Carolina Red BBQ Sauce

It seems like every region of the United States has their own version of a BBQ sauce. Some are sweet, some are tangy, some have a lot of tomato and others are more mustard based. Some BBQ sauces are red, others brown and some are even yellow or white! Talk to different people and you will likely get different answers regarding which kind of BBQ sauce best.

Head to the Carolinas, particularly to the regions around both Lexington and Piedmont, and you will find a BBQ sauce very different than the sweet tomato kind from Kansas City or the smokey sauce from Texas.

Carolina Red Sauce is a thin vinegar based sauce that is very tangy and served as a mop sauce and finishing sauce for pulled pork. It is even great as a mop sauce for smoked ribs. Mop some on before you add a finishing BBQ sauce.

carolina red bbq sauce text

Carolina Red BBQ Sauce Recipe - Piedmont or Lexington

This thin sauce popular in the Carolinas is great as a mop sauce and finishing sauce for pulled pork, smoked ribs and more. Cider vinegar, ketchup, sugar and spices
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This thin sauce popular in the Carolinas is great as a mop sauce and finishing sauce for pulled pork, smoked ribs and more. Cider vinegar, ketchup, sugar and spices
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup vinegar (white or cider)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

  • Whisk all the ingredients together in a saucepan until smooth. Cook on medium low heat for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.
  • Store in a jar or squeeze bottle in the fridge.

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3 comments

  • I’ve recently been making numerous trips to the NC Piedmont/Lexington/Triad and nearby areas for Lexington/Western style NC BBQ (27 different restaurants so far to be exact). One thing I’ve noticed is that there are two noticeably different Lexington/western BBQ sauces, or “dip” as it is mostly called in this area. One is thinner and more vinegar/pepper focused, much like your recipe here, but with more heat and sitting in bottles at the table (it also reminds me a lot of Eastern Carolina BBQ sauce, just with some ketchup added, which Eastern style does not have any of, or at least not supposed to).

    The other version still has a good deal of vinegar kick with significant heat, but seems to have more ketchup/sweetness, not as spicy and served warm in a Styrofoam cup by the server when your order comes to the table (if table service is offered). These usually also have butter in the ingredients which might be a reason it is served warm from the kitchen.

    I love trying to recreate recipes at home from memory of my experiences in NC. Suggestions on the internet such as yours are a welcome and helpful addition to the process. I even made a bizarre but delicious hybrid sauce combining elements of South Carolina mustard based sauce, the thinner spicier Lexington sauce and some pickle juice from homemade refrigerator pickles as part of the vinegar profile. A shame I did not write it down. Thank you.

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  • Love this sauce

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  • I love a tangy bbq sauce…. looks like a winner. 🙂

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