Best Eastern North Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe

Discover the Best Eastern North Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe. This vinegar barbecue sauce style might differ slightly from place to place. True to form, they share a characteristic flavor. Watery, thin, and tangy with a spicy vinegar kick. It’s not like ketchup.

In fact, the red color that is visible is likely to be cayenne and Tabasco. The East Carolina BBQ sauce was intended to break down the rich and fatty pork, bringing some flavor and some zing to the palate. I love East Carolina BBQs!

How to make BBQ sauce from scratch?

Make this easy BBQ sauce from scratch: Add sugar and vinegar into a saucepan of varying thickness and cook over low heat. Turn up the heat, and add all of the remaining ingredients.

You will see slight variations to this vinegar-based recipe, but the ingredient list typically includes hot sauce, crushed red pepper, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and salt and ground black pepper.

This sauce is great on beef, pork, and chicken wings!

What makes North Carolina BBQ different?

When it comes to the barbecue and the Carolinas, the style is divided into two camps. Throughout North Carolina, pork is the preferred meat. In Eastern Carolina, pork is often brushed with spices or vinegar mops while cooking. Across the rest of the state, pork is cooked and then served with an accompanying ketchup sauce.

What is Eastern-style BBQ?

Eastern barbecue style is a full-hog barbecue, usually described as using “the whole hog except the squeal.” Eastside sauces are made of vinegar and pepper with no tomatoes.

What is a Western-style BBQ?

Kentucky-style barbecue uses a red sauce seasoned with vinegar and ketchup along with some spices. Unlike Western styles where pork is used from all over the body, this style consists entirely of pork shoulder.

How is NC BBQ cooked?

North Carolina barbecues are cooked slowly — typically for an hour — with chunks of hardwood boiled to wood to burn down to coal. Oak and hickory are some popular wood species. As pork cooks, it is typically served in vinegar-based sauces.

Main Ingredients Needed

bowl of apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
bottle of hot sauce to make the Best Eastern North Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe
Hot sauce
bowl of white vinegar
White vinegar
Best Eastern North Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe on a bun with pulled pork

Easy Eastern North Carolina BBQ Sauce Recipe

Serving Size:
2 tbsp
5 minutes


  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco™, Texas Pete™, or Crystal Hot Sauce™)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. Put white vinegar, cider vinegar, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce, salt, and pepper in a tight-fitting jar or bottle; shake well.
  2. For best results, refrigerate the sauce for 1 to 2 days, shaking occasionally. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Note – I typically double or triple this recipe during the summertime to have plenty of aged bbq sauce on hand. This recipe is super easy and affordable to make.


What kind of dishes can I use this sauce with?

This sauce is traditionally used with pulled pork, but it can also be used as a marinade or basting sauce for chicken, beef, or vegetables. Its unique tangy flavor makes it a versatile condiment for all sorts of grilled or smoked dishes.

Can I store leftover sauce?

Yes, leftover sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Because it’s vinegar-based, it can last for several weeks, allowing you to enjoy it with multiple meals.

Is there a substitute for the apple cider vinegar in this recipe?

Apple cider vinegar is a key ingredient in Eastern North Carolina BBQ Sauce, giving it its characteristic tang. However, if you need to substitute it, white vinegar or even white wine vinegar could work, though the flavor will be slightly different.

Can I adjust the spiciness of the sauce?

Yes. To make the sauce less spicy, reduce the amount of cayenne pepper or hot sauce. To make it spicier, feel free to add more.

What’s the best way to apply this sauce when grilling or smoking?

Given its thin consistency, it’s best to apply this sauce with a spray bottle or mop during the cooking process. This allows the sauce to penetrate the meat and infuse it with flavor.

Can I make this sauce vegan or vegetarian?

Yes, this sauce can be made vegan or vegetarian as it doesn’t contain any animal products. It can be used as a flavorful addition to grilled vegetables or plant-based protein alternatives.

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