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.
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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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
Best Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce Recipe (Mustard-based)
- 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.