Growing up in Virginia Beach, VA, just 30 minutes or so north of North Carolina, I grew up eating Eastern North Carolina style barbecue. You know – that smoky pulled pork that’s practically swimming in a spicy vinegar-based sauce that’s tart enough to make you squint your eyes the second it hits your tongue. Personally, as much as I love all the different styles of barbecue, a good pulled pork with this sauce is my absolute favorite.
Well, since moving to Georgia back in 2005, it’s been practically impossible to find a good vinegar-based BBQ sauce that’s even half as good as what we used to enjoy back home in Virginia.
Well, as they say, good things comes to those who wait and sure enough, after nine long years of trying to ween myself off the perfect spicy vinegar BBQ sauce that I grew up on, I came across a recipe on Kamado Guru for…drumroll please…Eastern North Carolina BBQ sauce.
Skeptical as always, I just so happened to have the ingredients on hand, so I quickly whipped a batch, gave it a good shake, closed my eyes, and gave it a sip (yes, I may or may not be known to periodically drink BBQ sauce).
Result? Near perfection! To my fellow North Carolina style BBQ aficionados, this stuff is the real deal. Throw a pork butt on the Kamado, drench it in this sauce, and thank me later.
The primary ingredient of this sauce is apple cider vinegar, so this is either one of those kind of “love it” or “hate it” type recipes. This sauce is definitely authentic Eastern North Carolina, so with that warning in place, be prepared for that vinegar kick when you taste this one for the first time!
As always, let me know what you think in the comments below!
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce (Chipotle Tabasco is fantastic if you have it!)
- Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously
- Store in refrigerator in a glass jar
i have been looking for and trying N.C., eastern, sauces for some time. i have friendly competitions with close friends, we are all strong back yard smokers, and what i have eaten simply does not hit the spot. so, Sir, your recipe is next on my ‘give it a shot’ list. will let you know! thanks!
Kamado Jim says
Thanks for the comment, Bruce.
Like you, I bet I’ve tried over a few dozen eastern North Carolina style BBQ sauces over the last few years and have never really had one that really did it for me.
This sauce, on the other hand, is the closest thing I’ve had to the ones I remember loving so much as a little kid in all the old BBQ joints all over Eastern North Carolina. I love it, but like I said, get ready for a kick!
Can’t wait to hear what you think!
Sam Chase says
Very good sir! Being a damned Yankee, I prob. have no right to comment, but thius sauce does it for me! I drive a truck, and have had some Eastern N.C. BBQ, and this makes for fine eating on a cold Winter day, like today.
Trying this one tomorrow! Can’t wait. Saw some with butter and ketchup in it and it made me queezy. This one seems like the winner
Just whipped this up and wondering if it will thicken up. From western Canada and my charcoal BBQ is my second wife. Pulled pork is going on for 10 hours tomorrow and wanted to try something different.
so today is the try out day huh? no, Sir, it did not thicken for me either. hope you and your bbq guests are up for the new taste, there is a bite. i did try the Kamado Jim measurements and we did enjoy it, there is a bite, no question. i may have been mislead on what true NC style really is, if this in fact is eastern NC sauce… i want to work on it to slightly tame the vinegar. i will say, this is the sauce i will stick with in hopes of softening the sting and just a little. ideas, let me know! enjoy!
Brisket has been on for 8 hours, just wrapped it and should be coming off in 2-3 hours. I did add a touch more brown sugar to it out of the gate based on all the comments. Let me know what you tinker with to soften it for us northerners. I may split the recipe and toy with honey and other stuff to adjust.
i will let you know! and thanks for the info at your end. food for thought, sweets will shorten the shelf life of your sauces as you may know. 8 racks on friday for a family party and 1, 7lb and 1, 9lb butt saturday for a block party with my sweet red sauce on the ribs and adjusted Kamado Jim’s sauce on the butt. sure wish there were more days in the weekend… keep me posted. enjoy Sir!
You’re an animal good sir. I did 3 racks yesterday with my homemade Carolina mustard sauce. Thanks for the tips and I’ll keep you posted.
Michael Harris says
Bruce , drop the last two ingredients and add four thick cut strips of hickory smoked bacon and simmer 20 minutes and the vinegar bite will disappear and the sauce will be transformed.
No it won’t thicken up (at least it didn’t for me)
I’m a Northerner myself and not acclimated to these types of vinegar based sauces, but turned out good. Has a good bite to it.
Ok. I’m all for experimentation and traditional stuff. Tomorrow we taste.
It’s not suppose to thicken it should be the consistency of vinegar and if you must lighten the kick (which is absurd) split the vinegar in half with fresh pressed apple cider
ahhh, more input, nice! absurd…yes, i must say it may be to those from the area! i have recipes from my home area and thinking of changing it to fit your tastes would be absurd! granted Sir! looking from the other side, that is how new family recipes start and may be followed for a long time and many smoking events… cutting the vinegar by half is a bit more than what we are doing, yet it is what we do, cut by 1/3 adding unsweetened apple juice in some cases or a cider based beer, about 1/4 of the bottle. there is a change, to me for the better, again Sir, a simple change can go a long way for those invited to the party that do not have the love for the bite you and i have. go easy, enjoy!
Michael Harris says
I am from NC and my wife is from Newport News. We are retired in FL. Jim’s origin and taste for bbq caught my eye. Never done this before. So here goes. I have never seen an original eastern bbq sauce recipe on the web. The easiest best way for a beginner is the following. 2 cups seasoned rice vinegar. 1 tbsp crushed red. 1tbsp chipotles pepper. 1/2 tsp salt. 4 strips thick cut hickory smoked bacon. Simmer 15 min. Remove bacon. Pour sauce over pulled pork while mixing. After using once you substitute some of the sweet rice vinegar with regular to your taste. Or use regular with brown sugar to taste. Maybe add 1/4 tsp garlic and onion powder and shake of black pepper.
Michael Harris says
The oldest east Carolina recipe I know of. 2 cups cider vinegar. 2 tbsp brown sugar. 2 tbsp or less crushed cayenne pepper. A little salt and onion wedge. 3 to 4 ounce piece of fatty, salt cured pork, scored. Simmered low about 20 minutes. Then pork and onion discarded and rested. All the old people put the chunk of cured pork in about everything they boiled, especially beans and vegetables and cooked them a very long time. This traditional method was a natural to carry on to their bbq sauce. .Onion was optional. The piece of pork completely changes the sauce and once you try it, you cannot tolerate anything else. That is the big secret to it.
Michael Harris says
I forgot to mention the piece of pork was SMOKED salt cured. That is why hickory smoked bacon will substitute.