Four BBQ sauces flavor South Carolina

Updated: Jun. 8, 2017 at 6:37 AM EDT
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SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) – South Carolinians agree, slow-and-low barbecue is deeply rooted in the state's culinary tradition, but their choice of four sauces - mustard, vinegar and pepper, light tomato and heavy tomato – can vary by region and recipe.

According to, beef, chicken and other critters can be barbecued, grilled or cooked with or without sauce, but only pork – most often pulled pork cooked in a smoky pit – is barbecue. Sauces can be applied during the cooking process or served on the side.

The coastal region tends to favor vinegar and pepper sauce, the acidity of which pairs well with pork and turns up the heat on your barbecue. Perhaps the oldest sauce in the nation, its origins can be traced back hundreds of years.

Popular in the Pee Dee is the light tomato sauce, which is basically a vinegar and pepper sauce with ketchup added for sweetness.

Because mustard-style barbecue is exclusive to SC, some consider mustard the unofficial state barbecue sauce. German families who settled in the middle of the state in the 1700s brought their love for mustard – and pork – resulting in lovely, tangy barbecue.

People in the western and northwestern corner of the state prefer a heavy, tomato-based sauce for its sweet flavor. Sometimes called a tomato and sugar sauce, it's the kind you're most likely to find on grocery store shelves in many parts of the United States.

Wherever your allegiance lies, try them all, you might change your mind. Find recipes for each below:

Carolina Red Barbecue Sauce 
1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar 
½ cup ketchup 
1 tablespoon (packed) brown sugar 
1 teaspoon salt 
½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper 
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve. To diminish tartness, add additional ketchup and brown sugar to taste. This sauce can be prepared as many as 2 – 3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Makes about 2 cups.

Tomato Barbecue Sauce 
2 tablespoons brown sugar 
1 tablespoon dry mustard 
1 tablespoon celery salt 
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon pepper 
1 tablespoon paprika 
2 tablespoons cornstarch 
½ teaspoon allspice 
4 cups tomato juice 
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 
1 cup white vinegar 
1 tablespoon grated onion 
Combine all ingredients in a small pot and stir until well mixed. Cook over low heat for 2 hours.

Mustard Barbecue Sauce 
South Carolina mustard barbecue sauce can be traced to German settlers from the 18th century.
4 cups yellow mustard (two 20-ounce bottles of French's mustard should do the trick) 
8 ounces of beer (less for thicker sauce, more for thinner sauce) 
½ cup apple cider vinegar 
8 tablespoons brown sugar 
½ cup tomato puree 
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper 
2 teaspoons salt 
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder 
Heat all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat and mix well. Cook until sauce just begins to thicken. Serve cool or warm. The sauce will last in the refrigerator for a long time. Makes about 6 cups.

Vinegar & Pepper Barbecue Sauce 
3 cups apple cider vinegar 
1/4 cup red pepper flakes 
1/4 cup ground black pepper 
½ teaspoon salt 
½ cup ketchup 
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 
In a saucepan, stir together the vinegar, red pepper flakes, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil. Stir in the ketchup and brown sugar. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes.

The South Carolina Barbecue Trail includes nearly 200 restaurants, which can be found at or the Discover SC Foursquare page.

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