Big Daddy's Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce

Big Daddy's Carolina-style barbecue sauce in a white bowl with a spoon

The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 40 mins
Servings: 20 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
53 Calories
2g Fat
9g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 20
Amount per serving
Calories 53
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 2%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 178mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 15mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 49mg 1%
*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.)

Carolina-style barbecue sauce is vinegar and mustard based, quite the opposite of the thicker and sweeter molasses-based sauces used in the South and Midwest. Use this sauce both on the traditional Carolina pulled pork and on grilled chicken. The tanginess from the mustard and vinegar and a hint of liquid smoke complement grilled meat beautifully. The sauce is also a tasty addition to fries and potatoes and other classic side dishes.

"Big Daddy," one of our readers, generously shared this recipe with us. And it doesn't disappoint. Make bigger batches and keep in the fridge for up to 10 days. As this sauce isn't pasteurized nor canned to preserve, use what you need and keep refrigerated. Never apply used utensils to spoon the sauce, and if a piece of uncooked meat or chicken falls into the sauce, discard the sauce immediately.


  • 1 cup yellow mustard

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar

  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons mild chili powder 

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke, hickory flavor

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Big Daddy's Carolina-Style barbecue sauce gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  2. Combine all the ingredients, except the soy sauce, butter, and liquid smoke, in a medium saucepan. Add the cayenne, if using. Simmer on low for 20 minutes, making sure to stir occasionally.

    Ingredients for Carolina barbecue sauce in a pot, except soy sauce, butter, and liquid smoke

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  3. Add the soy sauce, butter, and liquid smoke and simmer for 10 more minutes. 

    Soy sauce, butter, and Liquid Smoke added to the sauce in the saucepan

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  4. Remove the sauce from heat and allow the mixture to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before using it in your favorite barbecue recipe.

    Big Daddy's Carolina-style barbecue sauce in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

How to Use Carolina Barbecue Sauce

The default and very tasty use for this sauce is to use it on pulled pork or grilled chicken. But there is so much more to this sauce than to deliciously soak juicy meats:

  • Use it as a dressing by mixing 1 cup of barbecue sauce with 1 cup of full-fat mayonnaise. This thicker version is great for dipping fried potato wedges, fried yuca sticks, and crudités. Use it on ham and cheese sandwiches instead of plain mayo. Similarly, make a cold potato salad using this dressing instead of mayo or sour cream. For a lighter version, mix 1 cup of barbecue sauce with 1 cup of full-fat Greek yogurt. In this case, taste for seasonings before using.
  • Use the sauce as a marinade for chicken, beef strips, or pork loin. As the sauce contains vinegar, and the acid can alter the texture of meats if left too long to marinate them, simply put the meat of your choice in a zip-top bag, add enough sauce to coat it, and leave to marinate for just 10 minutes.
  • Thin out the barbecue sauce by mixing 1/2 cup of it with 1/4 cup of vinegar, and 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil. Use this is as a nontraditional dressing to coat root vegetables before roasting—use a mixture of potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, and rutabaga. The addition of a teaspoon of dry thyme or sage can also add some depth of flavor to the mixture. As there is no sugar in the sauce, it won't burn in the oven but instead will give a hint of smokiness to your veggies. Add salt and pepper to taste once the veggies are done.

What Is Liquid Smoke?

Liquid smoke is a natural flavoring made by condensing, well, smoke. Natural wood chips are burnt and then condensed into a liquid. The liquid contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a byproduct of the smoking process considered a carcinogenic component. But as the liquid is filtered many times before bottling and shipping it to supermarket shelves, the traces of PAHs are very small and unlikely to cause any harm. It is in fact being studied whether liquid smoke can be an all-natural food preservative.

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Article Sources
The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lingbeck JM, Cordero P, O’Bryan CA, Johnson MG, Ricke SC, Crandall PG. Functionality of liquid smoke as an all-natural antimicrobial in food preservation. Meat Sci. 2014;97(2):197-206. DOI: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2014.02.003