East Carolina Vinegar Sauce: BBQ Mop Sauce

Add great flavor to your smoked pork with this tangy, spicy BBQ mop sauce.
east carolina vinegar mop sauce with bbq mop and pulled pork

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This vinegar-based mop sauce has the perfect punch of flavor. It’s tangy, and spicy, and has a nice, thin consistency that makes it perfect for barbecue.

It is most commonly used to mop whole hog barbecue, but it pairs nicely with all types of pork.

This recipe will walk you through the steps to making a great mop sauce that will add some amazing flavor to your smoked meat.

What is East Carolina Vinegar Sauce?

We all know that The Carolinas take their barbecue seriously, so it stands to reason that they have more than one classic sauce.

The East Carolina vinegar sauce is absolutely nothing like the Carolina Gold that is popular in the South. It’s more of a mop sauce than a traditional barbecue sauce and it’s used to mop things like whole hog barbecue, pulled pork, and pork ribs.

pork butt being mopped

This sauce is a simple combination of vinegar, a touch of brown sugar for sweetness, and a fiery kick from both red pepper flakes and hot sauce.

It has a very thin consistency and is best used to mop barbecue during the cooking process – especially the famous whole hog barbecue that Carolina is known for.

The origin of this vinegary mop sauce is unclear, but it’s evident that it dates back at least a couple of centuries in North Carolina where whole hog barbecue reigns supreme.

The origins can be traced back to the first mop sauces used by Native Americans in the region.

I find that a great, spicy mop sauce is a really versatile sauce for all types of barbecue – but especially pork.

Whether you are mopping a whole hog, a few racks of ribs, or even a smoked pork butt, this sauce is the perfect combination of spice and tang that will add a tremendous amount of flavor to your meat.

Ingredients you’ll need

Apple cider vinegar

The first ingredient in this mop sauce is apple cider vinegar. It is responsible for the acidic flavor and thin consistency of the sauce.

east carolina mop sauce ingredients on a wooden board

Rice vinegar

The other vinegar component of this sauce is rice vinegar.

It adds a different flavor profile than apple cider vinegar and helps to round out the flavor of the sauce.

I do not recommend using seasoned rice vinegar, as the additional flavor will overpower the sauce. You can alternatively substitute distilled white vinegar as well.

Water

To balance out the acidity of the vinegar, water is added to this sauce.

Brown sugar

This sauce includes a bit of brown sugar for sweetness. The brown sugar does not make the sauce sweet, but it helps to balance the tang of the vinegar and the heat from the pepper flakes and hot sauce.

You can use either light brown sugar or dark brown sugar.

Red pepper flakes

The first element of heat in this sauce is red pepper flakes. They provide an even amount of spice to balance the vinegar and brown sugar.

You can adjust the amount of red pepper flakes you use depending on your preference, but this recipe definitely packs a spicy kick.

Hot sauce

In order to double down on the spicy nature of this sauce, a bit of hot sauce is added for an extra kick.

You can use whatever hot sauce you like, but I personally find that Louisiana brand hot sauce is a perfect combination of tangy heat that pairs perfectly with this sauce.

Spices/Seasonings

You can adjust the spices and seasonings you use based on your personal preference.

I like to use a bit of garlic powder, dry mustard, salt, and paprika. If you want to add some onion flavor, you can also add onion powder.

Tools you’ll need

Medium-sized saucepan or pot

You need a saucepan or a pot that is at least 2 quarts for this recipe. I like to use a pan because I find that the sauce will come to a boil faster, but a pot is also perfectly fine.

east carolina mop sauce simming in a pot

Wire whisk

You need to use a whisk to stir this sauce in order for the dry ingredients to fully dissolve. 

This sauce whisk is one of my favorites.

Mason jar (or similar storage container)

You can store this sauce in the fridge for up to a week, so I recommend a container with a lid, as opposed to covering a bowl in plastic wrap.

You want a container with a good seal to prevent your sauce from spoiling prematurely, so I find that mason jars are really the best vessel to store homemade barbecue sauce.

What to serve East Carolina Vinegar sauce with

As I mentioned before, this sauce is the perfect mop sauce for a whole hog barbecue, but it’s a versatile mop sauce for all types of smoked pork.

It can be applied to your meat throughout the entire cooking process with no issue. It does not have a high sugar content, so you don’t have to worry about it burning.

Keen to try some other BBQ sauces?

East Carolina mop sauce in a jar with mop in front and meat around it

East Carolina Vinegar Sauce; BBQ Mop Sauce

This sauce has a tangy, spicy flavor , and a nice, thin consistency that makes it perfect for barbecue.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment / Sauce
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 37kcal
Author: Breanna Stark

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika

Instructions

  • Add the apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, and water to a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  • Add the brown sugar, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, and all of the seasonings to the boiling mixture.
  • Whisk vigorously until all the ingredients are dissolved.
  • Serve immediately or transfer to a mason jar (or similar storage container) and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

Rice Vinegar: I do not recommend using seasoned rice vinegar, as the additional flavor will overpower the sauce. You can alternatively substitute distilled white vinegar as well.
Brown Sugar: You can use either light brown sugar or dark brown sugar for this recipe.
Red Pepper Flakes – You can adjust the amount of red pepper flakes you use depending on your preference, but this recipe definitely packs a spicy kick.
Hot Sauce: You can use whatever hot sauce you like, but I personally find that Louisiana brand hot sauce is a perfect combination of tangy heat that pairs perfectly with this sauce.
Spices/Seasonings – you can adjust the spices and seasonings you use for this sauce based on your personal preference. I like to use a bit of garlic powder, dry mustard, salt, and paprika. If you want to add some onion flavor, you can also add onion powder.

Nutrition

Calories: 37kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 0.3g | Saturated Fat: 0.04g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 397mg | Potassium: 50mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 425IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 0.4mg
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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    It’s really, really good. I’ll probably make all of my pork butts using this sauce and method. I actually smoked two butts at the same time on the same smoker. I mopped one and only sprayed the other. The mopped butt really did have a much better flavor.

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