Regional BBQ Sauce Variations

Dear BBQ Friend:

In the US, there are distinct BBQ sauce regions each with their own flavor variations of BBQ sauces. This distinct BBQ geography breaks down something like this...

  • Kansas City - Along with Memphis, this is probably one of the two most popular BBQ regions. In Kansas City, they are known for their sweet and spicy tomato based BBQ sauce usually containing molasses.
  • Memphis - Maybe the most popular BBQ region, but I bet the Kansas City folks would disagree. But certainly, everyone would agree that Memphis and Kansas City are #1 and #2 (but who knows what order). Memphis is probably known more for their dry rubbed ribs, but they do have their own distinct BBQ sauce favor too. It's not quite as sweet as a Kansas City BBQ sauce, but it is vinegar and tomato based. It's usually a thinner sauce with a little brown sugar and mustard thrown in for taste.
  • Texas - Now you're getting into beef territory. Brisket is king here. Texas is a big state and generally, you'll find a more spicy BBQ sauce there. East Texas, you might find more sweet sauces with a little bite of chile. Mainly ketchup based with worcestershire. On the west side of Texas, you run into hotter chili based sauces with a tomato base.
  • Western North Carolina and Virginia - There isn't much difference between Western North Carolina BBQ sauce and Eastern North Carolina BBQ sauce. In the West, they add a little tomato base to the sauce. Other than that, it's mostly vinegar with some salt, red pepper flakes, or cayenne pepper added to taste.
  • Upper South Carolina and Eastern North Carolina - As stated above, this is usually a thin vinegar based sauce with salt, red pepper, or cayenne pepper added to taste.
  • Lower South Carolina - Home of the yellow mustard and vinegar based BBQ sauce. Sometimes a little ketchup is thrown in too but it is primarily a mustard based sauce.
  • Georgia - Some people say that Georgia is sort of a melting pot of BBQ sauces. Being situated between Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida, we sort of like all kinds of BBQ sauce down here. Heck... we even like a Texas hot and spicy sauce every now and then. If I had to pick one BBQ sauce that would best describe a "Georgia BBQ sauce", I guess it would be a ketchup, mustard, vinegar based sauce.
  • Florida - In the Citrus State, you know they are going to throw in a little lemon and lime. So... Florida is a tomato based sauce, on the sour side, with a notes of lemon and/or lime.
  • Alabama - They like a spicy tomato based BBQ sauce in Alabama. And, of course, they are the one and only state to claim the famous white, mayonnaise based BBQ sauce.
  • Kentucky - A unique BBQ sauce used often in Kentucky is a black worcestershire and vinegar based sauce. Also popular are tomato based sauces with a touch of bourbon added just for flavor.
  • Southwest - Salsa-like tomato based sauces are popular with a Mexican influence. Southwest BBQ sauces got a little "kick" to them.
  • Louisiana - They like it hot and spicy down there. A spiced up version of a thick tomato based sauce is popular with Cajun and Creole flavors.
  • Hawaiian - Sweet and Sour in a tomato base of course. Pineapple is popular along with other tropical fruits.

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Bill Anderson