The Many Types of BBQ Sauces of the United States

Summertime is just around the corner and that means barbecues are coming like a freight train to a plethora of American backyards near you. Let’s see just how many kinds of BBQ sauces are out there.

Summertime is just around the corner and that means barbecues are coming like a freight train to a plethora of American backyards near you. Let's see just how many kinds of BBQ sauces are out there.

Barbecue sauce is really interesting because everyone thinks they know what it is and their general experience doesn’t vary too much. But, depending on where you go throughout the country, barbecue sauce could mean a great many things.

Let’s look at some of types of barbecue sauces we can find throughout the United States and zero in on what makes them different from one another.

Where Does Barbecue Sauce Originate?

Barbecue sauce originated in this country on the East Coast, somewhere between North Carolina and Florida. At the time, the art of slow cooking meats over wooden grills was taken from the Arawak tradition of “babacots”. In case you want a little history lesson, the Arawak were a Native American tribe that occupied Florida and a lot of the Caribbean at the time of Spanish colonization.

Eventually, the term babacots turned into barbacoa before settling on barbecue. It is believed that slaves were the first creators of barbecue sauce, seasoning their meat with a sauce made from hot peppers and lemon juice.

Lexington Style Dip (Piedmont)

This is a sauce that originated in the hilly areas of Western North Carolina. It is primarily made using tomato paste, tomato sauce and, most often, ketchup.

The ketchup sweetens the tangy vinegar of the sauce and gives it the traditional red coloring. It’s widely believed throughout North Carolina that five German men created this sauce based on an old Bavarian custom of serving up pork shoulder with a sauce that was both sweet and vinegary.

Eastern Carolina Sauce

This was one of the first barbecue sauces created in this country, and it’s also one of the simplest. Slaves created Eastern Carolina Sauce by mixing vinegar, chili pepper flakes and black pepper.

It had two primary uses, both as a mopping sauce that would baste cooking meat and as a dipping sauce. There’s no tomato in the sauce whatsoever, but modern Eastern Carolina Sauce likes to incorporate hot sauce.

South Carolina Mustard Sauce

This is another creation of German immigrants, and it’s mostly used to season smoked meats with a tangy flavor.

German immigrants brought mustard with them when they settled in South Carolina and started using it in their barbecue recipes. The mustard is thinned out with vinegar before spices are added. It’s most commonly found between Columbia and Charleston, which was a popular area for German immigrants to settle.

Kansas City Barbecue Sauce

Yet another sauce that is based primarily off tomato and ketchup, Kansas City barbecue sauce adds vinegar, spices and sugar to the concoction. It actually evolved from the Lexington Dip sauce, but there are some key differences.

For starters, it’s sweet. It also doesn’t penetrate the meat as well and mostly sits on the surface. This is likely the barbecue sauce that you’re used to.

Memphis Barbecue Sauce

This is an offshoot of the Kansas City sauce. It uses a lot of the same ingredients, but its sweetener tends to be molasses-based. It also utilizes a lot more vinegar.

Florida Barbecue Sauce

It has a higher concentration of vinegar than Kansas City sauces, much like those used in Memphis. But the difference here is the addition of tropical fruit into the mix. Florida sauce uses mango, orange, papaya, guava and pineapple alongside chipotle and habanero peppers.

Texas Barbecue Sauce

Texas barbecue sauce is typically known as basting sauce or mop sauce because it’s a thin glazing sauce that moistens meat and injects it with a little bit of flavor throughout the smoking process.

A few common ingredients in Texas sauce could be beef stock, Worcestershire, garlic, salt, pepper and vinegar.

Alabama White Sauce

This is a fairly distinct sauce because of its white coloring. It’s primarily based on mayonnaise, and it can mostly be found alongside chicken and pork dishes.

To make an Alabama White Sauce you include mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, salt, black pepper and sugar. This barbecue sauce was invented by a man named Bob Gibson from northern Alabama.

In Conclusion

America is a land ripe with many different barbecue sauces. What’s your favorite? Do you have a recipe you favor? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know!

Kevin Kessler

Kevin J. Kessler is an experienced professional writer and published author living in Orlando, Florida. With a lifelong passion for food, this sandwich loving Italian boy enjoys exploring unanswered questions about the foods we all know and love so well. Kevin’s foodie lifestyle was born through his love of Walt Disney World and the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. A lover of stories, he enjoys trying new dishes from all over the world and learning everything there is to know about where food comes from, how its prepared, and what variations on it exist.