Eastern North Carolina Vinegar Style Barbecue Sauce Recipe

I used to think that I preferred Kansas City style barbecue sauces (those thicker, sweeter sauces found in most grocery stores) over thinner sauces like those found in Eastern North Carolina and surrounding areas. As it turns out, I often don’t prefer a lot of sauce on my barbecue at all and consider the condiment something that should enhance the flavor of good barbecue in small doses, but never be the star of the show. I also found that sweet, thick sauces can add to the heaviness of fatty barbecue meats when the better approach is to use something that can lighten the heaviness. That’s how I got turned on to vinegar style sauces and various others, such as spicy Texas style mop sauces or South Carolina mustard sauces.

I still enjoy the more traditional or generic style barbecue sauce on leaner meats and even developed a version of my own that isn’t too sweet while incorporating some spiciness.  Nonetheless. when eating certain kinds of very fatty barbecue like smoked pork shoulder or shredded meats, I prefer vinegar-based or spicy sauces. The reason is that vinegar based or spicy sauces help to cut through the heaviness of the fat. They add some moisture with a bit of tanginess and that keeps the richness of certain cuts of meat at bay.

With that thought in mind I developed this recipe, which is a light tasting vinegar based sauce balanced with a touch of sugar and some hot sauce for heat. The heat isn’t overpowering, but adds some nice chili flavor. Overall, this sauce enhances the natural flavors of good barbecue without overpowering or masking the natural goodness.

Try out my sweet and spicy barbecue sauce recipe as well!

Carolina Style Vinegar Barbecue Sauce

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Tangy vinegar barbecue sauce.


  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of Frank’s Red Hot (or other similar vinegary hot sauce of your preference)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper


  • Air tight bottle or squeeze bottle or container with a lid
  • Cup, tablespoon, and teaspoon measurements
  • Optional: spoon or whisk


  1. Put all of the ingredients together in a bottle or bowl and mix together thoroughly. Shake the air tight bottle or mix using a spoon in a bowl. Yeah, that’s about it.
  2. Serve with pork shoulder, shredded beef or chicken, or any other fatty barbecue meat! You can even try it with fried meat, fish, or vegetables.


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3 thoughts on “Eastern North Carolina Vinegar Style Barbecue Sauce Recipe

Add yours

  1. No sugar, no hot sauce, lots of red pepper flakes and coarse ground black pepper, salt to taste. No measuring. Just mix it up til it tastes right. Heating it in a saucepan just until it starts to boil will totally release the spicy flavors. I know there a lot of variations for eastern NC bbq sauce but give this one a try. I brought a jug of this sauce to my sister’s Emerald Isle beach wedding. She had catered a whole bbq hog with all the sides that showed up in the smoker behind the catering van. When I got there, the grillmaster had the same sauce as mine. We taste-tested them side by side and they were identical. I ‘d made mine at home in FL and packed it in my airline luggage. Great bbq!

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