Best Odds Pulled Pork Barbecue Sauce

Pulled pork sandwich
Fabian Krause / EyeEm / Getty Images
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 7 mins
Total: 17 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
107 Calories
1g Fat
19g Carbs
1g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 107
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1180mg 51%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Protein 1g
Calcium 46mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This thin vinegary sauce is added to smoked pulled pork in the tradition of the eastern Carolinas. The tangy combination of apple cider vinegar and spices adds flavor and keeps the meat moist. Your family and guests will be delighted by how delicious and pure the pulled pork tastes.

This simple sauce made with vinegar, black pepper, and chile peppers is believed to be the oldest barbecue sauce style on the North American continent. In the Carolinas, barbecue means whole hogs or pork shoulders cooked over hardwood coals. This minimalist sauce cuts through the fat and allows the naturally sweet pork to shine. It would be a shame to hide that under a typical commercially produced tomato-based barbecue sauce that is thick and sweet in the Kansas City tradition.

If you are smoking pork shoulder to make pulled pork, you would work a pork rub (with similar spices but no vinegar) into the meat and then smoke it at 200 to 225 F for five to six hours. In the Carolina tradition, the crispy skin (cracklings) are chopped up with the pulled pork for extra bursts of flavor.


  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a medium saucepan, combine water and brown sugar over medium heat, until the sugar has dissolved.

  3. Add the remaining ingredients and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes.

  4. Remove the sauce from the heat and let it stand for 3 to 4 minutes.

  5. Slowly add the sauce to pulled pork. Using tongs, gently turn the meat. The pulled pork should be lightly and evenly coated, neither dry nor soupy.

  6. Place the pulled pork onto warmed sandwich buns and serve with coleslaw.

The coleslaw can go on the sandwich on top of the pulled pork or be served on the side. You could also have the pulled pork by itself, rather than as a sandwich. In addition to a mayonnaise-based coleslaw, typical sides would include hush puppies and Brunswick stew (a tomato, bean, and vegetable stew). Sweet tea is the usual beverage.

If you prefer, you can use distilled white vinegar and it would be just as authentic as that is also often found in sauces served in the eastern Carolinas. Another common variation is to include some Texas Pete hot pepper sauce, which is popular in the region.

This sauce can do double duty as a mop sauce during smoking. It is best applied with a spray bottle so you don't contaminate the remaining sauce or disturb the rub on the meat. Mop sauces are used to keep the meat moist during cooking, especially when whole hogs are cooked in the open pit style.