What Is Mustard Barbecue Sauce?

Uses, Benefits, Recipes

Sweet Mustard Barbecue Sauce
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In the Carolinas and Georgia, you are likely to find a mustard-based barbecue sauce on the table rather than the tomato-based sauce you may be used seeing in other parts of the country. This style of sauce is perfect for this region where barbecue means pork, often whole hog, pork shoulder, or barbecue ribs.

What Is Mustard Barbecue Sauce?

Mustard barbecue sauce is a yellow-colored sauce typically served on the table to add to barbecued meat. It has a base of mustard, vinegar, sugar, and spices. This type of barbecue sauce adds a savory, tart flavor that matches well with the sweeter taste of barbecued pork. It might contain gluten if malt vinegar is used as an ingredient. It should be suitable for a vegan or vegetarian diet, but check the label in case any milk-derived ingredients are listed for a particular brand.


From colonial times, the barbecue sauce used in the Carolinas was primarily a thin sauce of vinegar and spices. Barbecue sauce was innovated and made fashionable by Africans who were enslaved. When Germans began migrating to the region at the end of the 18th century, particularly the central portion of South Carolina and parts of Northern Georgia, they brought mustard. Germans loved the combination of mustard and pork and in the Carolinas: barbecue means pulled pork. Slowly, mustard was integrated as an ingredient in the sauces served with barbecue produced in this region, growing in popularity and complexity. In fact, barbecue sauce only gained tomato as an ingredient as it was used farther west in the Carolinas. The thick, sweet, tomato-based barbecue sauce that is the standard in the supermarket today was developed in Kansas and Texas.

The Spruce / Lindsay Kreighbaum.

What Is It Made Of?

Mustard barbecue sauce has a few basic elements, and from there cooks put their own twist on the ingredients. Mustard barbecue sauces are almost always made from prepared yellow mustard out of a bottle. Variations can use brown mustard or Dijon. Typical ingredients include:

  • Mustard
  • Vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Peppers
  • Herbs and spices

What Does It Taste Like?

Mustard barbecue sauces are primarily tangy, with varying levels of sweetness, savoriness, and heat. The natural pungent heat of mustard, with added peppers, provides a complete spiciness that is perfect for great barbecue. Vinegar, usually apple cider vinegar, brings up the tanginess and adds the depth of flavor that goes well with pork. Garlic and onion are commonly added, with the herbs and spices kept in balance so they enhance but do not overpower.

Cooking With Mustard Barbecue Sauce

Mustard sauces are best served on the side so that the diner can decide how much to add themselves. To serve barbecue sauces on the side, warm slightly to room temperature or slightly higher. Never serve a cold sauce with hot barbecue. When making the sauce from scratch, it can be prepared while the meat is barbecuing.

Recipes With Mustard Barbecue Sauce

Mustard barbecue sauce can be served with any form of barbecued pork, but you can also serve it with chicken. Try it as a dipping sauce for appetizers.

Where to Buy

Look in the condiment section of the grocery store for mustard barbecue sauce. While it was once less common outside of the Carolinas and Georgia, regional sauces are again popular. Major brands such as Heinz and Sweet Baby Ray's offer mustard barbecue sauce varieties.

How to Make Your Own Mustard Barbecue Sauce

In making your own mustard barbecue sauce, you can play with the balance of tanginess, sweetness, and heat. You may use prepared yellow mustard or opt for Dijon or brown mustard. While most of these sauces add apple cider vinegar because of the superior flavor, any vinegar will do. Brown sugar is typically used as the sweet element, but you could use honey or molasses. The pepper element can be black pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, or hot sauce. A balance of white, black, and red peppers hits different parts of the tongue giving a well-rounded heat.

A great mustard sauce can include most any herbs and spices. Garlic and onion are common, but you may also use herbs like oregano, thyme, or marjoram and spices like cumin, celery seed, and nutmeg. Nutmeg, in particular, makes flavors pop out and adds depth to anything it is added too.

To make it, combine the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Make sure to stir the sauce often to prevent burning. Once cooked through, remove from heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature before using.


An opened bottle of mustard barbecue sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for four months for the best quality. Homemade mustard barbecue sauce should be kept refrigerated if not used immediately and will be at best quality for a week. It can be frozen to keep longer.

Benefits of Mustard Barbecue Sauce

Mustard barbecue sauce adds an extra punch of flavor to meat. Serving it can be a great variation from the typical heavy, sweet, tomato-based barbecue sauces.