Mop Sauce Recipe (Juicy Sauce for Your Ribs)

Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: June 20, 2024

Any serious BBQ enthusiast knows that BBQ sauce and rubs are not the only tools in your toolbox for keeping ribs moist and tender.

BBQ mop sauce was initially developed in Texas BBQ pits to continually baste barbequed meat while cooking or smoking over wood chips for long periods.

Many recipes are fiercely guarded secrets of the pitmaster, but our BBQ experts rounded up a couple of sauce recipes and created a unique sauce to transform your ribs.

Quick Summary

  • Mop sauce for BBQ is a spicy vinegar-based sauce used to baste ribs during low and slow cooking or smoking.
  • The sauce is made by simmering water, apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, and seasonings together.
  • Using mop sauce while cooking meat helps prevent it from drying out, builds up layers of flavor, and creates a delicious crust.

It's worth using a spicy barbecue sauce while your meat is cooking to stop it from drying out, help build up layers of flavor on your pork ribs, and create a delicious crust outside.

BBQ mop sauce is even easier to make than barbeque sauce, and this recipe, inspired by Bobby Flay's North Carolina mop sauce (with some input from another award-winning BBQ expert), is simple to prepare [1].

Mop Sauce Recipe

bowl of sauce and sauce brush

Before you start cooking, you must realize that there's a massive difference between barbecue sauce and mop sauce.

Although both are flavorsome and add a sweet bite to your pulled pork, the sauce has a thin and watery consistency.

This fluidity is crucial because you use it to baste meat, cooking, or long and low smoking so that the BBQ mop sauce penetrates to keep it moist, tender, and flavorsome.

The main ingredient of BBQ mop sauce is usually apple cider vinegar because it's a natural meat tenderizer, according to Martha Stewart's Food Editor, with a hit of hot pepper sauce [2].

As Meathead, a member of the BBQ Hall of Fame, explains, "The original [mop sauce] was probably just a kiss of hot peppers and vinegar, and some pitmasters use only those two ingredients to this day." [3]

The other sauce ingredients, such as red pepper flakes, help impart additional flavor to your ribs and keep them from drying out during the long cooking process.

You can add liquids like beer, fruit juice, or Worcestershire sauce, like Texan BBQ legend Walter Jettan, whose original recipe "made six quarts, enough to mop a whole cow." [4]

Also, add other herbs and spices, depending on the BBQ rub you used, so that the Carolina mop sauce adds to rather than rinses off the rub's flavors.

Brown sugar is also an essential component of the sauce to add sweetness to the pulled pork.

The sugar won't burn because you're mopping meat over a relatively low temperature.

If you try to baste pork ribs with regular BBQ sauces, which have much more sugar, your sauce will burn. Always add the barbecue sauce towards the end of grilling or to serve.

This recipe for homemade sauce makes about five cups, enough for three cups for mopping and two for finishing and serving.

You can freeze any unused sauce for up to three months.

​For a good selection of quality meat that goes with your sauce,​​​ check out my review on Butcherbox meat delivery.

Servings: 5 cups

Preparation time:  5 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes


jar of vinegar and a bowl and spoon of salt
  • 4 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or hot sauce of your choice – Texas Pete also works)
  • 2 teaspoons dried mustard powder (optional)


  1. Pour the liquid ingredients (like the apple cider vinegar) into a saucepan, and then add the rest.
  2. Heat over medium heat, stirring gently until the salt dissolves.
  3. Bring the sauce to a simmer so that the sugar dissolves completely.
  4. Set aside the sauce to cool for storage or use immediately for mopping.
  5. Keep two cups of sauce in a bottle for serving at the table.

How To Use Mop Sauce

using mop sauce on meat while grilling
  • Pour some mop sauces into a cup and use a mop to paint or dab it onto the meat. You can keep topping up the cup, but don't stick the mop directly into the pot  – it can contaminate the cooked sauce with juices from the uncooked meat.
  • Depending on how long you're cooking or smoking the ribs, you'll need to mop every 20 to 60 minutes.
  • Keep the mop sauces on the meat, where it can be absorbed, and keep the meat moist. Mopping sauce does nothing for the fat on the ribs.
  • Add a stick of melted butter to your sauce for extra richness for the last hour. Alternatively, mop or baste with regular BBQ sauce.
  • Discard any sauce you used with the mop as it is unsafe to eat.

What's The Best Tool For Mop Sauce?

spraying sauce on meat while grilling and a mop sauce brush

What tool you mop with will depend on whether you have used a dry rub on your pulled pork or ribs.

  • If you have used a dry rub on the baby back ribs, you must ensure that your sauce doesn't wipe off. You can buy specialized mops for sauce that look like small kitchen floor mops ideal for light mopping. These cotton mops are washable, so you can reuse them after each BBQ. They come clean easily in soap and water, and air dry quickly.
  • Another handy tool for mop sauce is a spray bottle that sprays the sauce, hardly disturbing your rub. Make sure you grind any spices thoroughly (like with a coffee grinder) so as not to clog the spray bottle [5].
  • Avoid silicone mops or brushes as they can't carry the thin sauce.
  • You can baste more vigorously with a basting brush if you haven't used a dry rub. But as Bobby Flay says, there's no need for expensive BBQ equipment: "The pastry brushes that you find in home stores can be pricey, so pay a visit to your local hardware store and pick up a few paint brushes which are less expensive and work equally as well." [6]

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About the author

Timothy Woods
CEO / Co-Founder
Timothy Woods holds a Kinesiology and Exercise Science degree from Jacksonville University and is CCC & GMU Certified. He's also the main man behind Carnivore Style. This food aficionado combines science and experience to spread the word about the carnivore lifestyle.
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