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Dukes Style BBQ Sauce Recipe

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South Carolina is blessed when it comes to BBQ.

In SC, barbecue is often defined by the sauce it is served with. South Carolina — arguably the birthplace of BBQ — can brag about having four distinct sauce regions.   In the map below, you will see how the state divides according to the sauce type you would historically find in those areas.

SC BBQ Sauce Regions

SC BBQ Sauce Regions

In the heart of mustard country, you will find Orangeburg County. It could easily be argued that this is the birthplace of the sauce unique to South Carolina, the mustard sauce.

Without getting too deep into the history behind it, know that Joe Bessinger may have been the first to create a mustard sauce near Holly Hill, in rural Orangeburg County. Joe’s sons later spread the family’s BBQ greatness across the state.

Big Joe Bessinger patriarch of the Bessinger BBQ Family
Big Joe Bessinger Patriarch of the Bessinger BBQ Family

They each opened several different BBQ restaurants, including Maurice’s with a number of “Piggie Park” locations in Columbia. In addition, you’ll find Melvin’s on James Island and in Mt. Pleasant. Thomas Bessigner opened Bessingers Bar-Be-Que West of the Ashley in Charleston.

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Also, there is Joe Bessinger’s in Summerville, and Robert’s in North Charleston.  All were founded by Big Joe’s descendants.

But that’s not the whole story of Orangeburg County’s importance in SC’s barbecue heritage. In and around the city of Orangeburg, the Dukes BBQ family empire evolved.

Dukes serves what many South Carolinians would instinctively call a mustard sauce, but really there is more to it than that, as you will see in the recipe below. (If you’re looking for a sauce built on mustard only, check out this Carolina Gold BBQ sauce recipe from Maurice’s Piggie Park.)

Earl Dukes, the progenitor of the Dukes brand, opened his restaurant after his brother Danny opened the original Dukes restaurant.

Earl Dukes, founder of Dukes BBQ in Orangeburg

Earl Dukes, founder of The Original Earl Dukes BBQ

His sauce, and the type of sauce that you will find in all Dukes restaurants, is what some refer to as “Orangeburg Sweet” sauce. Tony Kittrell, who formerly ran the Dukes Barbecue on Whitman Street in Orangeburg, calls it: “Rust Gravy.”

Whatever you call it, it is a clear SC favorite. If you decide to hit the road, you need to make it to a Dukes to try at least one version of this recipe.

Michael Ott, who originally grew up in Orangeburg County, the heart of Dukes BBQ country, provided us with this recipe.

“You can post the mustard sauce recipe because it really is my version. None of my recipes are from Dukes. They are not going to tell anyone —  including family members — their recipes,” Michael said.

Here is his version:

Dukes of Walterboro BBQ Sauce

Dukes BBQ Sauce

Mixing time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

This Dukes BBQ style mustard-based barbecue sauce recipe is a SC favorite from one of the most important names in SC BBQ.


  • 1 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, Duke's brand, of course
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, or 1/2 part if you like it with a little kick
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, or more if you like it sweeter
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • hot sauce, preferably Texas Pete, to taste


  1. Mix mustard and mayo in a bowl until it turns a light creamy color.
  2. Add ketchup, vinegar, and sugar. Mix well.
  3. Slowly add soy sauce while mixing until the sauce turns a little darker. Discard remaining soy.
  4. Add Texas Pete until you can slightly taste a little heat.
  5. Refrigerate and serve.


This mustard sauce is a serving sauce, not a basting sauce. It's easier to follow if you start with one cup of mustard and adjust the rest accordingly, but if you just think of it in "parts" as in a ratio, it is easy to adjust to any quantity. As written above "cup" could simply be "part."  In that case, you may use four tablespoons of soy. "You can go with 2 tablespoons. I don’t really follow a recipe. I just add till the color is right. Two tablespoons are probably plenty," Michael said. Note the instructions do say: "Slowly add soy sauce while mixing until the sauce turns a little darker. Discard remaining soy."

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 64 Serving Size: 2 Tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 24Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 131mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 2gProtein: 0g

Want More Authentic SC BBQ Recipes?

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Check out these other SC BBQ sauce recipes we’ve published on destination-bbq,  and we’ve published even more sauce (and rub) recipes in the SCBBQ Recipes: Going Whole Hog Cookbook. Read more about that here.

Sauces and Rubs:

Vinegar-Pepper Sauces
Mustard Sauces
Tomato-Based Sauces
Other Sauces
  • Sticky Fingers’ Basic Dry Rub Recipe
  • JB’s Smokeshack-Style Spicy Dry Rub Recipe
  • Sticky Fingers’ Texas Rub Recipe
  • BlackJack Barbecue Dry Rub Recipe
  • Sticky Fingers’ Sweet Rib Rub Recipe
  • Home Team BBQ Dry Rub Recipe for Chicken Wings Recipe
  • John Lewis BBQ-Style Brisket Dry Rub Recipe

James Roller

Monday 16th of April 2018

Grace, Thanks for commenting. We look forward to having you back in the Sandlapper state! There are, in fact, a range of mustard sauces to try, as well, Some like Jackie Hite's or Cannon's in the midlands are strong on the mustard taste, not deviating much from a simple bottle of French's yellow (and frankly, not my favorite). The Bessinger family of restaurants (Melvin's, Bessingers, Maurice's, and others) in the Charleston and Columbia areas add a sweeter spin to the sauce, and is the version that I prefer. While from the Lowcountry to the Orangeburg area you will find the "Orangeburg Sweet" mustard sauce, also called "Rust Gravy" in any of a variety of Dukes BBQs and some other locations, and that sauce adds a couple more condiments (mayo and ketchup) to the mix for a different (and delicious) spin on a SC mustard sauce. Then, if you haven't had it yet, you have to get into the Pee Dee region (or now Rodney Scott's BBQ in Charleston) to try our vinegar-pepper sauces. In my experience, VP is THE sauce of choice for SCBBQ, especially coming from a whole hog cooked over wood embers. The Williamsburg County area is really the heart of VP country and, when done right, no other BBQ touches it. So much BBQ to little time!

Grace Mosley

Monday 19th of February 2018

Great article, my first and last exposure to South Carolina mustard barbecue sauce was in Aiken, SC. I plan to move back there in a couple of years. I was not aware of the other three types of barbecue sauce South Carolina boast, I will try those to, thank you very much.


Sunday 19th of June 2022

@Grace Mosley,

If you do end up going back, head into New Ellenton and hit up Carolina BBQ on the far side of town. Many like their tomato mustard sauce. Out in the Aiken-Augusta Highway near Aiken Tech College is another BBQ joint to try, Bobby's BBQ. Has a more... real restaurant style look vs just tables and chairs. about 35 mins from Aiken is Batesburg-Leesville, head over there and hit up Shealys, very good place as well.

Of all of them, Dukes has the largest selection of sauces. This is a dang good clone of their sauce. Bobby's as both the more normal unspiced meat, and a meat they have mixed in spices, very tasty. Carolina's meat is a little better than Dukes, but Dukes sauces rule.

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