top of page

Styles & Types of BBQ Sauces: Here is What You Need to Try

Updated: Mar 6

different types of bbq sauces and ribs

BBQ sauce has been around since the late 1600s when a Dominican missionary named Père Labat visited the French West Indies. However, it was quite different back then and not anything like the sauces we have now. The first commercialized barbecue sauce didn't begin until 1917 by a man named Adam Scott from Goldsboro, NC.

The point is that we've seen a form of BBQ sauce being used on pork and chicken for quite some time! BBQ sauce has evolved and changed over all that time into the amazing and mouthwatering sauces we have now... which we have quite a few to choose from!

Which is what we're going to cover today in this article, some of the most popular types of BBQ sauces are used today, and much more.

Let's dive in!

Popular Types of BBQ Sauces in the U.S.

There are a few types of BBQ sauce that are used more often in the United States than others.

  1. Tomato-based sauces

  2. Vinegar-based sauces

  3. Mayonnaise-based sauces

  4. Mustard-based sauces

There are four distinct styles of barbeque across the United States, each with their own signature techniques, rubs, and sauces. Each region has its own unique flavors and styles, from the types of meat they smoke to their characteristic sides, how it's prepared, and much more.

Let's take a peek at each one!

bbq sauce

1. Tomato-Based Sauces

As you might've guessed, these sauces use tomato as the primary ingredient. To that, other ingredients are added to create different flavors. For example, sugar, molasses, vinegar, and various spices might be included. This is the most popular type of BBQ sauce in the U.S., but it really depends on what region you're in.

These are often on the sweet side and compliment meats that are cooked with a sugary rub. Such as Kansas City BBQ Sauces, St. Louis BBQ Sauces, and Texas Style BBQ Sauces.

2. Vinegar-Based Sauces

These sauces use vinegar as the primary ingredient with the addition of other flavors. Such as different types of vinegar, sugar, ketchup (yes some still contain ketchup, just not as the main ingredient), and various spices might be included. This type of sauce is popular in North Carolina and is used often on pulled pork as its astringent flavor helps balance out the fattier pork.

Your vinegar-based BBQ sauces are usually on the astringent and strong side. They are usually Carolina Style BBQ Sauces and Lexington BBQ Sauces.

3. Mayonnaise-Based Sauces

These sauces use mayonnaise as the primary ingredient. This type of sauce is very popular in Alabama and is used often on chicken. It is usually a creamy sauce with a horseradish kick.

Which is why it compliments smoked poultry so much.

It's not pure mayonnaise though, but rather a combination of mayonnaise thinned out with vinegar and lemon juice. When you think about it, barbecue sauce mainly consists of oil and vinegar held together (which is what mayonnaise is). So using it as a base for BBQ sauce just makes sense!

4. Mustard-Based Sauces

These sauces use mustard as the primary ingredient. Mustard-based barbecue sauces are usually a bit on the tangy and peppery side. This type of sauce is mostly popular in South Carolina and the surrounding area.

pouring bbq sauce on steak

We can trace the sauce's origin back to South Carolina, where we discover the only instance of a Mustard-based barbecue sauce is another thin like sauce, spicy, and can be astringent.

Making it the perfect condiment that goes with the region's classic pulled pork sandwiches, particularly pig shoulder but also other parts of the pig including the neck and belly.

As you can see, there are quite a few different types of BBQ sauces out there! And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of other flavors and variations out there for you to try.

Now that we have the 4 basic and popular types of BBQ sauces, let's talk more about some of the popular styles.

Styles of BBQ Sauces

As we mentioned before, each region has its own unique flavors, techniques, and styles. When it comes to the most popular styles of BBQ sauces, we're usually talking about these four:

  1. Carolina Style BBQ Sauces

  2. Texas Style BBQ Sauces

  3. Kansas Style BBQ Sauces

  4. Alabama Style BBQ Sauces

Each one is very unique and oh so good! Let's dive into them and learn more about each region's style and what sets it apart from the others.

Carolina Style BBQ Sauces

There are two different types of Carolina Style BBQ sauces: Eastern and Western.

1. North Carolina-Style BBQ Sauce

This type of sauce is very thin and is made with vinegar, pepper, and various spices. It is mostly used as a mop while cooking and then served with additional sauce on the side. This style of sauce is mostly used on pork, specifically pulled pork.

It's also common to see this sauce used on chicken, ribs, and beef.

2. South Carolina-Style BBQ Sauce

This type of sauce is thicker than the Eastern style and is made with ketchup, vinegar, sugar, and various spices. You can also see mustard used for their BBQ as well. It is used more as a finishing sauce and not during the cooking process.

You often hear Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce or Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce, which is one of the favorites of not just people from Carolina, but throughout the whole country!

In North Carolina, partisans debate whether South Carolina whole hog barbecue or Lexington-style pork shoulder is the state's preferred BBQ.

rubbing different style of bbq sauces on ribs

Texas Style BBQ Sauces

Texas Style BBQ sauces are usually a bit on the sweeter side and are made with tomatoes, vinegar, molasses, sugar, and various spices. However, you can find some that pack quite a bunch if you're looking for some heat. This type of sauce is used during the cooking process as well as served on the side.

In Texas beef is king though. The more meat the better. Typically you won't see as much sauce used on the meat as there is with the other styles of BBQ sauces. You might see quite a few Texas BBQ sauces that are mesquite or post oak wood and tomato-based.

Kansas Style BBQ Sauces

Kansas Style BBQ sauces are very similar to the Texas style sauces but are a bit thicker and not as sweet. Think ketchup meets brown sugar and molasses, plus whatever crazy flavor profile they throw in there. Kansas Style BBQ sauce can be a much thicker tomato base than the others.

They will use whatever cut is chosen (they use every bit of meat you can think of). Coat it up with a spicy rub, then cooked slow-and-low over some sort of smoke, and served with a sweet and tangy molasses tomato sauce (used for dipping).

When it comes to BBQ sauces this thick sauce is what most people think of when they hear someone say "BBQ sauce".

Alabama Style BBQ Sauces

Alabama Style BBQ sauces are made with mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and various spices. This type of sauce is used as a finishing sauce and not during the cooking process. It's also common to see this sauce used a lot on chicken and even some good old french fries.

While it might sound strange to have mayo in your barbecue sauce, it actually adds a nice richness and creaminess that takes these sauces to the next level. It's often a tangy flavor but can also be loaded up with some high heat levels.

woman eating ribs with bbq sauce

So there you have it! These are the 4 most popular types of BBQ sauces from around the country. Each one is unique and has its own delicious flavors that are sure to make your mouth water.

We're not going to leave you hanging though after talking about some amazing and delicious sauces. We've got a few of our favorites to share with you if you're ready to try some new sauces packed with explosive tastes!

BBQ Sauces to Try

We've got some amazing Carolina, Texas, Alabama, and Kansas style BBQ sauces to try. Fair warning though, these sauces pack a punch when it comes to flavor and heat! They are all a must-try though.

Carolina mustard BBQ sauce

Reaper Gold Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce

Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce is a take on a South Carolina mustard based BBQ sauce. Its paired with the hottest pepper in the world, which also originates from South Carolina. Try it on pork, chicken, corn dogs, chili dogs, or anything that you would eat with mustard. It is basically liquid gold... but with an amazing KICK of heat.

reverse sear texas bbq sauce

Reverse Sear Texas BBQ Sauce

Reverse Sear is an in-your-face full of flavor of your traditional style of BBQ sauce. You can use it on all of your favorite BBQ meats. Warning though, it's been paired up with the 7-pot Primo making it a delicious sauce with a serious initial punch. All awhile the Carolina Reaper continues the burn on the back end.

This one might still burn tomorrow.

fatal mango texas bbq sauce

Fatal Mango Texas BBQ Sauce

Fatal Mango is a delicious concoction of BBQ mango sauce made with mangoes and Fatalii peppers. Fatalii peppers pack a citrus flavor and searing heat slightly hotter than habaneros. This makes the sauce very versatile!

It's best used on ribs, chicken, pork, and seafood. You can also mix it into cream cheese for a delicious dip! The heat level may not seem "fatal" to the toughest of chiliheads, but you will likely develop a fatal attraction to this amazing sauce.

white wraith alabama bbq sauce

White Wraith Alabama White Sauce

White Wraith pays homage to Alabama style BBQ sauces, where white sauces originated. It kicks up the heat with Ghost Peppers. Alabama white sauce is traditionally used for dunking chicken, so use this sauce accordingly. It also makes a great dipping sauce for chicken wings. It is incredibly addictive though, so be prepared.

Beware that the Ghost Peppers in this sauce give it plenty of fire that some people may not be able to handle.

pear burner kansas bbq sauce

Pear Burner Kansas BBQ Sauce

Pear Burner pays home to Kansas City and is the home of burnt ends and arguably the most popular style of BBQ sauce. The sauce gives honor to this iconic BBQ city with a delicious version of Kansas City style BBQ sauces.

It also introduces some light fruity notes with the help of pear and prickly pear, and brings the heat with the Scorpion Pepper! (So be prepared for that heat). Pear burners are used to burn the spines of the prickly pear fruit. They are also commonly used in BBQ joint pit rooms for starting fires. Use this Pear Burner on all things BBQ, especially burnt ends bbq.

You can also find all of these at our online BBQ shop where there are also packs, that way if you want to try multiple flavors, you can buy them as a single pack!

What is the Hottest BBQ Sauce with Burnt Ends

If you're crazy about heat levels and want the hottest BBQ sauce that packs a serious heat punch, then we've got you covered. When it comes to the hottest BBQ sauces, we've got two in mind for you.

The Reaper Gold and Reverse Sear are both made with the hottest chili peppers in the world. Which is why it's an excellent choice for those who love serious heat with flavors that explode in your mouth.


smoking meats with bbq sauce

Let's Recap!

BBQ sauce is a staple condiment in any household. It can be used as a marinade, baste, or finishing sauce on meats and vegetables. BBQ sauces come in all different flavors and styles, making it easy to find one that fits your taste.

We've provided a list of some of our favorite BBQ sauces for you to try, each with its own unique flavor and heat profile. Whether you're looking for something sweet and smoky or hot and spicy, we've got you covered.

So get down with some BBQ sauces and add some spice to your life! If you guys have questions about any of the sauces, or what we talked about, or if you want to share your own thoughts, make sure to leave a comment down below!


bottom of page