What Is White Barbecue Sauce and How Do You Make It At Home?
Let’s talk about white barbecue sauce, the uniquely delicious Southern staple.
If you've never had barbecued chicken or pork drenched in tangy Alabama white sauce, you've been missing out on a uniquely delicious barbecue experience. Here's what you need to know about white barbecue sauce and how to make it at home:
What Is White Barbecue Sauce?
White barbecue sauce (also known as Alabama white sauce) is a creamy sauce made with mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. It also sometimes includes horseradish, lemon juice, mustard, and various spices. It's typically served on or alongside chicken and/or pork, but it also works well for grilling and basting.
The mayo-based sauce has a tangy, peppery flavor with a bit of a bite.
History of White Barbecue Sauce
Though white barbecue sauce is enjoyed around the country these days, it's a North Alabama tradition that dates back almost 100 years.
Robert "Big Bob" Gibson of Decatur, Alabama is credited with creating the sauce in the 1920s. Gibson may have gotten his start by serving meals from a makeshift table in his backyard, but his name is now synonymous with North Alabama-style barbecue and his signature white sauce.
The story behind the sauce is unknown, but Chris Lilly, executive chef and vice-president of Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q, theorizes that it was a practical creation: "(Gibson's) chickens sometimes stayed on his pit for three hours," Lilly told Matt Wake of AL.com in 2017. When you're pulling a pit of chickens you've got to have some way to keep those chickens moist. Keep them from drying out. And I think that's where the mayonnaise came from. The fat in the mayonnaise was basically used as a buffer against the chicken drying out once it came off the pit."
If you ever find yourself in Decatur, you can visit Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q for a taste of the real thing. Not visiting Alabama anytime soon? The restaurant ships nationwide, or you can order a bottle of the white stuff on Amazon.
How to Make White Barbecue Sauce
It's easy enough to make white barbecue sauce in your own kitchen with ingredients you probably already have on hand. You can find an official recipe in Big Bob Gibson's official cookbook (buy Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint for just $25 on Amazon) or use Chef John's top-rated recipe for Alabama-Style White Barbecue Sauce.
"I'm from North Alabama and crave white sauce with my BBQ and ribs," says 5-star reviewer SouperMom. "I've tried many different recipes but this one is on fire!! I absolutely love it and it's my go-to recipe for white sauce.
Get the recipe: Alabama-Style White Barbecue Sauce
For authentic Southern experience, serve with one of our favorite BBQ & Grilled Chicken Recipes.