The Dominican Origin Of Barbecue Sauce

Cooking meat over fire is a practice as old as time, but the Tainos, the indigenous Carribean people, really changed the game by switching things up with spices and slow roasting. They were the inventors of barbecue as we know it today. It's one of the most delicious ways to cook meat, so it isn't surprising how barbecue became a quintessentially American tradition. Given barbecue's popularity in the United States, one might naturally assume that barbecue sauce originated here, but even though we created some of the most popular barbecue sauce brands like Sweet Baby Ray's and Stubb's, the concept itself wasn't our brainchild.

The barbecue sauce was not invented until the 17th century, but the usage of sweet and sour sauce dates back to 239 B.C. Back then, Chinese chef I Yin blended sweet and sour with other pungent and salty ingredients to add a burst of flavor to preserved meats. However, the early form of barbecue sauce truly got its start in the Dominican Republic. 

Barbecue sauce dates back to the Eastern Caribbean, with one of the first recorded accounts in 1698 from a Dominican missionary. Chefs in the French West Indies combined both limes and lemons with spices to enhance the flavor of meat, a practice possibly inspired by culinary traditions in Africa. This is believed to be one of the first rudimentary barbecue sauces, according to the Tennessee State Museum. It wouldn't be long before the sauce spread beyond the Caribbean.

A melting pot of flavors

The Dominican Republic's cuisine is an amalgamation of African, Spanish, and Native American flavors. The Taino's slow-roasting technique combined with the Spanish practice of marinating meats using vinegar and spices laid the foundation for the magical combination that is barbecue and sauce. Some of the first barbecue sauces were based on butter, and today, tomato-based sauces are the most popular but they didn't come around until the late 19th and early 20th century.

The United States might not have invented the first barbeque sauce, but the first company to commercialize barbecue sauce was The Georgia Barbecue Sauce Company of Atlanta. In 1926, Louis Maull's condiment brand Maull's became the first company to sell bottled barbecue sauce. Heinz followed suit and manufactured their own line of barbecue sauce in 1948. Today, every region has its own version of barbecue sauce like Kansas City's sweet and spicy recipe and North Carolina's vinegar-rich sauce.