Carolina-Style BBQ Sauce (Paleo)

Happy National BBQ Day!

If grilling, smoking, or BBQ anything is your jam, you probably already know that every region has their own style. I like most of them, but my favorite is definitely that yellow mustard vinegar BBQ sauce the Carolinas are known for. Even before food was really my “thing,” that was always my choice. I love vinegar and I love mustard and if I can put them together in a sauce and then put that sauce on meat, I am one happy foodie.

The problem lies in the fact that most of these sauces are loaded with sugar and all kinds of other weird stuff, like adding store-bought ketchup or BBQ sauce to the sauce you are making… why? The point is, I made my own that completely hits the spot and satisfies my paleo preferences too.

I started off with a base similar to my 5-Minute Mustard and then had at it. It’s worth mentioning that this wasn’t really doable without some kind of added sweetener, so I went for a thick local honey and a splash of maple syrup. I did find it got quite a bit sweeter as it sat overnight, so try ditching the maple if you like it extra sharp. This stuff is intense and delicious! And off-limits for Whole30, sorry gang.

A close up of my Carolina style BBQ sauce with a handwritten font overlay that reads "Carolina-Style BBQ sauce"

Electric spice grinder / coffee grinder
Kitchen scale*
Mason jar with lid
Measuring spoons

* Optional, but highly recommended. Especially for ingredients that are hard to measure with a spoon – honey, tomato paste, etc – having the kitchen scale can be super helpful for getting the proportions right.

For the mustard base:
3 tbsp mustard seeds
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tbsp water
Pinch of salt

For the BBQ sauce:
2 tbsp ACV
2 tbsp avocado oil
30g (~ 2 tbsp) honey
15g (~ 1 tbsp) tomato paste
1 scant tbsp black chia seeds
< 10g (~ 2 tsp) dark amber maple syrup*
1/8 tsp liquid smoke

* Maple syrup was previously rated as Grade A or Grade B. Grade B is the glorious thick stuff which is what we want here (and in general, if I ever talk about using maple syrup, this is what I keep in the house). This grading process was apparently too confusing for some and has since changed. For thick, dark “Grade B” style maple syrup, look for “dark amber”. You can read more about all the maple syrup naming shenanigans here.

Using a spice grinder or a cleaned-out coffee grinder, grind the mustard seeds until they are just a few stages away from a fine powder. For this sauce, we don’t really want huge whole mustard seeds to bite into, but we don’t want to destroy all the texture either.

An overhead shot of a small clear glass bowl with brown and yellow mustard seeds inside it, sitting on a white marble background.

In a mason jar, combine the ground mustard seeds with three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons of water, half a teaspoon of mustard powder, and a pinch of salt. Mix well (I used a fork for all of this).

Let the mustard sit uncovered at room temperature to “develop” for 15-20 minutes (longer if you like it extra funky).

An overhead shot of a mason jar with a coarse grind homemade mustard inside.

One at a time, stirring vigorously in between, add the ingredients for your sauce: more ACV, avocado oil, honey, tomato paste, and liquid smoke. Give the chia seeds a quick whirl in the spice grinder and add them to your almost-BBQ-sauce mixture. Mix well and taste.

If too acidic or bitter, add up to 10 grams (about two teaspoons) of dark amber maple syrup. I initially added the full amount to my sauce, but it sweetened substantially overnight so I’d aim for “just a hair too acidic” the day of. You can always add more sweetness later if needed – you can’t really take it away.

A close up shot inside a crystal-cut mason jar with the Carolina-style BBQ sauce inside.

Continue to stir vigorously until mixture is uniform.

Store in the fridge for 7-10 days. Put it on everything, from egg salad to pulled pork.

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One comment

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