Alabama White Sauce


This Alabama staple is a must-try.

Active Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
5 mins
2 cups

Often, when we think of barbecue sauce, we conjure visions of thick tomato-based sauces, ranging from sweet to spicy. However, Alabama white sauce throws the notion of traditional red sauce on its head.

A popular barbecue sauce used by many Southerners, Alabama white sauce (also known as white barbecue sauce) is a creamy, tangy, and peppery concoction unlike the more common tomato-based sauces.

Southern Living Alabama White Sauce in a jar to serve

Morgan Hunt Glaze, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Julia Bayless

Every region in the South specializes in its own type of barbecue sauce. North Carolina has vinegar-based sauce, while South Carolina’s sauce has a mustard base. Kansas City’s barbecue sauce is thick and tangy with a touch of sweetness, while Memphis likes its sauce thin and tangy. Texas barbecue sauce has earthy undertones while Oklahoma goes heavy on the ketchup. Alabama white sauce is a creature all its own.

It was brought into the world by Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama around 1925. Famous for its whole chickens smoked in massive hickory-fed pits, the slow-smoked meat was dunked into the one-of-a-kind white sauce once it was perfectly cooked.

Rumor has it this sauce helped the chicken stay moist (and quite delicious) while waiting on friends and customers to dine.

So, What Exactly Is Alabama White Sauce?

Versus most tomato-based sauces, Alabama white sauce uses mayonnaise as the base, making it silky smooth and creamy. The typical ingredients for Alabama white sauce are a healthy heaping of mayonnaise and vinegar. The combination of the two gives the sauce its quintessential tang. A generous amount of black pepper gives it a kick.

Other flavors are layered on, including lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. A touch of sugar helps to balance the tartness. Some folks like to add mustard, prepared horseradish, garlic, or onion powder for a bit extra flavor, as well.

Unlike its other mayonnaise-based cousins, coleslaw dressing and ranch, this sauce has a deeper, tangier flavor, thanks to a heavy hand with the vinegar and a bit of heat. Though the looks are similar, and all three are creamy and smooth, you’ll find coleslaw to be a bit sweeter and ranch to have a more herbaceous note. 

How To Serve Alabama White Sauce

This sauce is a dream drizzled on smoked chicken and smoked turkey. It also goes great with grilled ribs, pork, fish, and even brisket.

You can use it like a traditional red sauce, either as a basting sauce or dipping sauce. Some folks will drizzle both red and white barbecue sauce on their dishes.

Not only is Alabama white sauce great on barbecue, but it also makes an excellent dip for veggies, salad dressing, and coleslaw dressing. You can even spread it on burgers or use it as a dipping sauce for fries.

Southern Living Alabama White Sauce on wings

Morgan Hunt Glaze, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Julia Bayless

How To Make Alabama White Sauce:

Of course, you can buy Alabama white sauce at your grocery store, but the homemade version tastes so much better and is so easy to make. Unlike red sauces, which are oftentimes simmered for hours, Alabama white sauce requires no cooking. All you need is a bowl, a whisk, and a few ingredients.

It’s ready in less than 5 minutes so you can focus on your main meal. This sauce is best made ahead of time so that the flavors have a chance to meld in the refrigerator. Aim for at least two hours, but overnight is best. You can keep it in a clean jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

The ingredients are simple, and most likely already in your cupboard or refrigerator

Southern Living Alabama White Sauce ingredients

Morgan Hunt Glaze, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Julia Bayless

  • Mayonnaise: Any type of mayonnaise will do, but of course, Duke’s Real Mayonnaise is the preferred choice. Don’t have Duke's? Best Foods and Hellman’s are the same recipe and brand, just different packaging, depending on where you live. You can substitute half of the mayonnaise with plain Greek yogurt or even sour cream. You’ll still get lots of great tang, but a slightly healthier sauce.
  • Acid: While apple cider vinegar adds the traditional tang, you can also use white distilled or white wine vinegar. Stay clear of more strongly flavored vinegars, like red wine or balsamic, which will add both an undesirable flavor and color to the final sauce. Fresh lemon juice also adds a bit of a bite to the sauce.
  • Spices: Black pepper is a strong component in this sauce, so we prefer freshly ground for the freshest taste. You can experiment with different types of spices: Try garlic or onion powder. Or add a pinch of traditional barbecue spices (like cumin, paprika, coriander, or chili powder) or your favorite dry rub.
  • Umami: Worcestershire adds a deep richness to the sauce. Mustard is also a popular flavor; use yellow, brown, Dijon, or even Creole mustard.
  • Heat: If you like your sauce spicy, add a generous splash of hot sauce. If you prefer it milder, leave it out entirely. A heaping tablespoon (or two) of prepared horseradish or a pinch of cayenne adds a nice kick, as well.

Editorial contributions by: Jackie Freeman.


  • 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise (Duke's, of course)

  • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 small lemon)

  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce


  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.

    Southern Living Alabama White Sauce ingredients in a bowl

    Morgan Hunt Glaze, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Julia Bayless

    Whisk together until smooth and combined. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

    Southern Living Alabama White Sauce whisked together

    Morgan Hunt Glaze, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Julia Bayless

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Alabama white sauce made of?

    The key ingredients in Alabama white sauce are mayonnaise and vinegar. From there, the recipes differ slightly, but you'll often find black pepper, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce, among other ingredients.

  • What do you use Alabama white sauce for?

    Classically white sauce drizzled over smoked chicken, but you can also use it on grilled or barbecued meats, wings, vegetables, pizza, burgers, and more.

  • Does Alabama white sauce taste like ranch?

    No, Alabama white sauce is tangy with notes of vinegar and black pepper. Ranch emphasizes herbs and may be a bit more sweet.

Additional reporting by
Jackie Freeman
Jackie Freeman

Jackie is a professional chef and cookbook author with over 25 years of experience in the food industry. Her talents include a wide range of skills such as a cheesemaker, farmhand, culinary instructor, recipe developer, TV and radio personality, and food stylist.

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