This truly easy (and delicious!) recipe for North Carolina-style vinegar BBQ sauce is ready in just 10 minutes.
This sauce is absolutely perfect for slow-cooked ribs. It keeps in the fridge for about a week, so you can make it ahead of time.
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 vinegar bbq sauce. They were tender and delicious, and they were quite different than the sweet and sticky ribs I was used to. I was immediately hooked!
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.
Hot pepper sauce: It can be as potent or as mild as you'd like. I typically use Frank's Red Hot Sauce.
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.
Making vinegar BBQ sauce is easy! Scroll down to the recipe card for 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 to allow the flavors to meld.
At this point, 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.
While you could mix the sauce and then use it immediately, I highly recommend letting it rest for a minimum of 30 minutes. This will allow the spices to better dissolve and the flavors to meld.
Frequently asked questions
This sauce is based on vinegar and hot sauce instead of tomatoes and sugar. It's delicious, and for those of us on a low-carb diet, it's the perfect solution. We get to enjoy flavorful bbq without the extra carbs found in tomato-based sauces.
I don't recommend that. It's too strong and acidic. If you don't have apple cider vinegar on hand, try using red or white wine vinegar instead.
No, not at all! Once you use it in a recipe, the slow cooking caramelizes the meat and the sauce and it becomes wonderfully tangy-sweet, though not as heavily sweet as tomato-based sauces.
I love this recipe as is and almost always make it as written. But in case you'd like to vary the basic recipe, here are a few ideas for you:
- You can add dry mustard to the sauce - try ½ teaspoon. Or a tablespoon of Dijon mustard.
- Add ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
- To make it spicy, add ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
- The slow cooking caramelizes the meat and creates subtle notes of sweetness, even without the addition of a sweetener. But if you'd like, you can add 1-2 teaspoons of any sweetener (or the equivalent in stevia).
This sauce is perfect with slow-cooked ribs. Last night, I made North Carolina-style ribs. I used my recipe for oven-baked ribs, but instead of using a tomato-based sauce, I basted the ribs with this vinegar sauce.
They were phenomenal! Fall-off-the-bone tender and so flavorful, with just the right amount of heat. They were not vinegary at all. They were delicious! Just like those ribs at The Pit restaurant, back in 2013.
You can keep this sauce 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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Vinegar 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 it to allow the flavors to meld.
- Whisk the sauce again before using it.