East Carolina Barbecue Sauce for Pulled Pork

You are going to love this tangy, vinegary version of East Carolina Barbecue Sauce for Pulled Pork. It is absolute perfection! See this recipe MADE ON VIDEO HERE.   

Sunday night I tossed a seven-pound pork shoulder in my Dutch oven, turned on the oven at 220 degrees, covered the pot and didn't take it out until morning (about 10-11 hours).

Honestly, this is the easiest way to make pulled pork.  I always add about three cups of water to my pot and I lazily season the water (not even the meat) with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and smoked paprika.  It easily flavors the meat without even getting my hands dirty.  I love that.

For pulled pork I like a vinegar based sauce as opposed to traditional, thick barbecue sauce. This Carolina sauce is on the thin side and has a real TANG to it. If you feel the vinegar would be too strong for you, you can always cut it down by half, taste it and add accordingly. Or if a thicker, sweeter sauce is more your style, give my Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce for pulled pork a try.

I absolutely love this sauce squeezed on pulled pork and put between two pieces of white bread. Yum.

Now, where's the bread?

East Carolina Barbecue Sauce for Pulled Pork

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East Carolina Barbecue Sauce

Recipe from: Adapted from All Recipes | Serves:


  • 2 cups cider vinegar (you can cut this in half if you think it will be too vinegary for you)
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 1 Tablespoon ground dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch


  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix cider vinegar, molasses, dry mustard, butter, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire and brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Mix 4 teaspoons cornstarch with 4 teaspoons cold water and slowly add to the sauce; simmer 1 minute. The sauce will thicken a little but will remain mostly thin as this is the type of sauce it supposed to be (it will also thicken a bit more when it cools). If you think the cornstarch became clumped in any way within the sauce, strain before pouring into a squeezable bottle.
  • Serve over pulled pork.

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  1. My husband just decided earlier tonight he would be making pulled pork for our Super Bowl get-together, and now I know just what recipe he will be using!

    On a side note, I found out one of our friends reads your blog and LOVES it. She has used many of your recipes, and especially loved the Happy Elf cocktail. She mentioned many of the recipes she has tried and will make again…plus you’re entertaining! keep up the good work Cathy, and thanks.

  2. Holy Cow. It is almost 5 in the morning and I’m starving and I pull up this! My Tootie Frooties are not going to cut it when I get home!

  3. HoneyB 3

    Grumpy and I have different views on what pulled pork should be. I prefer it your way where he prefers it with a thicker sauce or not at all (meaning no pulled pork at all.) He is not a BBQ sauce fan. I’m hoping to change his taste buds eventually though..in any case your pulled pork looks delish!

  4. From a Virginia girl, East Carolina is the only way to go, my favorite. Your sauce looks perfect.

  5. Another great recipe. It’s bad to read your blog first thing in the morning when you haven’t eaten for hours…

  6. Pam 6

    I first read that as “easy” instead of “East”, but it still is pretty darn easy isn’t it?

  7. good for you making your own sauce… and loving the vinegar based sauces. Around Kansas City, that is blasphemy, so when I want this, I have to make it… great recipe

  8. Sandra 8

    We like to use a mustard sauce for ours, but some in our family like regular BBQ sauce, so I’m going to try this. I keep my mustard sauce in a jar but this squirt bottle would be much better. I don’t know why I didn’t think of doing that because I keep my homemade chocolate syrup in one of those! We always put our pork on the smoker but I’m going to try your way of doing one inside so I don’t have to wait for my husband to be home to do the smoker.

  9. Bob 9

    Nice, I love that kind of sauce. My girlfriend won’t touch it though, but I always get some when we go to the bbq place we go to.

  10. Barbecue sauce can never be too vinegary for this ol’ redneck! And now you need some corn light bread!

  11. I have a store-bought sauce I like, but this looks so much better! My teenager has been asking for pulled-pork, so I think this is on my quick list :)

  12. Barbie with a T 12

    Right up my alley!! Sounds like a very simple and nutritious meal in itself. We really don’t eat a lot of pork because we are such beef lovers, but I do like pork now and then. I would love to have one of those sandwiches right now, with a oouple of dill pickle spears and some bbq chips. YUM. (It is 8 a.m. and I could eat it for breakfast)!

  13. Tammy 13

    I love pulled pork, but have never made it. I might have to correct that oversight!

  14. I love the vinegar based sauce for pulled pork, it’s the best!

  15. I love pulled pork and with the temperature so low it is hard to cook on our Big Green Egg. I will have to try this. Sounds easy and yet so good. I love this type of barbecue sauce.

  16. Melynda 17

    I just love it when the easy dishes are also the best tasting. Thanks for the recipes.

  17. dawn 18

    where did you find those squeeze bottles? I’ve looked everywhere for them. Are they online?

  18. Katrina 19

    My husband would love this, especially the sauce, he loves vinegar-y sauces!
    So you put the pork in the oven and it’s ready for breakfast? 😉

  19. Trisha 20

    Okay – I think I need a bottle of that stuff in my fridge! It looks great and I love the sandwich just like you described it!

  20. Heidi Partin 21

    Actually, true Eastern NC BBQ has no sweetness to it–no sugar, molasses or honey. Your sauce would be more accurate if called western NC (Lexington area) BBQ.

    Eastern BBQ (east of Raleigh) is usually made from butter (yes), vinegar, and red pepper flakes. That’s it. (It’s gross, in my opinion).

    Your BBQ sauce looks good, although I am a sucker for the sweet stuff :).

  21. Erin 22

    THANK YOU!!! I have a deep love for Carolina style BBQ thanks to an old ex boyfriend…he got me hooked on the vinegar based style. But I can’t find a sauce similar for the life of me! I picked up a bottle while at a Memphis layover that came close, but nothing since. I will certainly be making this soon!!

  22. Biz 23

    HOLY YUM! I love NC bbq – my grandpa made the best I’ve ever eaten.

    I am lucky that my local grocery store routinely sells pork shoulder for .99 a pound!

    Thanks for sharing this one!

  23. This looks so good. I want to make this NOW!

  24. Lisa L. 25

    The pulled pork looks awesome. I have a terriable time getting pork to cook and not end up as a pork rock. Might have to give this one a go.

  25. can’t get it too vinegary for me, I’ll definetly going to try this.

  26. Pam 27

    I think your sauce sounds fantastic. I love that you cooked the pork while you slept – so easy!

  27. Seriously…how easy could that be! Here’s another recipe to add to my winter repertoire. All I have to do is set aside some meat for Gaby sans sauce and we’ll ALL be happy!

  28. grace 29

    tart and tangy, sweet and succulent. good heavens, i love me some barbecue.

  29. Julie M. 30

    Okay. It’s not very often that I find a recipe that I must make *immediately* but since I had all the ingredients on hand and the recipe looked so delicious, I did. Even alone, it’s amazing! I can’t wait to try it on our chicken for supper. I used one and a half cups of apple cider vinegar & it’s still plenty of vinegar for us- we’re midwestern folk! :) Thank you for sharing- it’s definitely a keeper.

  30. Noble Pig 31

    Dawn- at Wal-mart in the cake baking aisle, at restaurant supply stores and my regular grocery store.

  31. Noble Pig 32

    Thanks for the info.  Since I’m not the owner of the recipe I am not going to change the name.  I suppose the author had a reason to name it this originally.

  32. Dawn 33

    Okay my mouth is twitching thinking about this sauce. Absolute perfection!

  33. Marlene 34

    YOu forgot to mention two things that HAVE got to go with this Sammi…hot sauce and minced cole slaw…on the sammi…that’s how we roll’.

  34. lo 35

    Heavens, I love a bit of barbeque.

    We don’t normally do a vinegar based sauce, but I could come around. Love it that your recipe still contains molasses — which I’m convinced is the secret to any good bbq sauce!

  35. Debbie 36

    Pulled pork is my husband’s favorite dish. I think he would love this sauce. I’ve never made it but need to give it a try already!!!!

  36. Mrs. L 37

    Yum. Love pulled pork and am a big vinegar fan so I’ll have to try this!

  37. Mary 38

    We are going to love this one. My family loves NC barbecue and I really love the way your sauce sounds.

  38. Linda 39

    What great timing … I have pulled pork on the menu for tomorrow night’s dinner. I will be giving this sauce a try! THANKS!

    (and I just had to scroll down and peek at that chocolate croissant bread pudding … have mercy!)

  39. melissa 40

    I’ve always wanted to make pulled pork but have always been scared to. Thanks for posting this! The sauce sounds delightful!

  40. Lea Ann 41

    I’m LOVING this idea of cooking the meat overnight. However I don’t have a Dutch Oven that would hold that much meat. I wonder if a roaster pan would work secured very tightly with foil??? I have some of those oven proof secure tie thingies. Thanks for the BBQ sauce recipe too Cathy. YUM And not to think about waking up to those wonderful aromas.

  41. Lea Ann 42

    Someone told me to look for them at the Dollar Stores also.

  42. Noble Pig 43

    Yes, cover tightly with foil. Depending on the size of your pan you might have to add extra water to make the water higher in the pan.

  43. noble pig 44

    Well, breakfast would be fine with me but I usually just turn it off and leave it in there for a few hours to cool down. Then I take it out of the water and shred it with two forks in a large pan.

  44. Donna 45

    What gorgeous pulled pork, I love how you prepare it ahead of time. The sauce sounds fantastic, I woould love to use this on slider rolls for superbowl. YUM!

  45. I’ve got to give this a try. My Captain loves pulled pork.

  46. Lena in VT 47

    Holy crap I have to have this.

  47. Ginny 48

    Delicious! Sounds great! :) I’m from NC and I love some BBQ…

  48. Dee from Tennessee 49

    We LOVE our BBQ….I’ve used slow cooker for it too. Yours looks fantastic! YUM

  49. LilSis 50

    I’m so glad you posted this recipe. Perfect timing. I was just talking to my cousin this past weekend about pulled pork. She was also telling me how good the pork shoulder turns out when cooked low and slow. I’m going to make this for my guys for the Chargers game this Sunday!! Thanks again.

  50. Julia 51

    This recipe looks amazing! Our local market also has a great deal on pork shoulder right now. Can you tell me about how much of each spice you add to the water when cooking the pork??

  51. Noble Pig 52

    Let’s see…1 Tablespoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika….I think that’s it.

  52. You are making me craving for pulled pork again!

  53. Liz C. 54

    I cannot believe that you are so generous as to share this recipe with us! It’s going to be better than Arby’s Sauce, which hubby loves. I know. He’s deranged & he’s all mine, lol.

  54. Julia 55

    Wow! Thanks for the fast response! I already picked up the pork shoulder, so I will be making this over the weekend. Thanks again!

  55. Go you for using NC sauce! Growing up in Eastern NC , this was the only way I knew to dress your pulled pork. In my early teens, I went to a friend’s house (family grew up in the mid west), and watched in horror as they dumped thick barbeque sauce over everything. Your recipe looks great!

  56. Mark 57

    I have fooled around with countless sauce recipes. Mustard sacue, KC, thin and vinegary, etc….This Carolina sauce is as good as any I have tried. Its the best. I would be proud to steal it and call it my own ( but for now I will not )..

  57. LilSis 58

    Just to let you know, I made my first ever pork shoulder this weekend and used your recipe. My hubby came home with a 10 lb pork shoulder so I wasn’t sure of how much time to add, but it turned out perfect!! The barbecue sauce was the best I’ve ever made. I loved the tartness from the vinegar! Thanks for the recipe!

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  60. Mike 61

    Seal the pan tightly with foil. You won’t need water. Once cooked, strain the stock, place in the refrigerator until the fat is congealed, remove fat (it will be in a block and you can remove with your fingers). You won’t believe the wonderful stock that this produces for soup or Brunswick Stew. BTW…if you smoke the shoulder on a grill or smoker for a few hours before placing in the oven (no more than 250 degrees F), you really will appreciate the results.

  61. Mike 62

    Seal the pan tightly with foil. You won’t need water. Once cooked, strain the stock, place in the refrigerator until the fat is congealed, remove fat (it will be in a block and you can remove with your fingers). You won’t believe the wonderful stock that this produces for soup or Brunswick Stew. BTW…if you smoke the shoulder on a grill or smoker for a few hours before placing in the oven (no more than 250 degrees F), you really will appreciate the results.

    OBTW, rub the meat with a good dry rub before cooking.

  62. Mark 63

    Hmmmm…born and raised in Eastern NC, this sauce sounds legit to me…have known many locale cooks and most use either a touch of molasses or brown sugar, have never heard of mustard or cornstarch…but there are literally thousands of variations…this one sounds good think I will try it..

  63. Paula 64

    Yum! I’m making this tonight, for the fourth time. Cathy, what a hit!! Variation: put the whole thing in a turkey roasting bag – will let you know how that worked.
    Paula (Davis)

  64. In hot sauce, remember that it is better to start out too mild than too hot. And if you cannot handle the heat or do not care for sauces, they don’t consider yourself as one of the chiliheads.

  65. Lise Beyers 66

    If you like a vinegary flavour, then definitely try Pork Vindaloo. It is very yummy. Lots of recipes on the web.

  66. Sal 67

    I made the pulled pork sauce and for me, 2cups of cider vinegar was just fine. BBQ is all about 3 simple thing’s Low, Slow and Seasoning’s Oh yea 4 thing’s, Dont forget the East Carolina BBQ Sauce.

  67. Sal 68

    There’s three main components that makes great BBQ, Low,Slow and, Seasoning. Oh Yea four, dont forget the East Carolina BBQ Sauce.
    Thank’s for a great sauce.

  68. jerry 69

    great sauce! BBQ’d a bone-in skin-on pork shoulder in a covered weber w/ alder smoke for about 5 hrs after 4 hrs in the oven. This sauce was a hit. Maybe I would cut the vinegar a little for next time, but was great as is….

  69. Andy 70

    How many servings does this recipe yield?

  70. Carole Coons 71

    Hi, I am from NC too, Winston Salem area and I still have family there. I love the southern pulled Pork BarBQ with Slaw on the Hogie Roll. Sound like a great recipe so I am trying it for Labor Day!!!!
    Sounds sooooo good. Thanks to everyone!

  71. Tammy Wallace 72

    I used this recipe for sauce and topped my smoked pulled pork with it and placed first in The second annual wild hog cook-off in Durant, OK. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  72. Just made this sauce for my pulled pork and it is definitely a keeper.