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All American BBQ Sauce Recipes

Paula LOVES barbecue sauce on everything from ribs to potatoes! Like her, we all have our favorite sauces. From Kansas City to North Carolina, here are our top four. Try a sauce from a different region this summer grilling season. Or, host a backyard barbecue making all four sauces available for your guests and let them judge which one they like best. You might find that you have a new favorite!

 No Cook Eastern North Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce

In eastern North Carolina, they call their barbecue sauce a “finishing sauce”, as it is served after roasting the meat. Generally served in a squirt bottle on the side. Just make sure to shake it up well before you put it on the meat!


  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

In a large canning jar with a tight fitting lid add all the ingredients and shake. Place in the refrigerator for two days prior to using. Shaking occasionally. Shake well before using.

 Traditional Memphis-Style Barbecue Sauce 

Memphis, Tennessee is not only the home of Elvis Presley and rock and roll; it is also one of America’s barbecue capitals. In the Bluff City, ribs and pulled pork are topped with a variation of tangy vinegar and tomato-based sauce. In a barbecue town like Memphis, a sauce recipe can be akin to a family heirloom, passed down through the generations.


  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup grape juice
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 lemons, washed, quartered, and seeded

To an unheated, large saucepan or stockpot add dry ingredients. Slowly add vinegar, whisking all of the dry into a paste. Add all other ingredients. Put pan over medium-high heat. Stirring frequently, bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for at least two hours.

Move sauce from heat. Remove lemons with a slotted spoon. Let sauce cool for 5-10. Pour warm sauce into a blender or food processor. Pulse on for about 30 seconds. This will keep your sauce from breaking in the refrigerator.

Pour the finished sauce into containers and store in refrigerator until you are ready to use. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to six months.

Cook time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Yields: 1 liter of sauce

Cook’s Tip: The longer the sauce cooks, the more it will reduce. If a thicker sauce is desired, an additional 1-3 hours is recommended.

Traditional Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce

Because of its long history of being a major trailhead for cattle drives moving from the Southwest to their eastern markets, Kansas City barbecue is considered the epicenter of American barbecue. Kansas City barbecue sauce gets its flavor from a sweet tomato sauce, herbs and mustard mix.


  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 tablespoon onion salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 4 tablespoons butter

In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients except the butter.  Bring to a simmer and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the butter and allow it to melt through the sauce.

 South Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce

Not all barbecue sauces are a rich red! In fact, if you have ever had barbecue in South Carolina you know it comes with a flavorful bright yellow, mustard-based sweet sauce.


  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 sweet onion, grated
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Sauté the onions in the butter until translucent, but not brown. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Yields: 2 cups


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