Best Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce Recipe (Mustard-based)

This authentic Carolina Gold BBQ sauce is a sweet and tangy mustard-based condiment that’s absolutely delicious on pulled pork, chicken, or ribs! A golden yellow sauce on a pulled pork sandwich is an irresistible South Carolina tradition you won’t want to miss! Make this easy recipe in only five minutes!

Serve with slow cooker root beer pulled pork.

A spoon drizzling Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce into a mason jar.

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

As someone who was born and raised in South Carolina, when I think of barbecue, I envision a big heap of pulled pork, piled on a bun and completely smothered with Carolina Gold BBQ sauce. With some extra sauce on the side as a dip, for good measure.

This golden bbq sauce may not be dominant (or even available!) throughout most of the United States, but it’s my personal favorite of the various regional barbecue sauces. And once you try this easy recipe, it may become yours too!

Recipe inspiration

My family grew up going to Bessinger’s famous weekend buffet in Charleston, SC, filling up on Southern macaroni and cheese, banana pudding, and of course, pulled pork saturated with yellow barbecue sauce. While the buffet is no longer available, the restaurant is still in service and is the place to go for a “Big Joe” pulled pork sandwich and one of their giant battered onion rings.

I based this particular recipe on Bessinger’s Carolina Gold sauce. I consulted the ingredient list on their commercially bottled sauce and played with the ratios until I had something that tasted the same.

South Carolina mustard BBQ sauce filling a mason jar with a drip running down the side.

What is Carolina Gold BBQ sauce?

Carolina Gold barbecue sauce is a sweet and tangy mustard-based BBQ sauce found primarily throughout the “Mustard belt” of South Carolina, which encompasses the Midlands and Lowcountry regions of the state. These days you may also find it in certain areas of Georgia.

The sauce originated from German immigrants who came to central South Carolina at the end of the 18th century, bringing their families, a large Lutheran population, and a love of mustard on pork.

You’ll mostly find this golden sauce on whole hog pulled pork, as well as on pulled or shredded chicken and occasionally on ribs. It is usually added at the end of cooking or used as a condiment.

Carolina Gold BBQ sauce drizzling out of a mason jar onto a white bowl of pulled pork.

What does Carolina Gold BBQ sauce taste like?

Carolina Gold sauce is mostly tangy, a bit sweet, and completely delicious. It has a distinct mustard flavor, but with a good recipe it’s a well-rounded blend that’s more than the sum of its parts.

While different iterations of Carolina Gold sauces can vary in sweetness, they’re rarely as sweet as your typical red ketchup-based barbecue sauce. Some versions contain so little sweetener it’s almost like eating straight mustard, but this Bessinger’s-style sauce has enough brown sugar to balance out the harshness of the mustard.

The signature flavor in this recipe comes from prepared yellow mustard, brown sugar, and vinegar. Supporting ingredients like ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and Frank’s Red Hot add depth, character, and a little kick to the sauce.

Golden yellow Carolina mustard bbq sauce in a mason jar with a spoon emerging.

Where can I buy Carolina Gold sauce?

They sell mustard-based BBQ sauce in many of our regional grocery stores as well as in many BBQ restaurants around the state, but you may not have that same luxury unless you live in South Carolina’s Mustard Belt.

While you can buy some on Amazon, it can be rather pricey. I recommend making your own homemade bbq sauce with this Bessinger’s copycat recipe for an authentic South Carolina barbecue experience without a hefty price tag.


This Carolina gold bbq sauce recipe has the perfect balance of sweetness, tang, a little heat, and some spices using these simple ingredients!

  • Classic yellow mustard – This is the primary ingredient in Carolina Gold sauce. I use a basic prepared yellow mustard like Heinz or French’s.
  • Brown sugar – This sauce definitely needs some sweetener added to avoid tasting like pure mustard! Different recipes will use sugar, molasses, or honey. Brown sugar is an excellent choice because it already contains molasses.
  • Ketchup – Some recipes for yellow bbq sauce are adamant about using no ketchup whatsoever, while others use a more equal blend. This recipe is right in the middle, using just enough ketchup to deepen the sauce to a rich golden color without taking the primary focus off the mustard.
  • Apple cider vinegar and white distilled vinegar – Adds a bit of tang and a subtle hint of apple. Apple, mustard, and pork are a perfect match so it makes sense to use some apple cider vinegar in your pulled pork sauce!
  • Frank’s Red Hot – A vinegar-heavy hot sauce I use in many of my Southern recipes. It adds the perfect kick. Add more if you’d like!
  • Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and black pepper really round out the flavor!

How to Make Homemade Mustard BBQ Sauce

It couldn’t be more simple! All you have to do to make your own South Carolina mustard sauce is mix all the ingredients together!

After mixing the ingredients, give it a taste. This recipe doesn’t start off overly sweet or overly hot, so you can add more sugar or hot sauce to taste.

Refrigerating the sauce for a couple hours or overnight will help unify the flavors, but you can also use it immediately. 

Simmering the sauce

Simmering the sauce on the stovetop is quick way to blend the flavors faster. Just add all ingredients to a medium saucepan, heat over medium heat until the brown sugar is dissolved, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Use immediately or let the sauce cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge.

This mustard-based sauce stores well in the fridge for up to a week in a mason jar or other airtight container.

Carolina Gold barbecue sauce in a mason jar on a dish towel.

Expert Tips & Tricks

  • No need for fancy mustard here! Just use some prepared yellow mustard like French’s or Heinz.
  • Serve this sauce on slow cooker pulled pork, shredded chicken, or ribs, with extra on the side!
  • To use this sauce like a true South Carolinian, you’ll want to mix the sauce with the cooked, shredded pork until it’s coated throughout. Then, drizzle some more on top or use it as a dip too!
  • Add honey, extra Frank’s hot sauce, mayo, whole grain mustard, or bourbon for a tasty variation on the traditional sauce.
  • Simmer this sauce on the stove for a few minutes or let it sit in the fridge overnight for the flavors to really meld together!

Recipe Variations

This recipe makes a great base for some equally tasty variations of the Carolina style sauce!

  • Honey Mustard BBQ Sauce – Swap the 2/3 cup of brown sugar for half a cup of honey.
  • Bourbon Mustard BBQ Sauce – Add a couple tablespoons of bourbon to your sauce (to taste) and simmer the sauce for a few minutes on the stove.
  • Spicy Mustard BBQ Sauce – If you like a spicy sauce, add some extra Frank’s Hot Sauce or some cayenne pepper, to taste.
  • Creamy Carolina Gold Sauce – Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of mayo for a creamy twist on the sauce! I use Hellman’s myself but many Southerners swear by Duke’s.
  • Whole Grain Mustard BBQ Sauce – I often add a huge spoonful of whole grain mustard to my pulled pork before mixing in the Carolina Gold sauce. It adds a nice caviar-like texture and a bit more of that mustardy kick!
Mustard-based barbecue sauce drizzling from a mason jar onto a pulled pork sandwich.

How to Use Mustard-based BBQ Sauce

The clear and classic choice here is pulled pork. I love it with this slow cooker pulled pork, made from pork butt simmered in root beer to infuse the meat with a little extra sweetness. Chicken and other cuts of pork are other great options!

Here are a few meats that are delicious with this traditional bbq sauce.

  • Pulled pork
  • Pulled pork sandwiches (with or without a little coleslaw for some crunch)
  • Chicken wings
  • Chicken legs
  • Shredded chicken
  • Pork chops
  • Pork ribs
  • Pork tenderloin

For a truly South Carolinian experience, try one of these side dishes with your barbecue: 

Carolina Gold barbecue sauce also makes a great dipping sauce for your hush puppies, fried okra, and even french fries!

Be sure to FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, and TWITTER for more great recipe ideas! Or SIGN UP for my EMAIL NEWSLETTER to get updates and recipes straight to your inbox!

4.85 from 20 votes

Best Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce Recipe (Mustard-based)

This authentic Carolina Gold BBQ sauce is a sweet and tangy mustard-based condiment that's absolutely delicious on pulled pork, chicken, or ribs! A golden yellow sauce on a pulled pork sandwich is an irresistible South Carolina experience you won't want to miss! Make this easy recipe in only five minutes!
Print Recipe Save Recipe
Course: Ingredient
Cuisine: American, Southern
Yield: 10 1/4-cup servings
Calories: 48kcal
Prep Time:5 minutes
Total Time:5 minutes


  • 1 1/2 cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp ketchup
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp Frank’s Red Hot
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper


  • Combine all ingredients and mix well. Add additional brown sugar or hot sauce to taste, if desired.
  • Refrigerate several hours or overnight to allow flavors to blend better, but you can use this sauce immediately. You may also simmer the sauce over medium heat on the stove for a few minutes to help unify the flavor.
  • To use this sauce like a true South Carolinian, mix it with pulled pork or shredded chicken rather than just drizzling it on top.


Recipe variations:

Honey Mustard BBQ Sauce – Swap the 2/3 cup of brown sugar for half a cup of honey.
Bourbon Mustard BBQ Sauce – Add a couple tablespoons of bourbon to your sauce (to taste) and simmer the sauce for a few minutes on the stove.
Spicy Mustard BBQ Sauce – Add some extra Frank’s Red Hot or some cayenne pepper, to taste.
Creamy Carolina Gold Sauce – Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of mayo.
Tried this recipe?Mention @pinchmeimeating or tag #pinchmeimeating on Instagram!


Calories: 48kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 288mg | Potassium: 74mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 39IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 1mg

Want to enjoy the things you love about dining out — while you’re eating in?

Join my newsletter to receive

5 Secrets for Restaurant-style Eating at Home!


  1. I ran out of yellow mustard and used mostly Dijon instead. I used it for jackfruit “pulled pork”. I am not a fan a sweet sauces but love zesty ones. This was not sweet to me and had plenty of zest/spice.

  2. 5 stars
    Great mustard sauce! I made it for the 1st time the other night for pulled pork, and it was delicious. I simmered mine for a few minutes to dissolve the brown sugar better (not crazy about the gritty texture). I was also good as a chicken marinade. I cant wait to try on Kielbasa. I think my next batch will have some cayenne in it for a little extra kick, but it was fabulous as is. Thanks for sharing this recipe

  3. 4 stars
    It is very very close to Bessingers, but not exactly. But still a good sauce. I accidentally added 3Tbsp of cider vinegar, so I used one less Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, so that may have changed the flavor slightly. It only made 16oz though. That is fine since there is only two in the household.
    I was born and raised in Columbia SC, spent 20+ years in the Lowcountry, so when I moved to the upstate 26 years ago, I really missed Bessingers BBQ restaurants. Guess I’m telling my age as I’ll be turning 64 on the 7th of September.
    So thank you for making a copycat recipe that is close to the real thing.

    1. This sauce was great! I had this sauce on wings in a bar in North Carolina a couple years ago! The dish was called 24 karat gold wings! This sauce definitely tasted just like the sauce when I added it to my wings! I made sure I didn’t make it to sweet! Thanks for the new recipe I’ve added to my book!

  4. 5 stars
    Running low on supplies, and didn’t want to have to run to the grocery store for some sauce to put on some boiled chicken breasts I was shredding. Found your recipe and had to improvise a bit. I used about 1/3 of the amount called for and subbed: Dijon mustard, Tamari, brown sugar, Sriracha sauce, and apple cider vinegar…the only ingredients I had. Made a scant cup of sauce, which was just enough for the two shredded breasts. Tastes yummy. The chicken in sauce is marinating in the fridge til time to heat it. Thank you!!

  5. 5 stars
    Thanks for the recipe! When I found out I was diabetic, I haven’t been able to have bbq, and using your recipe but substituting Splenda and a bit of molasses for the brown sugar I can have bbq again. Thank you so much! It’s great!

    1. It’s so hard when health issues require you to avoid buying premade items in the store! My sister has to make just about everything from scratch between all her family’s health requirements. I’m so glad you are able to enjoy your BBQ once again!

  6. 5 stars
    My husband makes a wonderful tomato based BBQ sauce and I was looking for a Mustard Based BBQ sauce to go with my “first ever” attempt to make pulled pork. This was it! It is now my favorite BBQ sauce. My granddaughter gave it “11 stars out of ten!” When she said … “enjoy it now, because it won’t taste the same the next time grandma makes it,” I smugly presented a printed out copy of this recipe and said “I followed it exactly!” So now you can make it whenever you want. I’m about to make another batch to give to some of my friends as gifts. Thank you so much for the recipe!

  7. 4 stars
    I’m from western North Carolina, (home of Lexington BBQ), & while I love Lexington style, as well was “typical” North Carolina vinegar style sauce, I also love too.

    One slight correction.tip, Either North Carolina sauce is still my go-to for pulled pork, but I’ve found that South Carolina Mustard BBQ sauce is great on chicken & absolutely incredible on beef short ribs. I can also say that Heinz Carolina Mustard BBQ sauce is pretty great when you don’t want to make your own. I swear by all of Heinz’s pitmaster developed BBQ sauces, as I’ve tried them all & I keep every flavor on hand so I can match the right sauce to the right cut of meat. However, as I’m fixing short ribs tomorrow, I’m going to try this sauce recipe right now.

      1. Caroline, you say in /2017 comment that you’re surprised people haven’t heard of mustard-based sauce but then you don’t know about Lexington-style BBQ sauce. I think it is much better known outside of the Carolinas than mustard-based sauce. My husband is from upstate South Carolina and he never heard of mustard-based sauce until I told him about it when I was preparing for a cooking presentation that had an oven-cooked pork butt.. Usually one learns something about their subject before presenting it. BTW, the recipe is delicious!

  8. 5 stars
    Thank you for this! I’ve been looking for a mustard BBQ sauce, just mixed up a half batch, and it’s already delicious and exactly what I was looking for. Can’t wait to see what an overnight in the fridge does for it.

  9. 5 stars
    This is such a great BBQ sauce! I loved it with your pulled pork recipe. I’ve never made a mustard based BBQ Sauce and this one did not disappoint! Thanks for the great recipe!

  10. 5 stars
    We loved this! I’m from a southern family ranging from the Carolinas to Tennessee to FL. This is much better than many of the restaurants around here! We’ve served it many times with pulled chicken on hawaiian sweet rolls for a quick dinner, and I actually just used it as marinade and roasting sauce for a roast pork shoulder and it was AMAZING! Thank you for sharing your recipe!

    1. 5 stars
      (I forgot to mention that I only found this recipe a couple weeks ago, but have used it at least 2x a week since because the recipe makes so much sauce) 🙂

    2. That’s so great to hear, Lindsay! I actually used it for some pulled pork sliders with cole slaw on the sweet Hawaiian rolls too – it’s a great combo! I’m so glad you and your family like it!

  11. I have never heard of mustard-based bbq sauce before. The fact that I’ve lived in New England most of my life might have something to do with it. This sauce is something I need to try out. It looks delicious!

    1. Mustard-based BBQ sauce is very regional! I thought it was all of SC but according to some BBQ region maps I’ve seen it’s really only in a section of the state (both SC cities I’ve lived in are in the yellow-sauce region), and maybe a little bit of Georgia – so I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it before! But it is ubiquitous here, and I promise you’ll love it if you try it with some pulled pork! Let me know how you like it!

  12. I can’t wait to try this, Caroline! I have never heard of it before. And so easy! Time for some more pulled pork here with your sauce!

    PS – glad I am still on the email list! And glad to have you back! xo

    1. Thanks for inspiring me to get back on the email train, David! I’m surprised how many people outside of SC haven’t heard of yellow BBQ sauce! I knew they probably hadn’t had it but I thought more people would at least know about it! On the other hand, it is a hyper-regional thing! It really is so easy to throw together, and the pulled pork is easy to make too! (recipe here: Just takes a little time to shred. Please let me know how you like it! I’m happy to share the love of our local cuisine!

  13. I have made quite a few bbq sauces, but never a carolina. And it HAS been on my list! Thanks for sharing and this is going on my to make list!

    1. Excellent!! I think you’ll really enjoy it! Definitely have it on some pulled pork or pulled chicken, and let me know how you like it! Always happy to spread the love of some of our local cuisine!

  14. 5 stars
    We served this sauce with your root beer pork, and it was soooooo good! Just like the mustard sauce I remember from Charleston! Maybe even better!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating