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

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 Suace 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!

This 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!

types of bbq sauces on chicken wings

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.

fire roasting for bbq food

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