• The Five Mother Sauces of Southern Barbecue

by Ginny McCormack Ehrhart July 05, 2017 2 Comments

The world may have its Seven Wonders, but here in the South we have the Five Mother Sauces of Southern Barbecue...and we'll stack our Western North Carolina Vinegar Sauce up against the Great Pyramid of Giza any day of the week - and win every time.  We know barbecue.  It's our thing.  'Nuff said.

Let's take a Magical Mystery Tour across the South, shall we?  We'll journey from Alabama to North Carolina then dip down into South Carolina before jetting off to Kansas City (So okay, that last one is not in the South, but they make some dang good barbecue sauce and we eat a lot of it here in the South so we invited them to the party anyway. Don't judge.)

 Our Five Mother Sauces of Southern Barbecue are as unique and tantalizing as the regions they represent.  Which is the best you ask?  Why, the one you love the most, of course! Like how we did that?  We affirmed your favorite without insulting the others.  For some folks, using any sauce other than their regional favorite is nothing short of barbecue blasphemy.  Wars have been waged to defend the honor of these mother sauces (well, maybe).  Nonetheless, barbecue sauce is serious business and we don't like hate mail so we're here to tell you they are ALL gooooood!  Buckle your seat belts...here we go.

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I.  Alabama White Sauce  -  This unique barbecue was attributed to barbecue legend Big Bob Gibson in1925.  Alabama devotees drizzle this thin, mayonnaise based sauce over smoked chicken and turkey.  Yeah, we love it too.

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 T. brown mustard

1 t. prepared horseradish

1/2 t. ground black pepper

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. paprika

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate at least 1 hour.  May be stored in an air tight container int he refrigerator up to 1 week.

II.  Eastern North Carolina Vinegar Sauce  -  This no frills, bare bones barbecue sauce is what eastern North Carolinians refer to as the ONLY acceptable condiment for whole hog barbecue.  This thin, peppery vinegar sauce cuts through the rich, fatty layers of slow cooked pork.  It's a match made in North Carolina heaven.

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

2 t. sugar

2 t. crushed red pepper flakes

2 t. Tobasco sauce

1/2 t. black pepper

1/4 t. salt

Whisk all ingredients together and drizzle on barbecued meat.  Can be stored up to 1 month.


III.  Western North Carolina Sauce  -  This vinegar based sauce is a little thicker and sweeter than its east North Carolina cousin thanks to the addition of ketchup and brown sugar.  It's delicious on every kind of barbecued meat and is a big reason folks love southern barbecue so much.

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed

2 T. sugar

1 T. kosher salt

1 T.  ground black pepper

1 T. red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Cool at room temperature.


IV.  South Carolina Mustard Sauce  - The uniquely yellow tang with hints of spice and sweetness is what has established this barbecue sauce a South Carolina institution.  Why mustard in Southern Carolina? (We heard you ask that question.) For this you can thank the Germans who originally settled in this region.  To them, pork+ mustard = love.  We heartily agree.

1/2 cup yellow mustard

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 T. Worcestershire sauce

2 t. hot sauce

1 t. kosher salt

1 t. black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together.  Serve with any barbecued meat. 


V.  Kansas City Barbecue Sauce  - Though not born in the South, this thick, sweet sauce has found a welcome reception at many a southern barbecue dinner.  Let's just say the adoption has been finalized and this deliciously thick tomato & brown sugar barbecue sauce is here to stay.  We are most appreciative.

2 T. butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups ketchup

1/3 cup molasses

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

2 T. yellow mustard

1 T. chili powder

1 t. black pepper

1/2 t. cayenne pepper

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until soft.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring frequently.  Cool to room temperature.  Can be stored in refrigerator up to one month.


Ginny McCormack Ehrhart
Ginny McCormack Ehrhart


2 Responses

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