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Barbecue sauce (also abbreviated BBQ sauce) is a liquid flavoring sauce or condiment ranging from watery to very thick consistency. As the name implies, it was created as an accompaniment to barbecued foods. While it can be applied to any food, it usually tops meat after cooking or during barbecuing, grilling, or baking. Traditionally it has been a favored sauce for pork or beef ribs and chicken. Less often, it is used for dipping items like fries, as well as a replacement for tomato sauce in barbecue-style pizzas.

Barbecue sauces may combine sour, sweet, spicy, and tangy ingredients or focus on a particular flavor alone. It sometimes carries with it a smoky flavor. The ingredients vary, but some commonplace items are tomato paste, vinegar, spices, and sweetener. These variations are often due to regional traditions and recipes.


The precise origin of barbecue sauce is unclear. Some trace it to the end of the 15th century, when Christopher Columbus brought a sauce back from Hispaniolamarker, while others place it at the formation of the first American colonies in the 17th century. References to the substance start occurring in both Englishmarker and Frenchmarker literature over the next two hundred years. South Carolinamarker mustard sauce, a type of barbecue sauce, can be traced to German settlers in the 18th century.

Early cookbooks did not tend to include recipes for barbecue sauce. The first commercially-produced barbecue sauce was made by the Louis Maull co. in 1923, but the first nationally distributed barbecue sauce did not appear until 1951, when Heinz released a product in the United Statesmarker. Kraft Foods also started making cooking oils with bags of spices attached, supplying another market entrance of barbecue sauce.

Many restaurants have special barbecue sauces.


Different geographical regions have allegiances to their particular styles and variations for barbecue sauce. For example, vinegar and mustard-based barbecue sauces are popular in certain areas of the southern United Statesmarker, while in Asian countries a ketchup and corn syrup-based sauce is common. Mexican salsa can also be used as a base for barbecue sauces.


The barbecue sauce of the Argentine, Chile, Bolivia and Peru is called "chimi-churri" ~ a parsley-based green sauce that is served as a condiment on the table, as a marinade, and a grilling sauce. It is said there are 40-million recipes for chimi-churri in Argentina. Chimi-churri [also spelled chimmi-churri] is used to cook beef, lamb, pork, goat, fowl, venison and root vegetables.

In Brazil the typical sauce is called "vinagrete" and it's made with: vinegar, olive oil, tomatoes, parsley and some onions. This is the typical sauce to serve in a barbecue.


In Australia, barbecue sauce can be simply a blend of tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce. There are various sauces in the market from fruity to brown sauce.

United States

The U.S. has a wide variety of differing barbecue sauce tastes. Some are based in regional tradition.

  • East Carolina Sauce - Most American barbecue sauces can trace their roots to the two sauces common in North Carolinamarker. The simplest and the earliest were popularized by African slaves who also advanced the development of American barbecue. They were made with vinegar, ground black pepper, and hot chile pepper flakes. It is used as a "mopping" sauce to baste the meat while it was cooking and as a dipping sauce when it is served. Thin and sharp, it penetrates the meat and cuts the fats in the mouth. There is little or no sugar in this sauce.

  • Lexington Dip (a.k.a. Western Carolina Dip or Piedmont Dip) - In Lexington, and in the "Piedmont" hilly areas of western North Carolinamarker the sauce is often called a dip. It is a lot like the East Carolina Sauce (above) with tomato paste, tomato sauce, or ketchup added. The tomato softens the vinegar.

  • Kansas Citymarker – Thick, reddish-brown, tomato or ketchup-based with molasses and/or other sugars, vinegar, and spices. Evolved from the Lexington Dip (above), it is significantly different in that it is thick and sweet and does not penetrate the meat as much as sit on the surface. This is the most common and popular sauce in the US and all other tomato based sauces are variations on the theme using more or less of the main ingredients. For example, barbecue sauces in Memphis are made from the same ingredients but tend have a larger percentage of vinegar so they cannot really be called a regional sauce, just a variant of the Kansas City sauce. Some popular brands are KC Masterpiece, Sweet Baby Ray's, Kraft, Hunt's.

  • South Carolinamarker Mustard Sauce - Part of South Carolina is known for its yellow barbecue sauces made primarily of yellow mustard, vinegar, sugar and spices. This sauce is most common in a belt from Columbiamarker to Charlestonmarker, an area settled by many Germans. Vinegar based sauces with black pepper are common in the coastal plains region as in North Carolina, and thin tomato and vinegar based sauces are common in the hilly regions as in North Carolina.

  • Texasmarker – In some of the older more traditional restaurants the sauces are heavily seasoned with cumin, chile peppers, bell peppers, chili powder or ancho powder, lots of black pepper, fresh onion, only a touch of tomato, little or no sugar, and they often contain meat drippings and smoke flavor because meats are dipped into them. They are medium thick and often resemble a thin tomato soup. They penetrate the meat easily rather than sit on top. Bottled barbecue sauces from Texas are often different from those used in the same restaurants because they do not contain meat drippings.

  • Others - A white barbecue sauce developed at Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q in Decatur, AL has been imitated enough that it might be considered a minor regional style. There are also many glazes, fruit based sauces, and novelty sauces (including chocolate-based) scattered around the nation.


  • Hoisin sauce, a type of Chinese style barbecue sauce, serves as a base ingredient in many other recipes for Chinese barbecue sauces
  • A spicy, yogurt-based barbecue sauce is used for tandoori chicken, an Indian dish
  • A sweet soy sauce marinade (tare in Japanese; "teriyaki sauce" in the west) is used for teriyaki, a Japanese style grill (traditionally fish), before and during the grilling process

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