Carolina Gold Barbecue Sauce

June 10, 2022
4 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • makes about a cup of sauce
Author Notes

Most people know BBQ sauce to be the tomato or ketchup versions of Texas or Kansas City, the dry rub with mop of Memphis, or the vinegar versions of Eastern North Carolina. But there is another version in South Carolina that originated with the Germans that settled in Central South Carolina and brought their love of mustard to the traditions of low and slow smoking of pork. This tradition of mustard BBQ sauces has been made famous by some great BBQ joints like Shealy's, Sweatman's, Hite's, Lever's (now defunct, but still selling sauce) and the most famous ... and not the best BBQ, Maurice's Piggie Park. The sauce can be used on chicken, ribs, hash (a SC tradition) but is best with pulled pork. —Bubba Mac

Test Kitchen Notes

Let me be clear—this is not the typical bottled barbecue sauce you buy in the grocery store. It’s not what you think of when you picture a sweet, slightly sloppy barbecue sauce with just a hint of smoke. That’s Kansas City-style barbecue sauce. Amp up the vinegar and we’re talking about Memphis style.

This sauce is Carolina Gold. It’s mustard-based rather than tomato-based and we’re better off for it. This South Carolina-born and bred sauce has an assertive sharp edge, a vibrant yellow color that won’t quit, and deserves just as much praise as its relative to the West. Oh, and don’t you dare confuse it with North Carolina-style barbecue, but that’s a conversation for a different day.

Beyond the flavor it brings to a backyard barbecue, we love how simple this recipe for Carolina Gold is. Sauté the ingredients, whisk the ingredients, and simmer the ingredients. Plus, you probably have everything you need to make it right in your pantry: oil, yellow mustard (like the kind you’d find at a ballpark) and ketchup, dry mustard, a touch of sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. The only prep work is mincing onion and garlic, and turning on your kitchen faucet (you’ll need a bit of water to thin the mustard and ketchup, but we think you can handle that). Combine the powers of all of these and you’re left with a glorious thing—a tangy, spicy sauce that is much more than the sum of its parts. But don’t just take our word for it—listen to the millions of readers who voted for this as their favorite barbecue recipe on Food52. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup yellow ballpark-style mustard, like French's
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup water
  1. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil on low heat until soft and transparent.
  2. Whisk in remaining ingredients, cook on low heat for 30 minutes stirring often.
  3. Thin sauce if necessary with additional water.
  4. Add more red pepper flakes if you want it spicier.
  5. Cool then refrigerate.
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71 Reviews

Angela A. July 4, 2016
Bubba, how does this compare to the Dexter MO sauce?
Jesse P. October 10, 2015
Awesome sauce Bubba Mac. made er last night. great flavour and color.
Momof3Ms June 4, 2015
I cannot wait to try this sauce. My husband has been looking for a good "Yellow BBQ Sauce", as he puts it, and this may be the one. Thanks for sharing. :)
Alex D. May 2, 2014
Hey bubba mac! Give us another recipe of mustard, bbq, or rub...
I loove these mustard sauce, so i hope you can give us another delicious rub, mustrad, or something like these.
pvmeer May 2, 2014
How long will this last in the refrigerator?
Alex D. April 7, 2014
Delicious, i put on a texas style pulled pork sandwich!
Uffff! Delicioso!
Gracias !
Thankyou !
Alex D. March 31, 2014
What can i use instaed of dry mustard?
Mustard seeds will work?
Its the same thing?
Bubba M. March 31, 2014
yes….you just need to grind them up….mortar and pestle…or a spice grinder…Ihave a coffee grinder I use exclusively for spices
Alex D. April 1, 2014
Thanks for your response, i will try with the mortar and pestle, thanks!
CountryCook March 31, 2014
Thanks for the recipe, Mac. However, as a chef and former resident of South Carolina, I came up with a very similar recipe. For a variation, I suggest adding beer and just a touch, a bare touch! of apple cider vinegar. this does not make it a 'vinegar base' sauce. It just gives it a little extra oomf. And of course the beer has to be a good beer. The best I've tried so far with my sauces is a rich porter like Sierra Nevada or even a stout like Guinness. And i like to put a bottle of the same beer in with the pork as its cooking (i use my slow cooker for now, since i am in the process of building a proper smoker), also with a touch of apple cider vinegar.... mmm mmm good. And still very German. ;)
EmilyNunn January 7, 2014
This would be good on ice cream.
Bubba M. August 21, 2013
Mike: I smoke my pork butt with minimal seasoning, letting the smoke and the pork (fat) do all the work. I season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to create a crusty bark....After 12 hours or so in the smoker, I pull the pork and add a sprinkling of cider vinegar. I then will mix about half of the pork with Giddy Swamp, say about half a cup and leave the other just pork. The rest of the sauce is served on the side. My feeling is you want the sauce to complement the pork, not the other way around. Happy smoking. B M
Mike August 24, 2013
Thanks a lot for your tips Bubba. Dinner was last night and everyone loved the food and the sauce. Thanks again!
Bubba M. August 24, 2013
Glad it worked out for you. Try it on chicken and ribs as well. B M
Mike August 20, 2013
I'm going to be making some pulled pork, but I want to try something a little different. I've made a Carolina sauce before, but I usually use the East Carolina vinegar base for my pulled pork. I'm just curious if I should use a rub on the pork ahead of time if I'm planning on using this sauce.
Bubba M. July 7, 2013
let me know what you i said in the descrip....its not pretty, but it makes up for it on the comfort scale....and it is one of those "go to" items on the sc bbq circuit......
Bill July 7, 2013
Not yet - But I have it on my list!
Bubba M. July 7, 2013
I actually have tried Maille...when I ran out of French's ...and the flavor is too need the bite of the american mustard...not the winey flavor of a european mustard. But I am approaching the problem as an historian....recreating a taste that I grew up with. Not a culinary variation on a theme. As for syrup...I am a huge fan of sorghum and molasses....use them whenever I can. To me, the OOMPH of the sauce is the bite of the "yeller" mustard, but anything is game. Did you try the giddy swamp hash recipe?
Bill July 7, 2013
Now I want to try an experiment - What do you think would happen if we changed the mustard from French's to something like MAILLE or AMORA - I am wondering how it might change the taste? - - and if we changed the sugar to one of those newly produced Southern Sorgum Syrup - Be an interesting try!
Bubba M. July 7, 2013
You have been reading up on your BBQ is a link to the SC BBQ Association web site which talks more about the different styles and the people that brought those styles to the state....I know there are many stories of food and culture, but I think this type of "country cooking" is closest to the bone of people and a sense it is "first generation" I grew up with this stuff real wasn't until years later, when I started to investigate the origins that I discovered its origins. Read em and salivate!
Bill July 7, 2013
How very interesting! - I actually took a graduate level geography class quite some years ago and a portion of the class covered "a geography of BBQ" - in SC = We actually drove up highway 76 from Columbia to Greenville - the back way - and stopped at numbers of places along the way - detailing how the sauces changed as you moved up the line! - I am from the Pit Cooked Pee Dee area and had never even heard of mustard sauces until I moved to Columbia. I recently attended a Church PicNic in Eastern NC - all vinegar - but with a few additional sauces - no mustard - but then - My lowcountry family - (some of those very first Dorchester County Germans (Shuler) - that German enough for you? - They have every reunion catered by Sweatman's - And OH it is so very very good - Everyone takes home a plate! Maybe I should smuggle one of those mustard based BBQ sandwiches on the plane in a sealed container - I think people would be jumping over the seat because of that overwhelming smell! - Needless to say - I am totally excited about the emerging Food Culture in Our New South!
Bill July 5, 2013
The SC mustard based sauces have an interesting historical element - Many of the colonial immigrants were of German descent and consequently were addicted to their mustard - It is said that is why Central SC has mustard based barbecue. Interesting history on the geography of BBQ in the South
KelsoKitchen July 1, 2013
Smoked a pork butt, shredded it and put it on a potato roll & added this sauce--AH-MAZING. The tang cut through the rich pork & added depth. It's definitely hot but it was perfect for this use. Will use this again & again. Thanks for sharing!
MarcosB June 23, 2013
Yikes! I love spicy food but this had real heat. I only put in one teaspoon of red pepper flakes and it was still too hot for my fellow spice-lovin' guests. After a generous helping of honey and some white vinegar it was ready to shine. Great recipe, just adjust for heat. Bravo for a great alternative to more common BBQ Sauce recipes!
Joe M. June 23, 2013
Glad you added the honey and vinegar. A little apple juice will help the sauce as well. Not toooooooooo much honey -- we South Carolinians don't want it toooooo sweet!
Joe M. June 23, 2013
There should be some honey in this sauce!!!!! Even though the mustard has vinegar, a bit of vinegar and some apple juice also enhances "Carolina Gold" BBQ sauce. I grew up on it in South Carolina; love it!