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Barbecue sauce, the soul of a Southern BBQ feast, comes in various forms and flavors. From the rich and smoky tomato-based sauces of Kansas City to the sweet and tangy offerings of the Carolinas, there’s something special about the diverse world of BBQ sauces. 

This easy recipe shows you how to make the most tangy and delicious Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce, also known as South Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce, and explore why this mustard-based BBQ sauce should find a place with your favorite grilling and barbecue recipes.

Pouring homemade Carolina mustard bbq sauce onto pulled pork sandwich.
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Carolina’s Mustard BBQ Sauce Tradition

The roots of mustard-based barbecue sauce can be traced back to South Carolina. This state has a rich history when it comes to barbecue, influenced by the German immigrants who brought their love for mustard with them. 

The result? A tangy, golden sauce that perfectly complements smoked or grilled meats.

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Key Ingredients 

  • Yellow Mustard: The main ingredient, yellow mustard, provides the sauce with its distinctive color and tangy kick.
  • Honey and Brown Sugar: These sweet ingredients balance the tanginess of the mustard, creating a harmonious blend of flavors.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Adding a touch of acidity and fruity notes, apple cider vinegar is a crucial element in this recipe.
  • Chipotle Pepper in Adobo: For a hint of smokiness and a touch of heat, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are a secret weapon.
  • Ketchup: Though not a traditional Carolina ingredient, ketchup adds depth and richness to the sauce.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: This umami-rich sauce contributes to the savory complexity of the mustard sauce.
  • Garlic and Black Pepper: Garlic powder and black pepper provide layers of flavor and a little kick to the sauce.
ingredients used to make Carolina mustard bbq sauce.

Why This Recipe Works

  • No Cooking Required: One of the fantastic aspects of this mustard sauce recipe is its simplicity. Unlike other BBQ sauces that require simmering for hours, this sauce is a breeze to make. Simply mix the ingredients together, and you’re good to go.
  • Tangy and Sweet: The combination of yellow mustard, honey, and brown sugar creates a sauce that’s both tangy and sweet. It’s the perfect balance that tickles your taste buds.
  • A Touch of Heat: With the addition of chipotle peppers in adobo and black pepper, this mustard-based BBQ sauce has a touch of heat that’s sure to please spice lovers.

What Does It Taste Like?

Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce has a unique flavor profile. 

It’s tangy, slightly sweet, with a touch of smokiness and heat. 

The mustard base gives it a bold and zesty character that sets it apart from a traditional tomato-based sauce.

Why You Should Make It

  • Versatility: This mustard-based BBQ sauce isn’t just for pulled pork sandwiches; it goes well with a variety of grilled meats, from chicken and ribs to pork chops.
  • Authenticity: If you’re looking to capture the essence of traditional Carolina BBQ, making your own version of this mustard sauce is the way to go.
  • Customization: Feel free to tweak the recipe to suit your taste. You can adjust the sweetness, heat, or smokiness to create your personal favorite.
  • Easy to Store: Once prepared, you can store this sauce in an airtight container for future use. It only gets better with time, allowing the flavors to meld together.

Ingredient Substitutions and Additions

If you are needing to make a change to accommodate dietary restrictions or ingredients on hand, these options might work. Because they may alter the flavor of the mustard barbecue sauce, I recommend only making changes if necessary.

Honey Substitutes

Maple Syrup: If you’re looking for a vegan alternative to honey, maple syrup can provide a similar sweetness and depth of flavor.

Agave Nectar: Another vegan option, agave nectar, can be used to replace honey in equal amounts.

Brown Sugar Substitutes

Coconut Sugar: For a lower glycemic index option, you can substitute coconut sugar for brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio.

Stevia or Erythritol: If you’re watching your sugar intake, you can use stevia or erythritol as sugar-free alternatives. Start with a small amount and adjust to taste.

Apple Cider Vinegar Variations

White Wine Vinegar: If you don’t have apple cider vinegar on hand, white wine vinegar can be a suitable replacement. It will lend a slightly different flavor but still works well.

Rice Vinegar: Rice vinegar has a milder taste and can be used as a substitute, especially if you prefer a less tangy sauce.

Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Alternatives

Smoked Paprika: If you want to maintain the smokiness without the heat, smoked paprika is an excellent choice. Use it in place of chipotle peppers for a smoky flavor profile.

Red Pepper Flakes: For heat without the smokiness, red pepper flakes can be added to taste.

Ketchup Options

Tomato Sauce: In a pinch, tomato sauce can be used as a ketchup substitute. It’s slightly less sweet but still provides the tomato base.

Tomato Paste: For a thicker consistency and intense tomato flavor, consider using tomato paste, but dilute it with a little water.

Worcestershire Sauce Alternatives

Soy Sauce or Tamari: If you’re vegetarian or looking for a gluten-free option, soy sauce or tamari can provide a savory umami element.

Coconut Aminos: For a soy-free, gluten-free alternative, coconut aminos work well as a Worcestershire sauce substitute.

Garlic Powder Variations

Fresh Garlic: If you prefer fresh garlic flavor, substitute minced or finely grated fresh garlic cloves for garlic powder. Use about one clove per 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder.

Additional Dietary Considerations

  • Low Sodium: Reduce the amount of salt or opt for low-sodium versions of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce to lower the sauce’s sodium content.
  • Gluten-Free: Ensure that your Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce (if used) are gluten-free for a gluten-free version.
  • Vegan: To make the sauce entirely vegan, use maple syrup instead of honey and choose a vegan Worcestershire sauce.
Pouring Carolina mustard bbq sauce onto smoked pulled pork sandwich.

Serve This Sauce With

If you enjoy making your own sauces, you may want to also make my Whiskey BBQ Sauce.

mason jar with homemade Carolina mustard bbq sauce next to pulled pork sandwich.

In the world of barbecue, Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce stands as a testament to the diversity and creativity of regional flavors. 

Whether you’re a fan of South Carolina barbecue or simply looking to try something new, this mustard-based BBQ sauce is a must-try. 

So, the next time you fire up the grill, consider adding a touch of Carolina gold to your favorite meats and savor the magic of homemade mustard BBQ sauce.

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Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce Recipe

Prep5 minutes
Cook5 minutes
Total10 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce is the easiest homemade BBQ sauce recipe you'll find! This mustard BBQ sauce is so easy to make, spicy, and flavorful!




  • Mix all ingredients well.
  • For best results, refrigerate in an airtight container overnight to allow the flavors to develop.
  • To serve, warm in a pot over very low heat and use on grilled meats like pulled pork or chicken.


Makes about 2 cups


Calories: 57kcal, Carbohydrates: 12g, Protein: 1g, Sodium: 269mg, Potassium: 52mg, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 40IU, Vitamin C: 0.4mg, Calcium: 16mg, Iron: 0.4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you make this? Leave me a comment below

This post was originally created in April 2015 and has been updated with photos and helpful information. Don’t worry – I didn’t change the recipe!

Hi! I’m Krissy.

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  1. I grew up on Jonny Harris out of Savana GA. I then moved to Blue Front out of West Palm Beach. In later years I moved to a brand called Carolina Gold. All three are close to this recipe. I make my own now. Forget the Chipotle crap. Just use hot sauce.

    Sweeter add more brown sugar or honey.
    Less mustard taste add some tomato paste.
    Add minced onion and garlic.

    I like the mustard sauce. Its a southern thang.

    North Carolina you can stick to your mayo based sauce. The gold is from South Carolina.

    1. I look forward to trying out some of your recommendations next time I make it! I love tweaking my recipes based on readers recommendations. Thanks! And I’m glad the recipe is closed to what you’re used to!