An easy recipe for North Carolina BBQ sauce, made from vinegar and hot sauce. Perfect for ribs or for pulled pork!
I don’t know why it took me so long to remember the excellent ribs we had at The Pit 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 because I eat low carb. Tomato-based barbecue sauces tend to be very sweet. Too sweet.
I do have an excellent paleo bbq sauce recipe on this blog that is not so high in carbs. I sometimes make it with stevia instead of maple syrup.
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 bbq 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 sea salt, 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.
You can use the sauce right away in a recipe. Or refrigerate it overnight to allow the flavors to meld. 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.
In fact, the bones themselves were tender so we could extract yummy marrow out of them. Perhaps they were softened by the vinegar.
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.
Never miss a recipe!
I typically publish a new recipe once or twice per week. Want the new recipes in your inbox? Subscribe!
North Carolina BBQ Sauce
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Place the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- Shake well to combine.
- Use immediately.
- You can also refrigerate the sauce overnight to allow flavors to meld. Shake again before using it.
If using for pulled pork, start by slow cooking the pork (2-3 lb.) in your slow cooker with just salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons water. When done, shred the meat with two forks, add the entire jar of barbecue sauce, mix it in, cover, and slow cook on high for 30 more minutes.