When it comes to American BBQ, Alabama white sauce is the unsung hero. Grilled meat is one culinary art that’s as much magic as science. In some cases, over 100 years of tradition go into the regional varieties of BBQ, and generations of fans are fiercely loyal.
But one day, Alabaman Robert “Big Bob” Gibson added an ingredient to his sauce that BBQ purists scoffed at. It changed the game forever.
Join us as we dive into the background of Alabama white sauce. You might just want to try it for yourself soon.
Let’s check it out!
What Is Special About Alabama White Sauce?
Back in 1920, times were lean, especially in the South. In Decatur, Alabama, Big Bob Gibson had a reputation for making the best of things. Every weekend, he invited his family over for smoked chicken and pork from the pit in his front yard.
If you know anything about BBQ, you know that low and slow is the name of the game. And for fattier pieces of meat like beef and pork, that means juicy, fall-off-the-bone tenderness.
But chicken isn’t like these other cuts, it’s generally lean, and a long cook dries out the meat. Big Bob figured out a solution. He mixed up a batch of his secret sauce and dunked the birds on the way out of the pit.
Soon eaters from around Decatur had a chance to try this new BBQ variety at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, the first of many restaurants Gibson opened. And while Big Bob won over regional fans right away, other BBQ enthusiasts turned their noses up at the Alabama white sauce craze.
The sauce features condiments that don’t usually touch BBQ from other regions. Duke’s mayonnaise is the main ingredient, followed by apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and a healthy dose of fresh cracked black pepper. If you can’t find Duke’s where you live, you’ll have to make do with lesser mayo.
Unlike tomato-based sauces, this version is loose and soaks into smoked chicken like a dream. Some varieties include horseradish or cayenne to spice things up, but that’s not required for an authentic Alabama white sauce.
What Does Alabama White Sauce Taste Like?
If you’ve never tasted Alabama white sauce, it can be hard to imagine. And while mayonnaise is the base, it isn’t the primary flavor. Apple cider vinegar, garlic, and sometimes horseradish give this sauce a tangy bite reminiscent of Carolina vinegar-based sauces.
The fattiness in the mayo brings some moisture to the table. For smaller pieces of meat, like Gibson’s famous whole split chickens, Alabama white sauce takes the edge off the smoke. Creamy and rich, the sauce is loose enough to brush or dunk before serving.
What Is the Sauce Good For?
You may not need the massive vat of Alabama white sauce they keep on hand at Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q. But you may find yourself using it on much more than just grilled meat.
The classic application is on smoked chicken. At the restaurant, they smoke split chickens for three hours before dunking and serving. You can also try the sauce on chicken wings. The recipe we found included honey as an addition to the classic version, but you can’t go wrong either way.
Bib Bob Gibson also cooked pork in his pit. So it’s no surprise the sauce is perfect for slathering on a pulled pork sandwich.
Vegetarians aren’t left out when it comes to Alabama white sauce, and you can also use it as a base for coleslaw. Folks also put it on grilled corn and drizzle it on veggies for a tangy alternative to ranch dressing.
Beyond that, if you can imagine it, you can sauce it. Shrimp, fried pickles, french fries, and mozzarella sticks all benefit from a good dunk.
Where Did Alabama White Sauce Originate?
Big Bob Gibson originated the classic recipe at his house in Decatur, Alabama. By 1925, he started selling the sauce out of his restaurant and spreading the gospel of Alabama white sauce. Impossible to miss at over six feet tall and 300 pounds, Bob Gibson stood by his unique preparation until everyone got on board.
Every generation since, at least one member of the Gibson family went into the business. All across northern Alabama, you can find the tradition of the white sauce carried on.
Where Can You Try the Best Alabama White Sauce?
Just like any variety of BBQ, there are better examples than others. But these are some of the best spots to sink your teeth into this Alabama tradition.
Big Bob Gibson BBQ
The original and arguably the best place to try the classic Alabama white sauce is Big Bob Gibson BBQ. With two locations in Decatur, you’ll love the tangy bite of the split, smoked chicken. Nearly everything on the menu features the classic sauce.
Big Bob’s is open seven days a week to satisfy your BBQ craving nearly any time it hits.
Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q
Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Miss Myra’s opened for business in 1984. They stock their pits with everything you’d possibly want from a BBQ joint, and people love it.
Just as important as the “Q” is the dessert. Dessert means homemade pies and banana pudding that won over TV personalities, including Chef Andrew Zimmern.
They’re open every day of the week except Sundays.
Saw’s BBQ has several locations around Birmingham, Alabama, that feature the North Carolina-born chef’s creations. Mike Wilson, known as Sorry Ass Wilson (Saw’s), went to culinary school and worked at some fancy restaurants before shifting to BBQ.
Saw’s popped up in 2009 and started slinging some of the best-smoked meat in town. Alabama white isn’t the only sauce on the menu, but their version is excellent.
The various locations are open most days of the week. Be sure to check the hours of the specific restaurant you plan to visit before you go.
Is Alabama White Sauce Hard To Make?
Alabama white sauce is probably one of the easiest sauces to make. You likely have everything you need on hand already. The recipes we’ve found all feature core ingredients that make the sauce simple to replicate.
Duke’s mayonnaise is the most important ingredient because it gives the sauce its signature white color. Along with that, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice add a tang. Black pepper and horseradish are other common ingredients that enrich the sauce’s flavor.
And if you like things a little spicy, throw in some cayenne to add some heat. If you whip up a batch of this classic sauce, you can keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks. But we doubt it’ll hang around that long!
Would You Try Alabama White Sauce?
Hopefully, we’ve got your taste buds interested enough to give this taste of Alabama a try. From Big Bob Wilson to you, the unmistakable flavor of Alabama white sauce will keep you coming back for more.
We recommend trying the original or ordering some of the sauce to taste before venturing into making your own. And if a trip to north Alabama isn’t on your schedule, you can get your hands on a bottle from online sources.
Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).
You should give it a try!
As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.
Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site!
We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: