Carolina Sunshine Bar-B-Que Sauce Original and Hot Review

Mild BBQ sauce is our entry for Day 3 of our Week of Mild, and this time it’s an Eastern North Carolina style sauce from Carolina Sunshine. It’s a stretch to call any strong vinegar based sauce “mild”, but I’m willing to include one here for variety’s sake. That and the fact that I just realized these potent vinegar based sauces have quite a kick to them, but they are “mild” in terms of heat.

Carolina Sunshine Original and Hot BBQ Sauce

Carolina Sunshine BBQ sauce – hot on the left, original on the right

North Carolina boasts two main styles of BBQ sauce – Piedmont (Lexington) Style, typically made of vinegar, salt, peppers, spices, and ketchup (and sometimes worchestershire sauce) – and Eastern Style, again based on vinegar, but no ketchup. Unlike all other regional BBQ sauces (except for the mustard based goodness out of Alabama), there is NO ketchup in Eastern North Carolina style. This fact alone has always kept me from really enjoying this style of sauce. Until now.

Carolina Sunshine BBQ sauces are the brainchild of George Foley, born and raised in Eastern North Carolina, the man knows a thing or two about barbecue from those parts. Now a Floridian, George has blessed the BBQ world with some top notch sauces from old family recipes. I assume the name Carolina Sunshine is an amalgam of “Carolina” and the “Sunshine” state of Florida. But you can check his “About” page for all the historical details.

Available in both an “original” and a “hot” version, Carolina Sunshine’s ingredient list is virtually the same with both flavors. With a good base of strong apple cider vinegar, this stuff is made for pulled pork and that’s about it. If any of you Carolinians out there use this type of sauce on other meats, I’d love to know about it. Please educate this Marylander.

Carolina Sunshine Bar-B-Que Sauce – Original and “Hot”

Ingredients: apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, salt, peppers, spices, xanthan gum

Carolina Sunshine BBQ Sauce Hot and Original closeup

Deep, dark hot on the left, and original on right

Texture & Appearance:
Original: It’s pretty much what you’d expect to see in apple cider vinegar with spices and peppers. Clear, with minimal flecks of peppers.
Hot: The “hot” boasts a deeper color and many more bits and flakes of peppers. It’s actually a very pretty sauce.

Taste Straight Up:
Original: Huge hit of vinegar along with a nice mellow sweetness from the brown sugar, with a peppery finish. And I mean peppery in a red pepper flake way, not black pepper.
Hot: The same giant vinegar hit with a little more heat to it. The pepper flakes are kicked up a few notches here, and really bring on some extra heat and spice.

Heat Level:
Original: 1/2 Star for peppery-ness. Yea, I just made that word up.
Hot: Rated 1.5 out of 5 Stars – Let’s not go crazy here. After all this is not a hot sauce. The heat comes from a fresh burst of red pepper flakes – a fresh taste that proves this is a high quality sauce.

Just a few quick words about the labels. Clean lines, simple fonts, they really stand out on a shelf. The cartoony pigs laying out in the “sunshine” do differ.

Carolina Sunshine Pigs on Label

His and hers suntans

Original: Male pig, catching some rays with sunglasses on.
Hot: A female pig, also catching some rays, is in her “pigkini” bathing suit (see what I did there?) and is looking “hot”!

Overall Rating (Taste on Food, Final Thoughts):

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Carolina Sunshine BBQ Sauces

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Carolina Sunshine BBQ Sauces

Ah, now the good part. Pulled pork sandwiches with the required white cole slaw on top. (The cole slaw is up for debate, and I encourage you to dicuss this your comments below). Up until now, I’ve been slurping this stuff straight out of the spoon, and as good as that may be – slurping vinegar is a harsh task.

I really believe the addition of the brown sugar has added just enough sweetness to the mix to win this sticky sauce lover over. The only Eastern NC style I’ve had before did not have the sweet element. Probably a big reason I’ve not been a fan. But Carolina Sunshine has won me over. Even their slogan holds true for me – “Probably the best sauce you’ve never had.”

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with White Cole Slaw and Carolina Sunshine BBQ Sauces

I thought the slaw plopped in the middle would be “food art” – I was wrong. Slaw belongs on the sandwich

The apple cider vinegar just smacks of a good quality vinegar, the pepper taste is fresh and pungent, and the light sweetness makes Carolina Sunshine much more than the simple vinegar/pepper combo I’ve had in the past.

Bonus Pic! Look at the tons of bits of peppers and spices in the bottom of the bottles.

A glimpse of the goodies at the bottom of the bottles (a rarely seen photo!).

Bits at the bottom of the bottles - lots of flavor

Bits at the bottom of the bottles – lots of flavor!

It seems those “down east” North Carolina folks know a little something about the beauty that is simply pulled pork doused with a good shot of quality vinegar and peppers.

Carolina Sunshine is available in the 10 ounce bottles shown here, or in 1/2 gallon sizes. Visit for these sauces, as well as their selections of Western (Piedmont) sauce, Mustard BBQ Sauce, and Wing Sauces and their Butt N Rib Rub.

Also, be sure and check out and “Like” Carolina Sunshine on Facebook

I was so impressed with the quality of these 2 sauces, I ordered one of each of all their other products. Can’t wait to report back to you on them!

In the meantime, please let us know, in the Comments section below, if you are a fan of Eastern North Carolina sauces and how you use them. Thanks for reading!

As an added bonus and for your viewing pleasure, here’s our good friend Darryl Mast of interviewing Mr. Carolina Sunshine himself, George Foley.

Disclaimer: We received this product courtesy of the manufacturer for review.

About Brian Meagher

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  1. Brian ! I am glad we could make you a believer. And after reading your review I have no doubt. We are proud of our quality and are glad it showed. You will se it in our other products as well. Our Piedmont style is well loved. We also love our pigs on the labels and “what they bring to the table” (see what I did there ?) 🙂 Suzie on the hot label is a definite favorite…. Ain’t she hot ??!!! Now I know your wife doesn’t like the Eastern Carolina style but now there are two of us to work on that! g

  2. Barbara Wenger says:

    “pigkini” bathing suit. Love it!

  3. If you like Great Bar-B-Q sauce then Mr. George Foley has the “BEST”.
    His Western North Carolina style “Tangy” sauce will get your taste buds popping.
    How do I know, cause I pig out often.. Oh Yeah !!! Weeeeeeeee.

  4. I am a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE fan of Carolina style sauces but lean towards Piedmont style since that is what I grew up eating. But I like Eastern NC sauce for lightly dressing the pulled pork when cooking for a large crowd. I’ll offer a typical tomato sauce, a Piedmont sauce, and a mustard sauce in bottles on the side. But the batch sitting in the buffet gets LIGHTLY tossed with some Eastern NC Sauce. People never realize it is on there and rave about the sauce that was in whatever bottle they used.

    • Chris, that’s a neat trick. Lightly dressing the meat with Eastern NC sauce, then letting folks put whatever they want on it. I can see how the “trick” would work with any other BBQ sauce (as they all have vinegar in them anyway).

      Never had you pegged for a thin sauce guy. 🙂

  5. jerome mercer says:

    I sure would like to try some of this but up here in Maryland I haven’t seen it in stores.

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