Wild Recipes

Shenandoah-Style Barbecue Sauce

Follow me
Latest posts by Heidi Chaya (see all)
5.0 from 1 vote

As a newcomer to the Shenandoah Valley, I was thrilled to learn that Virginia is not only renowned for hunting, fishing, farming, and food — it’s also the unsung birthplace of southern barbecue. But it’s not famous for it like other states are, despite having a barbecue heritage over four hundred years old. According to Joseph Haynes’s Virginia Barbecue: A History, what we now know as “southern barbecue” was inspired by European colonists’ introduction to native Powhatan peoples’ open fire cooking, and influenced by the seasonings brought here by enslaved Africans. With such diversity in the colonies, barbecue became a multicultural phenomenon, with different regions creating their own unique blends of meat, smoke, and sauces that can be used for marinating, basting, and as a condiment.  

Haynes explains that the “mother sauce” was a spicy, tangy mixture of vinegar, salt, and red pepper dating back to the 1600s. Virginian variations can also contain sugar, mustard, fruit, peanut butter, and additional spices. Shenandoah Valley barbecue sauce, also called thin Virginia brown sauce (per Southern Grit Magazine), is an oil and vinegar-based concoction that might also contain tomato juice, red wine, and herbs. For my rendition, I used tomato powder made from my dried heirloom tomatoes, thyme from the garden, farm-fresh garlic, and sweet smoked paprika. You can experiment with the herbs or use a pre-made poultry seasoning blend. This sauce is excellent with poultry and pork; in the Valley, split whole chickens are traditionally dressed with it and grilled over hickory or oak wood, found in great abundance here. Try it on wild turkey or feral hog.

Serving Size: about 20 ounces
Time to make: 10 minutes
Special Equipment: Blender 
Also works with: Wild turkey, wild hog, chicken, pork

Looking for more sauce recipes? Why not try this fermented habanero hot sauce?

Listen to our Podcast
Apple Podcasts, Google, Spotify, Amazon Music

Try our Delicious Wild Fish and Game Spice Blends!

Shenandoah-Style Barbecue Sauce

Recipe by Heidi Chaya
5.0 from 1 vote
Course: Wild Recipes


Prep time


Cooking time

Cook Mode

Keep the screen of your device on


  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar (traditional, and non-negotiable)

  • 1/4 cup neutral cooking oil (such as peanut or avocado)

  • 1 tablespoon sea salt

  • ¼ cup tomato powder (or ¼ cup tomato juice)

  • 2 teaspoons freshly-ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning, such as Harvesting Nature’s Upland Fowl Spice Blend

  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed

  • 2 small sprigs of fresh thyme

  • Juice of 1 lemon


  • For bottling
  • Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Pour into an airtight container (empty ketchup or hot sauce bottles are handy) and keep refrigerated for best flavor. Let the sauce warm up and stir or shake well before you use it.
  • For marinating and basting
  • Add finished sauce (reserving some for serving) to a 1-gallon resealable bag with about 3.5 lbs of your meat of choice (I used pastured chicken leg quarters and pork chops). Squeeze the air out and seal the bag. You can also use a vacuum sealer.
  • Marinate the mixture in the fridge for 4-8 hours, massaging the bag every so often to ensure even coating of the meat.
  • When you’re about to cook the meat, let the mixture reach room temperature for around an hour, and baste the meat with a brush every time you turn it.
  • Serve the finished meat with additional sauce and give some extra bottles to friends and family.

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @harvestingnature on Instagram and hashtag it with #harvestingnature

Like this recipe?

Follow @harvestingnature on Pinterest

Join our Facebook Group!

Join Harvesting Nature’s Facebook group Harvesting Nature – The Group

Heidi Chaya

Heidi Chaya is a food journalist, farmhand, and avid home cook. Her experiences living and working in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley provide her with many opportunities to expand her culinary horizons and continue to learn and grow through fishing, foraging, and hunting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop