Barbecue Sauce Styles, Explained

A sticky glossary.

Photograph by Scott Suchman

To read more of our Ultimate Guide to Washington BBQ, click here.

A sticky glossary.

Kansas City sauce

What many think of as typical barbecue sauce—thick and red, equal parts tangy and sweet.

Texas sauce

Proud Texans often eschew sauce—they’ll argue good ’cue doesn’t need it—but it exists (and tastes like Kansas kicked up with more chilies and spices).


Alabama white sauce

A creamy, mayonnaise-based sauce that’s a little like ranch—and tasty on wings.

North Carolina vinegar

The eastern part of the state is known for its thin, tongue-lashing sauce—perfect for dousing rich pulled pork.

South Carolina mustard sauce

Early German immigrants planted a taste for mustard in the region, the home of robust and tangy “Carolina gold.”

 This article appeared in the May 2018 issue of Washingtonian.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.