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Tangy East Carolina Vinegar Sauce

What is East Carolina Barbecue Sauce?

East Carolina–style barbecue is a whole different breed from sweeter tomato-based sauces. First, tangy East Carolina vinegar sauce contains apple cider vinegar and has the consistency as Tobasco sauce. Don’t worry, though. While this is a tangy sauce, it is not straight vinegar. It also contains flavorful ingredients like red pepper flakes and black pepper for a little heat and is tempered with the addition of brown sugar for a subtle sweetness.

How to use:

Unlike tomato or mustard-based sauces, tangy East Carolina vinegar sauce is mixed right into freshly pulled pork. This is done to add extra layers of flavor and help keep the meat from drying out. It’s best to go light with this sauce and only use enough to coat the meat before serving. Keep some in a condiment bottle and use it as a table sauce. That way, those who want more can add their desired amount.


  • Apple cider vinegar
  • White vinegar
  • Ketchup
  • Brown sugar
  • Tabasco Sauce 
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Making Tangy East Carolina Vinegar Sauce

  • Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl and set it aside for 10 minutes until the sugar and salt have dissolved. 
  • Transfer the Carolina vinegar sauce to a condiment bottle or jar.
  • Use immediately or place into refrigerator for up to 2 weeks after preparation. 
  • This sauce is also great on pulled chicken! Read our informative guide on Smoked Chicken for more information.


  • This Carolina vinegar sauce gets better with time. Make it 2-3 days ahead of time and store it in your refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before using it. Sauce will stay good for 14 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • Start small. Use a small amount to coat the pulled pork. If it needs more, add a little bit more.
  • Before using the sauce, give it a good shake. Since it is thin, ingredients like black pepper and red pepper flakes will sink to the bottom of the bottle or container.
  • Use this sauce on pulled chicken sandwiches. Start with a light coating. Chicken and pork hold flavors differently, so keep that in mind before using.
  • If you find that this sauce has too much vinegar flavor, add a tablespoon more of ketchup to mellow it out. Eastern Carolina sauce traditionally contains a strong vinegar flavor. We recommend working your way up. Think of it as taste bud training!
Read all about how to make pulled pork.
Try our best pulled pork rubs!
Tangy East Carolina Vinegar Sauce

Tangy East Carolina Vinegar Sauce

This is a traditional East North Carolina vinegar sauce that is specifically used on pulled pork. It doesn’t any better than this. A tangy, spicy concoction that kicks up any sandwich or big pile of barbecued pork.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Sauces
Cuisine: American BBQ
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 Cups
Calories: 85kcal


  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (use more if preferred)
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco Sauce (use more if preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper


  • Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes until the sugar and salt has dissolved. Transfer to a condiment bottle or jar.
  • Use immediately or place into refrigerator for up to 2 weeks after preparation. Can also be used on pulled chicken.


Image by Sabrina Baksh/Regarding BBQ, Inc.


Calories: 85kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2627mg | Potassium: 218mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 370IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 1mg
Derrick Riches
Derrick Riches

I began writing about Barbecue & Grilling in 1997 with one mission, to help the backyard chef have the best experience possible.



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