White BBQ Sauce From Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q

White BBQ Sauce from Northern Alabama

I first learned about the white bbq sauce that Big Bob Gibson made famous in Decatur, Alabama, from reading “Peace, Love and Barbecue” by Mike and Amy Mills. Mike writes:

Big Bob’s chicken is among the best I’ve ever eaten. The birds are simply seasoned with lots of salt and black pepper and smoked with hickory wood at a temperature higher than I usually suggest. Then they pull ’em off the pit and dunk ’em in a 5-gallon bucket of white sauce, leaving the crispy, smokey skin with a thin coating of the tangy sauce. The flavor is just awesome.

Now Chris Lilly’s “Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book” comes out, with yet another variation on the same recipe. As Chris points out:

There is now a large number of “authentic” versions of Big Bob’s original secret recipe and cooking method – all different from one another.

Big Bob Gibson White Sauce on Chicken

Delicious white BBQ sauce on chicken

First I tried the recipe I saw in “Peace, Love and Barbecue”. It was different from this Marylander’s love of the red, sticky BBQ sauces. But very good. Would I make it again? Maybe, maybe not. It was so unique and different, and while delicious as it was… would this be something I’d make again?

Then I got my copy of “Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book” with yet another version of the white sauce. OK, now I HAD to make it again. Especially considering the additional ingredients this recipe called for.

Here’s a comparison of the two recipes:

Mike Mills’ Version

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbl lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tbls black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne

Chris Lilly’s Version

  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 2 tsps prepared horseradish
  • 2 tsps black pepper
  • 2 tsps fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a very large bowl. Season your chicken and grill or bbq it as you like. When it’s done, take that hot, smokey chicken and dunk it in the bowl of white sauce, turning to coat. Serve immediately with your favorite sides. Delicious!

Let me point out that I’ve learned that the *best* bbq sauce recipes don’t always taste great “out of the bottle” – rather they *need* to be cooked to really bring out the flavor. I think this is going to be my mantra… if it’s just ok “out of the bowl”, it will improve with cooking!

This second cooking of the chicken with the Chris Lilly version of the recipe was even better.

Still, would we cook it up again? Yes. How soon? Well, not for a while. It’s now a “been there done that” thing. If tonight I could visit the restaurant in Decatur, AL of the famous Big Bob’s and have the “real thing”… I might come home all fired up and do it all again.

But for now, I’m sticking with the sticky… sticky, red, saucey, spicey BBQ sauces that we in the Mason-Dixon “Old Line State” of Maryland love.

About Brian Meagher

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I eat hot sauce. I cook BBQ. I write about both.
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  1. What’s the deal with the white BBQ sauce. That chicken looks scrumptous! Is it an onion based sauce or what???
    .-= Ol’ Benito´s last blog ..Benito’s Hot Sauce Review: Meem’s mango, Old Bricktucky Cayenne, Joes #1 Jalapa =-.

  2. Big Bob was featured on Food Network’s Unwrapped. I believe Chris Lilly’s is closer to the real McKoy. The actual recipe was given on the show. Haven’t looked to see if episode is on line.

    • I think you are correct, that Lilly’s is closer to the real thing.
      But it’s a recipe I would do maybe once a season, as it’s so different and unique, and totally not what BBQ’d chicken is to us Marylanders.
      Still, I think everyone should try it at least once.

  3. Big Bob has some of the best sauces. The flavors are great!

  4. Looking back, I think this is a once or twice in a season sauce that I would love to have. It’s the bizarro world version of red sauce – not sticky, not sweet. But just different and tangy enough to want a few times a year.

    Try something new this May for National BBQ Month – and let us know what it is!


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