Alabama White BBQ Sauce


One of the annoying things about cooking news and entertainment is the tendency for self-styled trend setters to equate food with fashion. Over time, good foods fall out of fashion even though they still taste great, and other foods come into fashion even though they’re not so good. It’s all about newness. And nothing is more fashionable than find a great new thing that’s actually really old.

Whether it’s Oaxacan mole or Tuscan meatballs, it’s annoying to see a bunch of coastal urbanites playing at fashion-setting when they “discover” something that was never lost. It bothers me the most when they do this with southern cuisine. Those kinds of examples always seem to drip with condescension, almost as if we southerners should be commended for pausing our racism and proselytizing long enough to cook a decent meal.

Imagine my surprise when Alabama white BBQ sauce popped up out of nowhere one day and was suddenly everywhere. Commenters on TV and in magazines were raving about how they had discovered the nectar of the Gods of Dixie. As someone who grew up and went to college in Alabama, I wondered how this supposedly time-honored, state-wide tradition had never appeared anywhere on my radar. Then I found out that it was just one of several sauces that have been served at a couple of BBQ joints in Decatur, Alabama—the land of red clay, an indoor rodeo, and not much else.

White sauce no more defines BBQ in the state of Alabama than the spicy club sauce at one country club in Orange County defines appetizers in the state of California. Still, it tastes pretty good with smoked poultry, so more restaurants around the country are starting to offer it as a choice. Anything that detracts attention from the cloyingly sweet BBQ sauces of the midwest are welcome in my book.

Alabama white sauce is mayonnaise-based. I never liked mayonnaise until I moved to South Carolina and had Duke’s brand mayo. I like Duke’s because of the tangy, vinegar/citrus kick that it has. It tastes completely different than the national mayo brands and it perfectly complements smoked meat. That’s why you see cole slaw on pulled pork sandwiches in the Carolinas. So the idea of tangy mayonnaise on BBQ isn’t exactly novel, but the rebranding of it as “Alabama sauce” has certainly spurred experimentation in this area.

Anyway, I’m a huge fan of smoked chicken and turkey, so I keep a squirt bottle of white sauce in the fridge. Here’s the recipe I use.

Alabama White Sauce

  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • juice from 1 lemon

Just whisk everything together and let it meld in the fridge for a few hours before serving. A batch of this stuff will last months in the fridge.

I cook a lot of fancy meals, but my favorite thing in the world to eat is pan-fried slices of smoked turkey (pictured above). After Thanksgiving and Christmas, grocery stores are practically giving away unsold turkey and ham. You can get 13+ pounds of meat for the price of a footlong sandwich with 1/3 pound of the same meat. I like to pick up a turkey and smoke it just for the leftovers.

Here’s the turkey I spatchcocked and smoked with pecan wood after Thanksgiving, 2014.

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I usually make something like a pot pie out of the dark meat and use the white meat for sandwiches. I love to pan-fry sliced/pulled turkey (and chicken) in butter with salt and pepper until it’s golden brown around the edges. Then I dip it into white BBQ sauce the way you would dip french fries into ketchup.


This is the closest I get to snacking on junk food. I tell myself it’s okay to gorge on this because it’s all protein. Please don’t correct me.

I’ve been told by the wife that I’m at my least attractive when I indulge in this snack. I think it has something to do with the fact that I eat it reclined on the couch in front of the TV like an otter.

Sea Otter eating crab

Alabama White BBQ Sauce
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