Exploring the Delicious Flavors of Carolina BBQ

Bag of Jackson's Sweet Potato Chips kettle-cooked Carolina BBQ with Avocado Oil

Join us on a journey through time and across the nation as we highlight what makes Carolina BBQ a standout among the great regional types of BBQ in America.

FAQ About Carolina BBQ

BBQ has had its place as a staple food in the Carolinas for centuries, with its origins possibly dating back as early as the 16th century when Sir Walter Raleigh first witnessed indigenous people cooking whole animals over an open flame. After the introduction of pigs in the Southeastern US by settlers, the rest was history, with the traditions surrounding Carolina BBQ gradually taking shape as different regions put their own spin on the concept.

What Makes Carolina BBQ Different From Other Types of BBQ?

Unlike some other areas of the country, Carolina BBQ utilizes pork as its main meat. Depending on whether you’re in North or South Carolina, different cuts of pork may appear in the dishes. In fact, Carolina BBQ is unique in the fact that it contains its own regional distinctions in cooking style and especially flavor. We’ll break them down in more detail soon, but you may encounter vastly different sauces in Eastern North Carolina, Western North Carolina, and South Carolina.

How Do You Make Carolina BBQ?

In South Carolina and Eastern North Carolina, it’s tradition to cook up the entire pig when preparing BBQ, while the Western region of the north sticks to using only the pork shoulder. All regions, however, typically brush or rub the meat with their signature flavors while it smokes “slow and low” for 14 to 16 hours over hickory or pecan wood.


Don’t forget to serve up your BBQ accompanied by the right sides! Both North and South Carolina offer the traditional BBQ sides, including hush puppies, baked beans, coleslaw, fries, and mac and cheese. However, in the north you might find dishes served with Brunswick Stew, which consists of two kinds of meat (chicken and pork), potatoes, tomatoes, and more. In the south, you’re more likely to run into barbecue hash, a puree of barbecue meat, mustard, onions, and potatoes served over rice.

What Does Carolina BBQ Taste Like?

Carolina BBQ sauces are best known for a combination of tang and spice. This unique flavor profile comes from the prevalent use of vinegar and pepper based sauces in some areas of the region, while other areas include mustard.

Shop Jackson's Sweet Potato Chips Carolina BBQ snack bags

The Trifecta of Carolina BBQ Sauces

Now that you know the basics about Carolina BBQ, let’s quickly break down each of the three regional sauces you might encounter if you embark on the BBQ trail. Try them all and decide for yourself which one you think is best!

Western North Carolina

The Western North Carolina BBQ sauce, also known as the Lexington or Piedmont style, is a tomato and vinegar based sauce that has a spicy kick thanks to the addition of either red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or hot pepper sauce. The slight sweetness and tomato flavor come from the use of ketchup or tomato paste as well as brown sugar.

Eastern North Carolina

Eastern North Carolina BBQ sauce is another vinegar based sauce, though this time without the distinct taste of tomato. The Eastern region shifts attention away from the subtle sweetness to instead focus on heat, with hot sauce and spices guiding the flavor profile. Eastern Carolina BBQ sauce is also usually thinner than your average BBQ sauce.

South Carolina

Things take a whole different turn when you reach the South Carolina border. South Carolina BBQ sauce, sometimes referred to as “Carolina Gold,” adds mustard into the mix, shifting both the color and the flavor profile away from the Northern regions. It still contains vinegar, giving it a unique combination of tang (from the vinegar) and zing (from the mustard).

Other Delicious Types of American BBQ

But the Carolinas aren’t the only states serving up mouthwatering BBQ. Thousands of restaurants all over the nation have put their own twists on traditional BBQ styles and flavors. Here’s a quick breakdown of 5 other famous types of BBQ that any food lover would hate to miss.

Georgia BBQ

Although you’ll probably find chicken and other types of meat on the menu in a Georgia BBQ restaurant, the main meat of choice is pork. Georgia BBQ sauce is tomato based with a mix of other spices and sauces, including vinegar, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder. The result is a tangy yet subtly sweet sauce that goes well with just about any meat you choose to smoke.

Kansas City BBQ

Kansas City BBQ sauce is probably what comes to mind for most people when they imagine what BBQ sauce should taste and feel like. Tomato and molasses based, this iconic sauce is thick, tangy, and sweet. It is typically served alongside any type of hickory-smoked meat and pairs well with a spicy rub.

Texas BBQ

Unlike other regions where sides are an integral part of the BBQ experience, Texas chefs put nearly all their focus on the main dish, meat, and in this case, beef. Sausage, ribs, and brisket are the choice meats in this region, typically cooked for upwards of 12 hours over oak or pecan wood. Sauce isn’t the staple of Texas BBQ either, with more emphasis instead being placed on the salt and pepper rub.

Alabama BBQ

Alabama’s white sauce is unlike many other types of BBQ sauce, and you can immediately see why. While most sauces have a rich, dark hue, Alabama’s sauce is distinctly light in color. This is largely due to the use of mayonnaise in the sauce, alongside vinegar, lemon juice, horseradish, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Though different, the sauce is deliciously addictive, with a perfect mix of spicy, sour, and sweet flavors.

Memphis BBQ

Like Texas, it’s all about the rub in Memphis! Most Memphis BBQ rubs include salt, pepper, brown sugar, paprika, garlic, and a mix of other herbs and spices, sometimes up to 40 in total. The meat, usually pork, smokes over hickory wood and is served with the signature sauce (a thin and tangy tomato based concoction) on the side.

Jackson’s Latest Flavor Infusion: Carolina BBQ

Even if you aren’t a meat eater, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy Carolina BBQ. In fact, Jackson’s Sweet Potato Chips has recently launched our own take on this region’s iconic flavor profile. Not only does our perfect blend of herbs and spices stay true to the authentic Carolina BBQ tradition, but our better-for-you ingredients set our chips on a shelf above typical BBQ potato chips.

In search of that tangy, meaty BBQ sensation in a vegan snack? Check out our online shop and get yourself a bag of Jackson’s Carolina BBQ Sweet Potato Chips today!