. This dark red sauce is made with sweet ketchup and molasses or brown sugar. It is oftentimes also made with Worcestershire and/or mustard, vinegar and/or lemon juice, and black pepper and/or red pepper. It tastes smoky and sweet, and it’s so thick it doesn’t absorb into the meat. 
  • Memphis Style BBQ Sauce: a sweet, gravy-like tomato-based sauce. It’s sweeter than St. Louis Style BBQ Sauce but not as sweet as Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce. Most Memphis barbecue places serve dry-rubbed meats without sauce.
  • Eastern North Carolina Style Sauce: an apple cider vinegar- and red pepper-based sauce. It is literally mopped on meats and also served on the side. This is the oldest known style of BBQ sauce in the U.S.
  • Western North Carolina Style Sauce Sauce: This sauce takes the base of Eastern North Carolina style and adds in tomato or ketchup and brown sugar to make a thicker, sweeter sauce. It’s also called Lexington Dip and Piedmont Dip. Like Eastern North Carolina Style BBQ sauce, this one is also mopped on meats and served on the side.
  • South Carolina Style BBQ Sauce: Also known as Carolina Gold because of its color and main ingredient, plain yellow mustard, South Carolina Style BBQ Sauce is a mustard-based sauce made with vinegar and cane sugar or brown sugar. This sauce can also be found in parts of Georgia and northern Florida.
  • St. Louis Style BBQ Sauce: a thick and sweet red tomato sauce. St. Louis Style BBQ Sauce is similar to Kansas City Style BBQ sauce, but it does not have a smoky flavor. It also has more vinegar, giving it a sweet-and-sour flavor profile.
  • Central Texas Style BBQ Sauce: a tomato-based thin and runny sauce that packs a punch with cumin and chili powder. It’s often served on the side as most Texas barbecue is served without sauce.
  • East Texas Style BBQ Sauce: a ketchup based sauce with vinegar, Worcestershire, and spices that is ladled over meat.
  • Northeastern Texas Style BBQ Sauce: a brown gravy-like sauce made typically from brisket drippings thickened with flour.

What is the most common barbecue sauce?

The most common barbecue sauce is Kansas City BBQ Sauce. This thick, crimson-colored sweet sauce is what most people think of when they think of BBQ sauce. It’s a smoky, sweet sauce that is basted over meat. One of the best examples of Kansas City BBQ sauce is made by legendary Jack Stack BBQ in Kansas City, Missouri. Their KC Original BBQ Sauce is made with brown sugar, cayenne pepper, garlic, molasses, onion, tomato paste, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.

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

The difference between Carolina BBQ sauce and Kansas City BBQ sauce is the acidity, pepper, and smokiness. Carolina BBQ is made with apple cider vinegar and red pepper. Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce is made with Worcestershire or mustard, vinegar or lemon juice, and black pepper or red pepper.

Both are sweet and tangy sauces made with tomato or ketchup and molasses or brown sugar. Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce has a smoky flavor profile. Both are thicker sauces that are mopped or slathered on meat.

Iconic Regional BBQ Sauces

Get your grill on. The most iconic regional BBQ sauces, from Kansas City sweet heat to Alabama White Sauce to Carolina Gold, made by America’s top pitmasters, are shipping nationwide.

Central BBQ BBQ Sauce & Rubs Kit 2

Central BBQ’s Memphis-style BBQ Sauce & Rubs Kit

Opened in 2002 by Craig Blondis and Roger Sapp, Central BBQ in Memphis, Tennessee, makes some of the most memorable meat rubs and BBQ sauces. 
Central BBQ’s BBQ Sauce & Rubs Kit comes with a trio of rubs, including a choice of signature Caribbean Jerk, Hot Rub, or Rib Rub, and sauces, including Hot Sauce, Mild Sauce, Mustard Sauce, and Vinegar Sauce.

Feges BBQ Signature BBQ Sauce Sampler

Feges’ Signature Texas-style & Alabama-style BBQ Sauce Sampler

Founded by Iraq War veteran Patrick Feges and his chef-sommelier wife, Erin Smith, in 2018, Feges makes some of the finest BBQ and BBQ sauce in Texas. 

The Houston, Texas BBQ joint’s Signature BBQ Sauce Sampler is a five pack of favorite sauces. It includes Alabama White Sauce with horseradish and apple cider for a kick, Hot Red BBQ Sauce with Korean red chili paste, vinegar-y Mop Sauce, Sweet Red BBQ Sauce with vinegar and black pepper, and Texas Gold BBQ Sauce, a mustard-vinegar sauce.

Pitmaster BBQ Sauces & Rubs Kit

4 Rivers Smokehouse’s Pitmaster Southern-style BBQ Sauces & Rubs Kit

After a 20-year career in the healthcare industry, John Rivers opened 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Winter Park, Florida, in 2009. 

Try a trio of 4 Rivers’ rubs and sauces with the Pitmaster BBQ Sauces & Rubs Kit. Impress your friends at your next BBQ with Brisket Rub, Coffee Rub, and Southern-style All-Purpose Rub. Serve your next meat feast with 4 Rivers’ Signature BBQ Sauce, Hot BBQ Sauce, and Mustard BBQ Sauce.

Get saucy. America’s best barbecue sauces are shipping nationwide on Goldbelly!

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