Secret Sauce Recipe

Vinegar Barbecue Sauce Recipe


This Secret Sauce recipe was generously donated by Al Carson of Raleigh, North Carolina.  Thank you Al!

Al says, “For pig picking dip or chops, ribs, and chicken on the grill.  Some folks even put it on burgers and steaks.  What can I say?  When cooking on the grill, baste meat last 15 minutes.  The sauce contains sugar and will burn if applied much earlier.  Also makes a dandy pasta salad sauce.  Just add two tablespoons of olive oil to half a cup of sauce and mix with your favorite pasta and whatever else you like (cheese, diced onions, peppers, carrots, celery, olives, mushrooms, broccoli, or cauliflower).  Some folks even use it as a regular salad dressing and I like it as a slaw dressing, mixed half and half with mayonnaise.  The recipe makes a lot – but I never have enough!

Check out this delicious North Carolina North Carolina Pig Pickin’ which includes this wonderful Secret Sauce.

While visiting my friends, Bill and Andra Cook of Raleigh, North Carolina (a couple of years ago), Bill’s father, Elbert Cook of New Bern, North Carolina, brought his homemade barbecue pit (which he has fixed on a trailer) to the Cook’s home and carefully tended the pig.  When done, we pulled the meat off the ribs with our fingers and ate pig pickin’.  It was finger lickin’ good!


Pig Pickin


Most families and restaurants that are known for their barbecues make their own Secret Sauce.  In fact, they will tell you that the “secret is in the sauce.”  You would no more ask a barbecue man for his sauce recipe that you would for the use of his dog.  Most people simply call their sauce “Secret Sauce.”


Secret Sauce Recipe:
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
40 mins
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Secret Sauce Recipe
  • 1 gallon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 (28-ounce) bottle Del Monte ketchup
  • 2 3/4 cups firmly-packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves, ground
  1. In a large stainless-steel pot over medium-high heat, combine all the ingredients; bring just to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the crushed red pepper sinks.  Remove from heat.

  2. The sauce should be bottled hot, but not boiling.  Just hot enough that the bottles are hard to hold for more than a few seconds.  Fill bottles within 1/2 inch of the top.  By bottling hot, it will seal itself.  Does not need refrigeration until after opening and then only to protect flavor.

  3. The sauce does not seem to have a problem with spoilage.  I have used unopened bottles a year later and they have been very good.  The sauce does get hotter with age.

  4. Optional:  If you like the sauce even hotter, add 1/4 cup of Tabasco before cooking.

Comments and Reviews

3 Responses to “Secret Sauce Recipe”

  1. Michele

    Can you tell me what the consistency should be? I made and bottled the sauce but it is very thin. Thanks

    • Jane

      Whenever I’ve made it, it’s been very liquid. It can be thickened up by using cornstarch and water to thicken it like a gravy. I like to mix it with mayo for a very spicy salad dressing. It also works well as a marinade or dipping sauce. The only limit is your imagination!

  2. Jane L

    I found this recipe a very long time ago, during the infant stages of the Internet. I’ve made it several times, and passed the recipe along to a LOT of friends and family. This is the ultimate sauce, for everything! It makes a spectacular dipping sauce or salad dressing by mixing with mayo or sour cream or yogurt. It’s a bbq sauce, a marinade, for everything from pork to chicken to hamburgers. I’m so happy to see that it’s still knocking around the Internet.


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