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6 Must-Try Regional Barbecue Sauces for Game Day

Photo: Getty / Bill Boch

Football season is well underway, and what better way to capitalize off the field momentum than with some tailgating action? But tailgating isn’t just about celebrating the sporting event, it’s also about good food, including barbecue, burgers, wings, and other grilled meats. And if you’re anything like us, you like your football and game-day food served with a side of zesty sauce. When you’re ready to bring some heat to your tailgating menu, try these regional homemade favorites.

The North has bragging rights when it comes to cheesesteak, pizza, clam chowder, and even the unassuming hot dog. But in the South, barbecue and its companion sauce reign supreme. And while loyalty to game-day rituals and regional barbecue runs deep like that of any football fan and their team allegiance, you can still make these signature sauces at home—no matter where you’re from or who you’re cheering on. Ranging from smoky and smoldering to sweet and tangy, you’ll want to glaze your wings, top your burgers, dip your fries, and drizzle a pulled chicken or pork sandwich with these flavorful Southern staples at your next tailgating party!


Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Visit any barbecue joint in the entire state of Alabama and you’ll find one common ingredient among all the pitmasters: white barbecue sauce. Proving that not all barbecue sauce has to be sweet and red, white barbecue sauce adds a unique flavor and color to grilled foods. Let’s just say if a pulled pork sandwich is the star of your show on game day, then Alabama-style white sauce should be the supporting act. Light, creamy, and downright dreamy, the vinegar-based sauce is rich in not only tradition but also mayonnaise. With just five simple ingredients, it takes the same amount of time to make as it would opening a bottle of the store-bought stuff.


Photo: Christina Holmes

Kentucky is known for its bourbon and Tennessee its whiskey. Since both liquors have a similar flavor profile, we pay homage to both states in a juicy burger, topped with crunchy bacon and slathered in a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce, with bourbon as one of the main ingredients. Sure, you can sink your teeth into the savory patty, but you’ll keep coming back after each bite because of the sauce.

Missouri (Kansas City)

Randy Mayor

If you walk down any grocery aisle in the condiment section, you’ll see shelves lined with KC Masterpiece sauces. That’s because barbecue is as much a fabric of Kansas City as the cornfields. The city’s signature sauce strikes the perfect balance between deliciously sweet and deliberately spicy, and our ketchup-based, molasses, and cider vinegar combination is just as good as the original.

Tennessee (Memphis)

UIG Platinum / Getty

When it comes to expertly-smoked meats cooked low and slow, Tennessee is at the forefront of the barbecue helm, particularly Memphis. Moving east from Kansas City, the barbecue sauce of Memphis is more thick and tangy as opposed to sweet and spicy. Great for dipping, sopping, or coating ribs, our Memphis-style sauce blends all the classic flavors you’d come to expect of a city that means business when it comes to barbecue, only with less sodium and sugar.


Photo: John Autry

Just like their tacos, Texans prefer other foods just as hot and spicy. And their sauce is no exception. A little bit sweet and tangy, this barbecue sauce packs heat reminiscent of the Lone Star State. The chili powder is the spiciest of the ingredient list, but the brewed coffee adds a surprising kick to the smoky paste, which makes meatier dishes ideal for sharing, but you probably won’t want to give away a single bite.

South Carolina

Photo: Oxmoor House

Similar to Alabama, South Carolina boasts a traditional sauce that’s not the common red hue. But don’t let that stop you from biting into a delicious pork dish or sandwich covered in yellow mustard barbecue sauce, because it’s still as tasty as the conventional, except the base is mainly mustard instead of ketchup.

How to Make Barbecue Sauce

Whether you watch the big game in front of the TV or gather with family and friends in the stadium parking lot during football season, make everyone jealous by pulling out a homemade barbecue sauce with a nod to the Southeastern region.