Easy Mop Sauce for Ribs

4.37 from 11 votes
4.37 from 11 votes

An easy BBQ mop sauce that will take your smoked ribs to the next level. Better flavor, better bark, and it couldn’t be easier to make.

smoked ribs mop sauce

BBQ mop sauce is the key to outstanding barbecue smoking. A good sauce will keep your pork ribs moist and flavorful, even after hours on your backyard smoker.

Mop sauces, like those from Texas or Carolina, go far beyond just flavor. Unlike regular barbecue sauce, these vinegar-based mopping sauces are applied during the smoke to help keep the meat moist and expose it to more smoke. This means more flavor than a beer or apple juice spritz, and a beautiful bark finish for your BBQ spare ribs or baby backs.

Find out how to make the best mop sauce for ribs with our easy recipe.

What is Mop Sauce?

Mop sauce is an aromatic liquid sauce that is brushed or “mopped” onto larger meats periodically during longer smokes. Famously used for whole hog barbecue, mopping is best used on larger pork, such as pork shoulder and racks of BBQ ribs.

There are a few reasons why mopping is useful, chief among them is that it helps add moisture to meat, which not only helps prevent the ribs from drying out but also in turn can help develop flavor and a much-sought-after smoke ring.

Smoke adheres best to wet surfaces, so by keeping the surface of our ribs moist, we are helping develop smoky flavors in our food. The sodium nitrite found in smoke then melds with the myoglobin in meat to form the smoke ring that’s often a staple of competition-level barbecue.

Mop sauce recipes vary from region to region in North America, but typically they’re thin and watery (certainly not the thick syrup-like consistency seen with typical barbecue sauces). They often contain ingredients like vinegar and spices, and not always a lot of sugar. However, some sauce recipes (like Meathead’s Texas barbecue juice) use some brown sugar or apple juice to help develop a better bark.

Texas Mop Sauce

homemade barbecue mop sauce for smoked ribs

Texas barbecue is well known for beef, and for taking a more stripped-back approach to seasoning. This same minimalist approach has traditionally extended to BBQ sauce. Many Texan pitmasters have used sauces that are more gravy-like in appearance, which lack thickness and sweetness. On the plus side, their mop sauces contain a healthy amount of hot peppers, spices, and even recycled beef drippings.

Carolina Mop Sauce

As we’ve seen with so many of our barbecue rib recipes, pork goes best with something sweet with a touch of acidity. This is where Carolina mopping sauce comes in.

Unlike Texas barbecue, North and South Carolina sauce recipes contain a solid base of vinegar, as well as a touch of sugar. This goes perfectly with pork ribs, as well as pulled pork and Boston Butt. Add a touch of heat and we’re good to go.

using small bbq mop to apply carolina mop sauce to smoked baby back ribs in pellet grill

Quick Tips

  1. For the best results, use this sauce on bare meat that hasn’t yet been seasoned with a dry rub. This will allow the sauce to work flavor into the meat more effectively, penetrating the meat without the barrier of seasoning.
  2. If you’d like to add more sweetness to proceedings, try adding a quarter cup of apple juice. This should help add a touch more flavor and will go great if you’re also smoking with applewood chips.
  3. If you can’t get a hold of any distilled white vinegar, feel free to swap in apple cider vinegar
  4. If you have any of the mop sauce remaining after the smoke, splash the leftovers onto the ribs just before serving


Whether you’ve made this in advance or have leftover sauce to play with, you will need to store this mop sauce properly.

Any leftover mop sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight jar for up to two weeks. While the vinegar will help preserve them, you will still need to refrigerate the sauce to extend its shelf life beyond the day you make it.

Important: If you’ve dipped your basting mop or brush in the sauce, you must use that sauce that day. The mop will have come into contact with raw meat, and therefore can’t be reused later. To make this easier to manage, consider dividing batches of sauce into separate containers.

smoked ribs mop sauce

Simple Mop Sauce for Ribs

4.37 from 11 votes
This BBQ mop sauce will keep your pork ribs tender and flavorful, even after hours on your backyard smoker. Made with apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, and red pepper flakes, this sauce is the key to locking in sweet and spicy flavors.
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Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
Servings: 2 cups


  • basting mop or basting brush


  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup apple juice (optional)


  • In a large bowl, add all the ingredients. Whisk well until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
  • Cover the bowl and leave to sit for about 1 hour before using. This will let the flavors meld.
  • About 1 hour into cooking the ribs, use a mop or brush to baste the top of the rib rack with the mop sauce. Repeat every 30-45 minutes.
  • Stop mopping the ribs about 1 hour away from completion, to give the ribs the best chance of developing a good bark

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.

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