Alabama White Sauce

Alabama white sauce is food alchemy at its finest, combining mayonnaise, which I generally like, with an ingredient I generally don’t–horseradish–and ones I can normally only tolerate in small doses–black pepper and mustard–into something I cannot get enough of. If you’ve never had this sauce with smoked or barbecued chicken, you don’t know what you are missing.

I’m very, very late to this party. Alabama white sauce has a long history, originating at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama in the 1920s. As Meathead Goldwyn notes in his book Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, Big Bob’s has won awards for other barbecue sauces but their “signature” white sauce made them famous because it was once so unique. It was the only barbecue sauce that used mayonnaise as a base, balancing it with acid, sweetness, and loads of black pepper to create something truly distinctive.

There are now infinite variations on the recipe. I tried a few* then took what I liked best from them to create my own version, which is still pepper-forward and complex. Definitely try it with chicken, as mentioned above, but you can also use it as a dressing for coleslaw and a sauce for subs or sandwiches. I’ve also seen it recommended for corn on the cob and as a dip for vegetables. I think it would be delicious with grilled vegetables in particular. French fries too, which I can’t believe I haven’t tried yet since mayonnaise is my preferred dip on the rare occasions I indulge in that particular fried food.

Alabama White Sauce

My take on Alabama white sauce, with lots of black pepper and a nice balance of acid from both vinegar and lemon juice.
Prep Time10 minutes
Course: Sauces
Keyword: Barbecue, Sauces & Dips
Servings: 1.5 cups


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar See Notes, below.
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard See Notes, below.
  • 1 tbsp black pepper, finely ground See Notes, below.
  • 2 tsp horseradish See Notes, below.
  • 1 tsp garlic, granulated
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt See Notes, below.


  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Let chill in fridge for a couple of hours, or more, to let the flavours meld together.


  • For the brown sugar, you do not need to pack the measuring spoon. This recipe can veer a bit too sweet with even just a little too much sugar, so go light to start with. 
  • I use grainy Dijon mustard but smooth would probably work too. I haven't tried that though, so can't vouch for that. 
  • This sounds like a lot of black pepper but it works. Note that I use finely ground black pepper. Freshly cracked pepper will work too but it will be much stronger. Some white sauce recipes use cayenne, which is fairly true to the original from what I understand. But I find cayenne too overpowering and prefer the strong black pepper taste instead. 
  • Some recipes call for hot horseradish. I have a major aversion to horseradish--which is why I've always been surprised I like white sauce. I do keep the horseradish subtle, using regular instead of hot. If you want the extra kick of hot, go for it. 
  • Kosher salts are not all the same. I use Diamond Crystal, which has less sodium than some other brands. If you're unsure how your salt compares, start with half the amount here. You can always add a pinch or two if you find the sauce lacking, after it has chilled and the flavours are well combined. 

* The recipes I consulted include the one in Meathead’s book, linked to above, plus the ones from Chili Pepper Madness and Delish.

Alabama White Sauce

Image of pepper grinder: 115089131 © Mariia Sultanova |

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