Types Of BBQ Base

Types Of BBQ Base

Types Of BBQ Base

The secret to a great BBQ lies in the sauce. But with all the different types of sauces in the market today, how would you know which one to use?

We have created an in-depth guide on the various types of BBQ bases to help you out on your next grill fest!

4 Types of BBQ Base

The 4 common types of BBQ base include tomato, vinegar, mustard, and mayonnaise-based BBQ sauce. These BBQ bases can range from sweet and spicy to tart and tangy.

Take note that the type of BBQ sauce you use can either make or break your recipe, so knowing exactly what to use and the ingredients you should (and should not) mix together is definitely essential. 

Read on as we differentiate and break down the various types of BBQ sauce before you start grilling!

Tomato-based BBQ Sauce

Tomato-based BBQ Sauce

Tomato-based is one of the most frequently used types of BBQ sauce, offering a combination of sweet and tangy flavors. In most cases, tomato is used in ketchup form and mixed with other ingredients such as molasses, vinegar, paprika, brown sugar, garlic, and onion powder.

But the most distinctive characteristic of this sauce is its thick consistency, which is almost close to syrup, and that it is ideal for any meat – from chicken and pork to lamb and beef. Talk about versatility!

Vinegar-based BBQ Sauce

Aside from tomato, vinegar-based is another common BBQ sauce that originated in North Carolina and has a thinner consistency. It specifically uses apple cider vinegar combined with brown sugar, cayenne paper, and red pepper flakes.

Since Carolina is known for hog farming, the sweet, spicy, and tangy flavor of vinegar-based sauce makes it ideal for pork BBQ. Another variant of this sauce contains ketchup and is called Lexington or Piedmont.

Mustard-based BBQ sauce

Commonly referred to as the “Carolina Gold”, this mustard-based sauce hails from South Carolina and is one of the flavor variations offered for hog BBQ in the state. This gold sauce has a thin consistency with a combination of sweet, spicy, and astringent flavors.

It is perfect for chicken and pork BBQ, especially for pulled pork sandwiches. In addition, the tangy and mildly sweet flavor of this sauce is ideal for pork shoulder, belly, and neck.

Mayonnaise-based BBQ sauce

Mayonnaise-based BBQ sauce

While most BBQ recipes are on the sweet and tangy to spicy spectrum, the mayonnaise-based sauce is another distinct flavor. This white BBQ sauce has a surprisingly creamy texture that is similar to some burger sauce or ranch.

Since mayonnaise is made from egg yolk, oil, and vinegar, it’s no surprise that this sauce works great for chicken BBQ, offering a creamy, slightly sweet, tangy flavor, with a hint of spice.

Types of BBQ Sauce Per Region

All BBQs have something in common – they are best cooked low and slow. However, their flavors vary per region, and here is how most of them are prepared in case you are looking to recreate them in your kitchen:


Falling under the mayonnaise-based category, Alabama’s white BBQ sauce is a popular recipe invented by Bob Gibson. Unlike the traditional BBQ sauce, it’s not red but white since its base is made from mayonnaise. What makes this sauce even better is that it has varying uses, from marinating and grilling to dipping and salad dressing.

It contains mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice, and cayenne paper, offering a creamy and tangy flavor ideal for chicken, pork, turkey, and grilled fish.


If you hear Baltimore, the first thing that would come to your mind is their succulent grilled roast pit beef which is considered one of the greatest American sandwiches paired with a horseradish sauce. Baltimore’s BBQ sauce (often referred to as Tiger sauce) has a mayonnaise base and is mixed with lemon juice, grated horseradish, garlic, and cayenne.

It tastes sweet, tangy, and moderately spicy – the perfect sauce for pit beef, prime rib, steaks, roast beef, and seafood! Yum!

East North Carolina

Whole hog BBQ is North Carolina’s regional food which is cooked in a traditional way, lasting over 12 to 24 hours. Moreover, Eastern North Carolina BBQ is considered one of the original and oldest cooking methods that use a vinegar-based sauce for basting, as well as dipping. 

This sauce contains vinegar, pepper flakes, cayenne, black pepper, and some hot sauce that goes well with fatty pork. Also, this recipe does not have any tomatoes at all!

West North Carolina

West North Carolina

In the Western part of North Carolina, another BBQ sauce variant, which is also vinegar-based, is served in restaurants to complement pulled pork. This classic sauce is often called Lexington or Piedmont, which contains vinegar, ketchup, red pepper flakes, and sugar.

Despite containing ketchup, the Lexington dip is still thin and has a pinkish color with a sweet, tangy, and spicy flavor, influenced by German entrepreneurs dating back to World War I.

South Carolina

If you and your family are mustard lovers, the South Carolina Gold BBQ sauce will surely make your feast more appetizing! This sauce is mustard-based and is a great way to spice up any BBQ party with its sweet, tangy, and spicy flavor.

South Carolina’s sauce is a mixture of yellow mustard, honey, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper for a great variety of flavors.


While Florida is not the top go-to for barbecue lovers, the state is famous for its smoked mullet delicacy which is slow-cooked for around 2 to 3 hours. This dish uses the Florida BBQ sauce for basting, inspired by South Carolina vinegar-based and combined with Caribbean and Cuban style sauces.

It contains ketchup, honey, onion, red pepper flakes, and the juices and zests of orange, lemon, and lime, giving off a combination of spicy and bold citrus flavors. 

Kansas City

An ideal sauce for any type of meat (especially ribs), the Kansas City BBQ-style sauce is ketchup-based with a thicker consistency. Its mixture produces a perfectly sweet and tangy flavor with a hint of smoke thereby producing a common yet delicious BBQ sauce.

Since Kansas City BBQ sauce has ketchup as its main ingredient along with molasses, vinegar, cayenne pepper, dark brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, and liquid smoke, it will definitely compliment any dish!


Another tomato-based sauce, the Memphis-style BBQ sauce makes any dish mouthwatering, especially pulled pork.

Memphis BBQ sauce has slight viscosity and contains ketchup, vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, unsalted butter, mild chili powder, paprika, dried oregano, and thyme. It has a tangy and sweet flavor with a little bit of spicy kick.


Since Nashville and Memphis are neighboring cities in the state of Tennessee, the two almost have the same recipe for their BBQ sauce. However, Nashville is on the vinegary to smokey end, which makes it ideal for smoked or grilled meats. 

This sauce is authentic in the town and uses ketchup for its base combined with brown sugar, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika, chili powder, pepper, and liquid smoke for extra flavor.



Whether you’re cooking chicken, ham, beef, or ribs, the Oklahoma-style BBQ sauce will make your dish special with its perfect balance of sweet and spice. This sauce is a combination of Kansas City and Texas-style BBQ sauce, and is ideal for beef brisket and pulled pork sandwiches.

Moreover, it has a ketchup base and contains tomato juice, ginger, onion, garlic powder, butter, sugar, vinegar, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, celery seed, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

Santa Maria (Central Coast of California)

Best cooked with charcoal or wood, the Santa Maria-style BBQ is best known for its tri-tip steak which is dry-rubbed with garlic and pepper seasoning with sweet and spicy flavors. 

Santa Maria BBQ sauce contains red wine vinegar and garlic-infused vegetable oil for basting, and plenty of spice for seasoning, including granulated garlic, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, and salt.

St. Louis

Originating from the state of Missouri, St. Louis BBQ sauce is quite the same as the Kansas City recipe. However, the St. Louis version has a thinner consistency and is tangier due to the higher content of vinegar.

It has a ketchup base and is added with vinegar, brown sugar, water, yellow mustard, cayenne, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. In addition, since St. Louis is at a crossroads there are varying ways to make this sauce.


If you’re looking for the perfect recipe for marinating and basting beef, you can never go wrong with Texas BBQ sauce. This sauce has a thinner consistency and is less sweet but full of bold beefy flavors, all thanks to meat drippings.

Furthermore, Texas-style BBQ sauce is a combination of tang and spice, which contains ketchup for its base and is mixed with vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, and salt.

What is the most popular style of BBQ sauce?

So far, the most common style of BBQ sauce is tomato-based BBQ sauce. Most of the time, these sauces are in the form of ketchup with a few other ingredients and spices to add more kick and flavors. 

What is the base of a good BBQ sauce?

Since tomato-based BBQ sauces are the most common type, this is the one usually used in creating the perfect BBQ sauce recipes. Some tomato-based sauces commonly used in making a good BBQ sauce include ketchup, tomato sauce, tomato-based chili sauce, pureed tomato, and tomato paste. 

What type of BBQ sauce is sweet?

What type of BBQ sauce is sweet?

One sweet type of BBQ sauce is the Kansas City-style sauce. This contains at least a dozen ingredients but it always has tomato or ketchup as its base, along with molasses or brown sugar as its sweetener. Talk about sweet and tangy!

What is the base for most BBQ sauces?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the most common type of BBQ sauce is a tomato-based sauce. This base is usually in the form of ketchup, but there are times when tomato sauce, paste, or puree is used. 

How do you add flavor to BBQ sauce?

Adding flavor to your BBQ sauce is almost just the same as adding flavor to anything else – all you have to do is run to your cupboard and get some spices. Some of the most common types of spices used to add flavor to BBQ sauces are cumin, peppers, garlic, onion powder, and even liquid seasonings like Worcestershire or plain mustard. In most cases, adding some salt or sugar will do the trick.

What’s the difference between Kansas City BBQ and Texas BBQ?

Kansas City BBQ can be distinguished by the crisp (a.k.a the charred ends of the pork or smoked brisket). Kansas City-style BBQ is also tomato-based with a sweet and spicy kick. Texas City style BBQ, on the other hand, has a smoky flavor that is distinct from other wood-smoked BBQs.

What makes South Carolina BBQ different?

South Carolina is famous for its whole-hog BBQ which is served with a variety of sauces including a vinegar-based sauce, a light tomato sauce, a heavy tomato sauce, and a mustard sauce (a.k.a. The Carolina Gold). 


With the wide range of BBQ bases available in every region, it can be hard to choose which is the best one to go with. There are sweet, spicy, citrusy, and tangy sauces, and most of the time, it can be a combination of these flavors! 

We hope that with this in-depth guide, we were able to help you discover what the different types of BBQ bases are, and what each region is best known for. At the end of the day, only one person could decide which among these BBQ bases is the best – you (and your taste buds).

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