An easy recipe for North Carolina BBQ sauce, a vinegar-based BBQ sauce that's perfect for slow-cooked ribs.
I don't know why it took me so long to remember the excellent ribs we had at The Pit restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina, back in 2013.
The ribs, lacking the sticky sweetness I expected, were slow-cooked in an amazing North Carolina bbq sauce, based on vinegar and hot pepper sauce. They were tender and delicious, and they were quite different than the ribs I was used to:
What is North Carolina BBQ sauce?
This sauce is based on vinegar and hot sauce instead of on tomatoes and sugar. It's delicious, and for those of us on a keto or low carb diet, it's the perfect solution. We get to enjoy flavorful bbq without the extra carbs found in tomato-based barbecue sauces.
I've been struggling with tomato-based rib sauces for a while now. Tomato-based barbecue sauces tend to be very sweet. Too sweet, in my opinion.
I do have an excellent keto bbq sauce recipe on this blog that is not so high in carbs. But for anyone on a keto diet, every carb counts. This sauce is by far the best option for keeping the carbs down without sacrificing the flavor.
The ingredients you'll need
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this tasty sauce. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Apple cider vinegar: I haven't experimented with other types of vinegar, although red wine vinegar might work too. I don't recommend using distilled white vinegar, though. It's too acidic.
Hot pepper sauce: It can be as potent or as mild as you'd like.
Seasonings: I use smoked salt (I buy it on Amazon), black pepper, and smoked paprika. I highly recommend the smoked paprika - it adds a wonderfully smoky flavor to the sauce.
How to make North Carolina BBQ sauce
It's easy! Scroll down to the recipe card for the detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
You simply place all the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake it well to combine, or use a hand whisk to whisk everything together.
Let the sauce sit and rest for about 30 minutes. This will allow the spices to better dissolve and the flavors to meld. Then you can use the sauce right away in a recipe. Or refrigerate it until ready to use. Shake the jar again before using the sauce.
Oven-baked ribs with vinegar-based BBQ sauce
Last night, I made North Carolina style ribs (using this recipe for oven-baked ribs), but instead of using a tomato-based sauce, I basted them with this sauce. They were phenomenal! Fall-off-the-bone tender and so flavorful.
The ribs were wonderfully flavorful, with just the right amount of heat, and they were not vinegary at all. They were delicious!
There's no need for a sweetener
The first few times I made North Carolina bbq sauce, I added just a touch (1 tablespoon) of honey or the equivalent in stevia. But in subsequent versions, I omitted the sweetener altogether, and we did not miss it at all.
The slow cooking itself caramelizes the meat and creates subtle notes of sweetness, even without the addition of a sweetener.
How long can I keep the sauce?
You can keep it refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week. Make sure you give it a good shake before using it.
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North Carolina BBQ Sauce
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
- 1 teaspoon smoked salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Place the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- Shake well to combine. You can also whisk the ingredients with a hand whisk.
- Allow the sauce to rest for 30 minutes before using, to allow the flavors to meld.
- Whisk the sauce again before using it.