Vinegar Barbecue Sauce

This vinegar barbecue sauce, made Carolina style, calls for cider vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce, and has a distinct and acidic-in-a-good-way tang. Use it to douse your BBQ ribs, chicken, pulled pork, or anything you pull from the grill or smoker.

Several open glass bottles of barbecue sauces, including a vinegar barbecue sauce.

This tangy vinegar barbecue sauce that’s typical of eastern Carolina ‘cue is exactly what you want—nay, need—to temper the richness of a mess of pulled pork, smoked pork shoulder, or a stack of rib. It’s also just as adept at making plain grilled chicken seem special. Chances are you already have everything you need on hand. And it’s done in 10 minutes. You’re welcome.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Vinegar Barbecue Sauce

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 5 M
  • 10 M
  • Makes 24 (2-tbsp) servings
4/5 - 3 reviews
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Toss all the ingredients, including 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. You’re just letting the flavors mingle.

Tester tip: If you take a nip of the sauce straight from the spoon, it’s going to taste incredibly eye-puckeringly acidic. Rest assured, once you dribble the sauce over some fatty meat, preferably pork, it’s gonna be perfect.

Let the sauce cool slightly. That’s it. You’re done. 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. Originally published May 21, 2016.

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    *NOTE: How To Choose The Right Hot Sauce

    • Your choice of hot sauce will largely determine just how mouth-tingling your Carolina-style barbecue sauce will be. Reach for your fave and maybe play around a little with the amount the first batch or two until you get it juuuuuuust the way you like it.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This vinegar 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. 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 by braising it 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 coleslaw and more 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?

    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.

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