Some place the origin of barbecue sauce at the formation of the first American colonies in the 17th century. References to the sauce start occurring in both English and French literature over the next two hundred years. South Carolinamustard sauce, a type of barbecue sauce, can be traced to German settlers in the 18th century.
Early homemade barbecue sauces were generally made of just vinegar, salt, and pepper. Sugar, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce started to be used in the 1920s, but after World War II, the quantity of sugar and the number of ingredients increased dramatically.
An early commercially produced barbecue sauce was advertised by the Georgia Barbecue Sauce Company of Atlanta in 1909.Heinz was the first major company to sell bottled barbecue sauce, in 1940. Soon afterwards, General Foods introduced "Open Pit". Kraft Foods only entered the market in around 1960, but with heavy advertising, succeeded in becoming the market leader. Kraft also started making cooking oils with bags of spice attached, supplying another market entrance of barbecue sauce.
Different geographical regions have allegiances to their particular styles and variations for barbecue sauce.
Homemade barbecue sauce
East Carolina – Most American barbecue sauces can trace their roots to a sauce common in the eastern regions of North Carolina and South Carolina. The simplest and the earliest, it was popularized by African slaves who also advanced the development of American barbecue, and originally was made with vinegar, ground black pepper, and hot chili pepper flakes. It is used as a "mopping" sauce to baste the meat while it is cooking and as a dipping sauce when it is served. Thin and sharp, it penetrates the meat and cuts the fats in the mouth. There is little or no sugar in this sauce, which in turn has a noticeably tarter flavor than most other barbecue sauces.
Western Carolina – In Lexington and the Piedmont areas of western North Carolina, the sauce is often called a dip. It is similar to the East Carolina Sauce with the addition of tomato paste, tomato sauce, or ketchup.
South Carolina mustard sauce – Part of South Carolina is known for its yellow barbecue sauces made primarily of yellow mustard, vinegar, sugar and spices. This sauce is most common in a belt from Columbia to Charleston, an area settled by many Germans.
Memphis – Similar to the Western Carolina style, but using molasses as a sweetener, and with additional spices.
Kansas City – Thick, reddish-brown, tomato-based, and made with sugar, vinegar, and spices. Evolved from the Western Carolina, but is thicker and sweeter and does not penetrate the meat as much as sit on the surface. This is the most common and popular sauce in the US and the style of most commercial barbecue sauces.
Texas – In some of the older, more traditional restaurants the sauces are heavily seasoned with cumin, chili peppers or chili powder, black pepper, and fresh onion, while using less tomato and sugar. They are medium thick and often resemble a thin tomato soup. They penetrate the meat easily rather than sit on top. Bottled barbecue sauces from Texas are often different from those used in the same restaurants because they do not contain meat drippings.
Alabama white sauce – North Alabama is known for its distinctive white sauce, a mayonnaise-based sauce that also includes apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and black pepper, which is used predominantly on chicken and pork.