Barbecue sauce (also abbreviated as BBQ sauce) is used as a flavoring sauce, a marinade, basting, condiment, or topping for meat cooked in the barbecue cooking style, including pork or beef ribs and chicken. It is a ubiquitous condiment in the Southern United States and is used on many other foods as well.
The ingredients vary widely even within individual countries, but most include some variation on vinegar, tomato paste, or mayonnaise (or a combination thereof) as a base, as well as liquid smoke, onion powder, spices such as mustard and black pepper, and sweeteners such as sugar or molasses.
Some place the origin of barbecue sauce at the formation of the first American colonies in the 17th century. References to the substance start occurring in both English and French literature over the next two hundred years. South Carolina mustard sauce, a type of barbecue sauce, can be traced to German settlers in the 18th century.
Early cookbooks did not tend to include recipes for barbecue sauce. The first commercially produced barbecue sauce was made by the Georgia Barbecue Sauce Company in Atlanta, Georgia. Its sauce was advertised for sale in the Atlanta Constitution, January 31, 1909. Heinz released its barbecue sauce in 1940. Kraft Foods 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. Some are based in regional tradition.
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 supposedly popularized by African slaves who also advanced the development of American barbecue. They were made with vinegar, ground black pepper, and hot chili pepper flakes. It is used as a "mopping" sauce to baste the meat while it was 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 more sour flavor than most other barbecue sauces.
- Western Carolina – In Lexington and in the "Piedmont" hilly 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 tending to be sweeter, using molasses as a sweetener, and with additional spices.
- Kansas City – Thick, reddish-brown, tomato-based with sugar, vinegar, and spices. Evolved from the Western Carolina, it is significantly different in that it is thick and sweet 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 all other tomato-based sauces are variations on the theme using more or less of the main ingredients.
- Texas – In some of the older, more traditional restaurants the sauces are heavily seasoned with cumin, chili peppers, bell peppers, chili powder or ancho powder, lots of black pepper, fresh onion, only a touch of tomato, little or no sugar, and they often contain meat drippings and smoke flavor because meats are dipped into them. 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. 
- Florida – Similar to the Memphis style in that it has a higher percentage of vinegar than Kansas City style. Florida style is characterized by the tropical fruit flavors such as orange, mango, guava, papaya, pineapple, and tamarind as well as peppers with some heat such as chipotle and habanero. Because of its fruity flavor, it is commonly served with pork, beef, chicken, and seafood.
- Alabama white sauce – North Alabama is known for its distinctive white sauce, a mayonnaise-based sauce, which is used predominantly on chicken and pork. It is composed of eggs and oil (or mayonnaise), apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and black pepper.