Eastern North Carolina BBQ sauce recipe

If you saw this recent post, you’ll know I’m trying to keep myself busy now on this blog with a few recipes from some of my favourite places. This one is particularly special to me – Eastern North Carolina BBQ.

This spicy vinegar based BBQ sauce is popular in my hometown on the Outer Banks and I managed to learn to recreate the sauce to a point I was happy with not long after I moved to the UK, I missed it so much! It’s also the recipe I share the most, I didn’t realise how much other people would like it, but my former housemate used to beg me to make it for anything American, 4th of July, Superbowl, any excuse.

If you know anything about American BBQ, you know it differs greatly from state to state. And yes even by region within a state. Classic eastern North Carolina BBQ is centred around the hog roast and the sauce to accompany it is spicy vinegar based and oh so good. This recipe shows you how to make this addictive sauce at home, perfect with some slow cooked pulled pork.

And yes you can make a veggie version! Jackfruit is a popular substitute for pulled pork. I recommend braising it in the oven rather than putting it in the slow cooker for a better texture and make the sauce a little bit thicker. Try this recipe to make the pulled jackfruit.

Eastern North Carolina BBQ Sauce

ingredients for eastern North Carolina bbq sauce - apple cyder vinegar, tabasco sauce and dark brown sugar

Ingredients for the Eastern North Carolina bbq sauce

  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • Tabasco sauce (about 2 tablespoons, but depends how spicy you like it!)
  • Teaspoon of ketchup
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 garlic clove (halved)

How to make Eastern North Carolina BBQ sauce

This recipe is really easy. In a saucepan on medium heat, add the vinegar and brown sugar.

making eastern North Carolina bbq sauce

Stir until the brown sugar dissolves. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

recipe for eastern North Carolina bbq sauce

The sauce will still be quite runny. Strain out the garlic clove halves, which I normally toss into the slow cooker with the pork.

eastern North Carolina bbq sauce

You aren’t trying to make a sticky sweet sauce that you might immediately think of with American BBQ, it should remain fairly thin, spicy and tangy. Set some aside to slow cook your pork in and decant the rest into a bottle. Keep any leftover sauce in the fridge and use within two weeks.

Cooking the pulled pork

There’s a few ways you can cook your pulled pork. BBQ aficionados may want to cook it in tinfoil on a lidded bbq. I live in a flat, so I always use my favourite kitchen tool – my slow cooker. Use a cut of pork like a pork shoulder. If it still has the fat, cut it off. Season the pork shoulder with salt, pepper and paprika and put the slow cooker.

Pork seasoned with paprika, salt and pepper

Add a couple of garlic cloves, some red onion, and about half a cup of the eastern North Carolina bbq sauce you made earlier. I sometimes add a few slices of apple as well. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours, until the meat falls apart easily with a fork. Remove from the slow cooker and shred it with two forks.

slow cooking pulled pork
pulled pork

Serving up eastern North Carolina BBQ

As I said, the sauce is quite thin, so I recommend serving on a toasted bun, using a bread that won’t get too soggy. Brioche buns work perfectly in my opinion, or I love it on a ciabatta. Put a good helping of your pulled pork (or braised jackfruit) on the toasted bun and dose with some of that amazing sauce. Top with coleslaw and your choice of salad. It’s also great in a wrap (like I did because it was all we had in the house!) or in tacos.

How to make Eastern North Carolina BBQ Sauce


  • ourcrossings

    Sounds like a very easy recipe to make. While we are not crazy on BBQ sauce, I love anything that’s home made because it tastes hundred times better. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva

    • offasmallisland

      Very easy! It’s more like a spicy/tangy marinade than a true bbq sauce, but don’t tell the other North Carolinians that! thanks for reading 🙂

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