Vinegar Barbecue Sauce Recipe

This vinegar barbecue sauce is exactly what you need—yes, need—for dousing ribs, pulled pork shoulder, chicken, or just about anything else you pull from the grill. Especially if you’ve spent any time in the eastern Carolinas.

Vinegar Barbecue Sauce Recipe

This tangy vinegar barbecue sauce that’s typical of eastern Carolina ‘cue is exactly what you want—nay, need—to smother a mess of pulled pork shoulder or a stack of ribs or grilled chicken. And it’s done in 10 minutes—maybe even less. You’re welcome.–Renee Schettler Rossi

How To Choose The Right Hot Sauce

Your choice of hot sauce will largely determine just how mouth-tingling the resulting vinegar barbecue sauce will be. Just keep that in mind and reach for your favorite hot sauce and play around with the amount the first batch or two that you make.

Vinegar Barbecue Sauce Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 5 M
  • 10 M
  • Makes about 3 cups (710 ml)


  • 1 cup (237 ml) white vinegar
  • 1 cup (237 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup (237 ml) ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon (13 g) brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) hot sauce (use whatever hot sauce you like or got on hand)
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons (4 g) Hungarian paprika
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper


  • 1. Toss all the ingredients, including the salt and pepper to taste, in a saucepan over medium heat and warm gently, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, maybe 5 minutes. No need to bring the mixture to a boil. Just let it mingle long enough to let everything meld. (If you take a nip from the spoon, it’s going to taste incredibly acidic. Rest assured, once you dribble the sauce over some fatty meat, it’s gonna be perfect.)
  • 2. Let the sauce cool slightly. Transfer it to a jar, bottle, squeeze bottle, or whatever you want. Screw on the lid and stash it in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews
Testers Choice
Mackenzie Campbell

May 21, 2016

This barbecue sauce might be the one to convert people to vinegar-based barbecue sauces. On its own, it’s very sharp and bright, too much so, but once mixed with rich, juicy, fatty pulled pork they harmonize and balance each other perfectly. It’s a must-have in your summer barbecue arsenal. Not to mention every cupboard has these ingredients on hand. From cupboard to jar, this barbecue sauce took probably 10 minutes to put together. I had it on the stove for 3 to 4 minutes, just long enough to heat it and mix everything uniformly. I added a healthy amount of black pepper (2 teaspoons roughly ground) because I like a lot of it in my barbecue. We used this on a pork shoulder which I prepared for a weeknight meal (braised in the slow-cooker with onions, Worcestershire, hard cider, and barbecue spice rub). Once the meat was shredded, I added 1/4 cup barbecue sauce and tossed it with some of the cooking juices. Then I piled it high on butter-toasted buns with cole slaw and more of the sauce. It was perfect. The best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever made—and with plenty leftovers. As far as other uses to go, I would hesitate to use this on anything but a rich, fatty meat dish seeing as it is so acidic from the vinegar, it really needs balance. Maybe wings?

Testers Choice
Nicole C.

May 21, 2016

I’m a big fan of thick, sweet, Kansas City-type barbecue sauces. This is NOT that type of sauce. But even if you're like me, there’s a place for a vinegar-based sauce in your barbecue repertoire. It makes smoked pulled pork even more moist and tangy and is a perfect counter to the cool creamy coleslaw that I like to pile on my pulled pork sandwiches. I think this type of barbecue sauce was made for pork but it's nice on grilled chicken, too. The recipe couldn't be easier to put together. Just toss all the ingredients in a saucepan and warm. It's really as simple as that. The recipe directs you to use salt and pepper to taste. For me that worked out to 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

Testers Choice
Amy B.

May 21, 2016

One taste and this vinegar barbecue sauce recipe transported me back in time more than 20 years to my family's Saturday night barbecues! This sauce reminds me of my granddad, who always shunned the store-bought variety of barbecue sauce and made his own. Throughout the year, he usually had at least three vegetable gardens and was always canning or pickling. He had a taste that often veered towards things with a vinegar base and most of the foods he cooked were definitely memorable. And, thanks to this recipe, I’m able to revisit some of my fondest childhood memories. And believe me, my granddad would absolutely love this sauce as well! In honor of granddad, I paired the sauce with chicken breasts slow-cooked all night in a crock pot. De-lic-ious!

Testers Choice
Darci Becker

May 21, 2016

This is a great Carolina-style vinegar barbecue sauce. It's extra tangy and extremely quick to throw together with just basic pantry ingredients. For a 10-minute recipe, this sauce packs some flavor punch. I actually threw my sauce straight into the slow cooker with a pork shoulder and let it go overnight and it resulted in magic! The vinegar taste was a bit too strong for my household so in the end, I wound up adding an additional 1/2 cup ketchup and 1/2 cup dark brown sugar and another dash of Worcestershire. I found that in addition to sweetening it up, the sauce tasted more balanced overall.

  1. bkhuna says:

    In the Carolinas, there is a huge difference between the slaw that is put on or served alongside pork. Barbeque slaw isn’t dairy based, using vinegar instead. Think German immigrants and their love of pork (SC Germans with their mustard based sauce is another thing altogether). Carolinians don’t put coleslaw on their sandwiches. We won’t even begin the whole Piedmont vs. Eastern ketchup kerfuffle.

    Here’s smoke in your eye…

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