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Types of BBQ Sauces

4 Different Types of BBQ Sauces

There are many types of BBQ sauces, but the main difference is tomato-based and vinegar-based. Tomato-based has a sweeter flavor which works well with sweet meats such as pork ribs or chicken, while vinegar-based can be used with any meat. Some people prefer to use a mix of both so they have the best from both worlds! The post will go on to explore different types of sauce and their characteristics.

Tomato-Based BBQ Sauces

  • There are several different types of barbecue sauce that use tomato as a base ingredient. Some of the most common include Kansas City Style, Memphis Style, and Carolina Style sauces.
  • Kansas City style barbecue sauce is the sweeter style of barbecue sauce and is often used on ribs or chicken. This tangy, thick condiment contains spices like paprika and chili powder along with cider vinegar and tomatoes (although tomato paste and ketchup may be sometimes substituted) . It also includes molasses for extra sweetness.
  • Memphis-style sauce is generally thinner than other types of barbecue sauce and can be used either as a marinade or dip for meats such as pork ribs or chicken before cooking or it can be brushed onto meats while they’re grilling. The ingredients in Memphis-style barbecue sauce include vinegar, water, crushed tomatoes, sugar or molasses, salt, pepper, dry mustard.
  • Carolina-style sauce is the spiciest of the three sauces that use tomato as a base ingredient. It’s also quite thin and can be used while grilling meats either as a marinade or to baste while cooking. It typically uses cider vinegar for acidity along with mustard powder instead of ketchup for color and flavor. Other ingredients may include tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce (red pepper flakes), brown sugar and paprika.
  • Not only do these popular barbecue sauces all contain tomatoes as a base but they’re also made using similar recipes: they start by sautéing onion in oil, adding garlic and other spices before puréeing the mixture with crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce. These sauces can be then used for grilling meats or they’re thickened before being bottled to use as a condiment.

Vinegar-Based BBQ Sauces

  • Vinegar-based sauces, such as those used in North Carolina-style barbecue, are somewhat thinner than tomato-based sauces and tend to be on the hot side of the spectrum.
  • Due to the fact that Carolina barbecue is centered on pigs. The sauces are ideal for pairing with pork, as their astringent flavor helps balance the fattier meat.
  • However, vinegar-based sauces do include ketchup. The barbecue sauce from Eastern Carolina is tomato-free. However, the Western Carolina version, sometimes referred to as Piedmont or Lexington, has a trace of ketchup but not enough to thicken it. It’s not quite as thin and vinegary as its Eastern cousin, but it is somewhat more pink.
  • Both are heavily utilized in the preparation of Carolina-style pulled pork, which may be eaten as a meal or a sandwich.

Mustard-Based BBQ Sauces

  • Mustard-based sauces are created by combining vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and other spices with mustard yellow. They do not need cooking, but they must rest overnight to enable the flavors to meld.
  • Barbecue sauce in South Carolina is usually prepared using simple yellow mustard. It’s fiery, robust, and acidic, yet devoid of sweetness. South Carolina sauce is a famous chicken or pork marinade.
  • Cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and spicy sauce are all possible ingredients in a South Carolina barbecue sauce.
  • Georgia barbecue sauce prepared with mustard may have a sweet or spicy flavor. It pairs very well with pulled chicken, pig, or ribs. Georgia may include mustard sauce recipes that use yellow mustard, Tabasco sauce, and brown sugar.

Mayonnaise-Based BBQ Sauces

  • Finally, we’ll cover mayonnaise-based BBQ sauces in this post. They are very smooth and tangy BBQ sauces with a spicy and sweet taste.
  • They pair well with lighter-flavored meats like chicken and fish. We suggest using this type of BBQ sauce to balance out the smoky taste of grilled meats.
  • Mayonnaise-based BBQ sauces are versatile and may be used as marinades or basting sauces. They also double as condiments.
  • If you’ve put sugar in your meal, use it as a finishing sauce only, since it may burn and destroy the meat.


How can I choose a good BBQ sauce?

The best way to tell if you have found a good tomato-based barbecue sauce is with texture and thickness. If the sauce is too thin, it will drip right off of your meat or fries and there won’t be enough flavor for everyone to use. However, if it’s too thick then it can taste overly tangy or sour and mask the more subtle flavors within the sauce itself; this is especially important when you’re adding more ingredients like spices and herbs into your dish. The perfect tomato-based bbq sauce should be thick enough to stay on your dish, but not so thick that it’s difficult to get out of the bottle.

Also, try looking for a tomato-based barbecue sauce that isn’t too acidic or sweet. A good tomato-based bbq sauce will have a consistency similar to ketchup and honey mixed together, without being too runny. A good barbecue sauce will also have a hint of sweetness with a proper amount of tang from vinegar or lemon juice. You don’t want it too sweet either, because the balance between sweet and sour is what gives each recipe its flavor. In fact, you can even add lemon zest in addition to lemon juice if you want an acidic boost!

Do I need anything else to make my own BBQ Sauce?

While it’s possible to make your own barbecue sauce at home, it will likely be more time consuming than checking the labels of what you’re buying! Many people like to add their own personal touch by adding in additional spices and herbs such as cayenne pepper, black pepper or cumin. You can also experiment with different flavors by adding ingredients like lemons or limes, ginger or onions. However, if you prefer not to cook then check out a jar of gourmet barbecue sauces that might suit your specific taste preference and meal better!

I love tomatoes but I heard they aren’t good for me; is this true?

Tomatoes are generally good for you and they can even help prevent cancer, but they’re also more acidic than most other fruits and vegetables. This means that if you suffer from acid reflux or heartburn then it might be best to avoid heavy tomato-based products such as bbq sauces. If you eat tomatoes regularly however, either cooked or raw, they can actually help reduce your chances of getting cancer later in life.

Is barbecue sauce considered healthy?

A lot of people assume that because it’s a condiment, barbecue sauce is unhealthy or bad for you! In truth, there are many different kinds of barbecue sauces that range from having a small amount of calories to being a healthier alternative to mayonnaise-based sauces. Tomato-based barbecue sauce is actually typically healthy because it consists of minimal ingredients, which are all natural and don’t contain high levels of sodium or sugar.


Today, we’ve learned about the different types of BBQ sauces and how they can enhance your cooking. We hope you enjoyed our article on this topic! If not, let us know what else would interest you in a blog post? Would you like to learn more about other popular American foods or international dishes? Leave us your feedback below so that we can create content for an audience just like yours!


Mikayla Novak

Mikayla Novak is a foodie at heart, who’s been chasing her passion for all things culinary since the age of 12. She is currently the Food Editor for where she oversees menu development and provides editorial direction to their team of talented chefs. Mikayla enjoys developing new recipes using seasonal ingredients from local farms and has a special talent for pairing wine with every dish on the menu.

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