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Alabama White Sauce: The Lowdown

Alabama White Sauce: The Lowdown

Alabama-style barbeque has a unique flavor you don’t want to miss. One of the major highlights of this cooking style is Alabama white barbeque sauce.

This sauce combines a variety of ingredients for a delicious final product that has been exported across the country and around the world, becoming one of the most famous barbecue sauces along the way.

Here’s a breakdown of Alabama white sauce — including a bit of history and a few recipes.

The Background of Alabama Barbeque 

What makes Alabama barbeque distinct from other famous food traditions from the South?

Here are a few factors that make Alabama BBQ unique among its Southern peers, to help you figure exactly what’s going on your plate.

The Key Features of Alabama Barbeque

In Alabama, barbeque is a way of life that brings people together.

Hickory, oak, and pecan are the types of wood that have kept barbeque cooking for decades throughout the state, and pork is the meat of choice.

Low-and-slow pulled pork sandwiches are an Alabama specialty. They’re made with coleslaw, dill pickles, and plenty of extra sauce.

Of course, each region of Alabama brings something unique to the table. In the east, eating barbecue with mustard-based sauces is the norm, inspired by BBQ from South Carolina. However, rich tomato-based sauces are more common in other parts of the state. 

Northern Alabama Magic

Memphis is all about smoky-sweet sauce with a tomato base. The Carolinas, on the other hand, are known for vinegar-based tang and plenty of spice.

These broader BBQ influences are present in Alabama. In the southern part of the state, thick and smoky sauces are the condiments of choice.

However, northern Alabama gets the credit for white barbeque sauce, a truly unique option. The origin of Alabama white sauce can be traced back to one man: Robert Lee Gibson, better known as Big Bob Gibson, of Decatur, Alabama.

Gibson earned his nickname from his size — 6’4 and 300 pounds — and an appetite to match. He left his job on the railroad to open a barbeque business in 1925 after becoming a local legend.

Pork and chicken were the main menu items at Gibson’s popular restaurant. However, he’s best known for his signature mayonnaise-based white sauce.

Why did Gibson add mayo to the traditional Eastern North Carolina sauce he had enjoyed for years? Legend says that the addition of mayonnaise locked in the pork’s flavors more effectively and prevented smoked chicken from drying out.

The Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que chain of restaurants is still going strong in northern Alabama today. Two locations — both in Decatur — are open for dine-in and drive-thru.

Nowadays, white barbecue sauce is popular across the country, appearing on menus everywhere from Portland and Los Angeles to Chicago and New York City. We even serve it at the original Lillie’s Q restaurant in Chicago. 

Alabama White Sauce Explained

Let’s talk about the ingredients in Alabama white BBQ sauce that make it so delicious. We’ll also touch on why this might be one of the healthier barbeque condiments out there.

Ingredients in Alabama White Sauce

First off, mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar form the base of this sauce. These ingredients create a balance of fat and acidity. One cup mayonnaise should do the trick. Despite its similar base, this sauce differs from other mayo-based Southern sauces like remoulade, comeback sauce, or even ranch is the vinegar content, which cuts through the fattiness of the mayo.  

Lemon juice is also a necessity for extra tang and the right consistency. You don’t want Alabama white sauce to be too thick, or else it won’t moisten the poultry or pork properly.  

Black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and horseradish are common additions to white sauce, as well as a few teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce or mustard. You might even whisk in a little brown sugar to add balance and sweetness. While the base of this sauce remains standard, the intricacies of seasoning can be up to your personal taste

Cayenne pepper is a must-have spice for an Alabama white sauce recipe. Just one teaspoon cayenne pepper adds the perfect kick. The complexity of the spices, especially pepper, serve to further differentiate Alabama white sauce from other creamy options.

To get the genuine Alabama BBQ experience without all the work of making the sauce, buy authentic Alabama white sauce Lillie's Q Ivory Sauce. Chef Charlie McKenna created this sauce specifically for barbeque competitions in Northern Alabama.

The flavor of Alabama White Sauce

At first taste, Alabama white sauce has a slightly cool, neutral flavor thanks to the mayonnaise, with the tang of the vinegar to offset any spice.

Before long, you start to pick up the exciting flavors from the spice blend, making you want to take another bite ASAP.

Keto BBQ?

Barbeque rarely makes its way into the health-food conversation, but here we are.

Scan the ingredients of Alabama white sauce, and you’ll discover a low-carb, low-sugar condiment that’s free of dairy, gluten, nuts, and corn syrup.

Alabama white sauce is diet-friendly if you’re on a low-carb kick, and it’s suitable for folks with allergies to dairy and gluten. Lillie’s Q Ivory sauce is also a fantastic option if you’re following the keto diet since it keeps the carb count low, unlike many other sweeter barbeque sauces

Trying to steer clear of sugar? This is the sauce to use without compromising on flavor or fun.

Classic Alabama White Sauce Recipes

Here are our favorite recipes that include Alabama white sauce.

Whole Smoked Chicken

Start with a whole chicken, spatchcocked and brined to perfection. Then, smoke it at 225 degrees for 2.5 hours. Dunk it in white sauce or drizzle the sauce on top of carved-up pieces.

Fish, Poultry, and Pork Chops

Any type of white meat or protein is a perfect pairing for this sauce, including flaky fish, turkey legs, and slow-smoked pork chops. Be sure to use some BBQ rubs for additional big flavor.

Red Meat

Although it may not be the first pairing that comes to mind, you can use Alabama white sauce on beef. Think of it almost like a creamy horseradish sauce — just minus the horseradish. This might not be the traditional pairing for Alabama white sauce, but feel free to experiment. 

That said, we’d caution you against using this sauce on a particularly expensive cut of meat, because the high intramuscular fat content on a beautiful cut of beef means that it isn’t at risk of drying out. Instead, you might opt to try Alabama white sauce on a long-cooked beef like brisket, where the vinegar in the sauce will help cut the fat. 

Potato Salads and Sides

Alabama white sauce is perfect for potato salad and coleslaw or as a dipping sauce for french fries. You can even use it as a salad dressing to liven up your greens.

Try The Timeless Alabama White Sauce for Yourself

You can use Alabama white sauce in so many ways — and the flavor is unlike anything else out there. 

Keep the legend of Alabama BBQ alive with Lillie’s Q Alabama white sauce.


Barbeque, Alabama Style | Encyclopedia of Alabama

Health Benefits of Black Pepper | Cleveland Clinic

Health Benefits of Fish | DOH

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