Mama Faye’s Winning Barbecue Sauce


Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This sauce is known to most people as Apple City Barbecue Sauce. It won Mike Mills three Grand Championships at Memphis in May and more accolades and trophies than you can count. During a recent trip to Murphysboro, Illinois, Mike took me to see a few “antiques” in his attic. As soon as I got out of the elevator, I saw more trophies than I had ever seen, literally hundreds of them. And these are the trophies that he doesn’t display; he has hundreds more decorating his seven restaurants in southern Illinois, St. Louis, and Las Vegas! And best of all: The trophies were won in three years’ time! Mike got the recipe for the sauce from his mother, Mama Faye, who made it from scratch for his restaurant and his competitions until the day she went to the big barbecue contest in the sky. I thought it was time she got her rightful praise.

NotesGood for Slathering: Ribs, pork, chicken, steak, shrimp



Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, peanut free, tree nut free

Taste and Texturesharp, smoky, spiced, sweet, tangy

Type of Dishbarbecue sauce, marinades, sauces


  • 1 cup ketchup, preferably Hunt’s
  • 2/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • ½ cup apple juice or apple cider
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine-ground white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and ground in a spice grinder
  • 1/3 cup peeled and grated apple
  • 1/3 cup grated onion
  • 2 teaspoons grated green bell pepper


  1. In a large saucepan, combine the ketchup, rice vinegar, apple juice, cider vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, mustard, garlic powder, white pepper, cayenne, and bacon bits. Bring to a full boil over medium-high heat.

  2. Stir in the apple, onion, and bell pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until it reduces slightly. Stir it often. If you want a thicker sauce, reduce for a longer time.

  3. Let cool, then pour into clean glass bottles. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

  4. Brush it on food 5 to 15 minutes before the cooking time is finished. If desired, serve extra sauce on the side.


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