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Barbecue sauce (also abbreviated as BBQ sauce) is used as a flavoring sauce, a marinade, basting, condiment, or topping for meat cooked in the barbecue cooking style, including pork or beef ribs and chicken. It is a ubiquitous condiment in the Southern United States and is used on many other foods as well.[1]

Barbecue sauce
Pork steaks cooking-1.jpg
The St. Louis barbecue style of preparation involves slow open grilling until done, then simmering in a pan of barbecue sauce that is placed on the grill.
Place of originUnited States
Main ingredientsVinegar, tomato paste or ketchup
VariationsLiquid smoke, onion powder, spices such as mustard and black pepper, mayonnaise, and sugar and/or molasses

The ingredients vary widely even within individual countries, but most include some variation on vinegar, tomato paste, or mayonnaise (or a combination thereof) as a base, as well as liquid smoke, onion powder, spices such as mustard and black pepper, and sweeteners such as sugar or molasses.


Some place the origin of barbecue sauce at the formation of the first American colonies in the 17th century.[2] References to the sauce start occurring in both English and French literature over the next two hundred years. South Carolina mustard sauce, a type of barbecue sauce, can be traced to German settlers in the 18th century.[3]

Early cookbooks did not tend to include recipes for barbecue sauce. The first commercially produced barbecue sauce was made by the Georgia Barbecue Sauce Company in Atlanta, Georgia. Its sauce was advertised for sale in the Atlanta Constitution, January 31, 1909. Heinz released its barbecue sauce in 1940.[4] Kraft Foods also started making cooking oils with bags of spice attached, supplying another market entrance of barbecue sauce.[5]


Different geographical regions have allegiances to their particular styles and variations for barbecue sauce. Some are based in regional tradition.

Homemade barbecue sauce
  • East Carolina – Most American barbecue sauces can trace their roots to a sauce common in the eastern regions of North Carolina and South Carolina.[6] The simplest and the earliest, it was popularized by African slaves who also advanced the development of American barbecue, and originally was made with vinegar, ground black pepper, and hot chili pepper flakes. It is used as a "mopping" sauce to baste the meat while it is cooking and as a dipping sauce when it is served. Thin and sharp, it penetrates the meat and cuts the fats in the mouth. There is little or no sugar in this sauce, which in turn has a noticeably tarter flavor than most other barbecue sauces.
  • Western Carolina – In Lexington and the Piedmont areas of western North Carolina, the sauce is often called a dip. It is similar to the East Carolina Sauce with the addition of tomato paste, tomato sauce, or ketchup.
  • South Carolina mustard sauce – Part of South Carolina is known for its yellow barbecue sauces made primarily of yellow mustard, vinegar, sugar and spices. This sauce is most common in a belt from Columbia to Charleston, an area settled by many Germans.
  • Memphis – Similar to the Western Carolina style, but using molasses as a sweetener, and with additional spices.
  • Kansas City – Thick, reddish-brown, tomato-based, and made with sugar, vinegar, and spices. Evolved from the Western Carolina, it is significantly different in that it is thick and sweet and does not penetrate the meat as much as sit on the surface. This is the most common and popular sauce in the US and all other tomato-based sauces are variations on the theme using more or less of the same main ingredients.
  • Texas – In some of the older, more traditional restaurants the sauces are heavily seasoned with cumin, chili peppers or chili powder, black pepper, and fresh onion, while using less tomato and sugar. They are medium thick and often resemble a thin tomato soup. [7] They penetrate the meat easily rather than sit on top. Bottled barbecue sauces from Texas are often different from those used in the same restaurants because they do not contain meat drippings.[8]
  • Florida – Similar to the Memphis style in that it has a higher percentage of vinegar than Kansas City style. Florida style is characterized by the tropical fruit flavors such as orange, mango, guava, papaya, pineapple, and tamarind as well as peppers with some heat such as chipotle and habanero. Because of its fruity flavor, it is commonly served with pork, beef, chicken, and seafood.
  • Alabama white sauce – North Alabama is known for its distinctive white sauce, a mayonnaise-based sauce, which is used predominantly on chicken and pork. It is composed of eggs and oil (or mayonnaise), apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and black pepper.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Michelle Moran, The Gourmet Retailer (2005-03-01). "Category Analysis: Condiments". Archived from the original on 3 November 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-01.
  2. ^ Bob Garner (1996). North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored by Time. p. 160. ISBN 0-89587-152-1.
  3. ^ Lake E. High, Jr. (2019). "A Very Brief History of the Four Types of Barbeque Found In the USA". South Carolina Barbeque Association.
  4. ^ Robert F. Moss (2010). Barbecue: The History of an American Institution. University of Alabama Press. pp. 189–190.
  5. ^ Bruce Bjorkman (1996). The Great Barbecue Companion: Mops, Sops, Sauces, and Rubs. p. 112. ISBN 0-89594-806-0.
  6. ^ Lake E. High, Jr. (2019). "A Very Brief History of the Four Types of Barbeque Found In the USA". South Carolina Barbeque Association.
  7. ^ Daniel Vaughn (2014). "All About the Sauce". TexasMonthly.
  8. ^ HEINZ (2019). "Heinz Texas Style Bold & Spicy BBQ Sauce, 19.5 oz Bottle". Kraft-Heinz.