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Sep 23, 2012 11:22 AM

Copy Cat Recipe for Richmond's Bill's Barbecue Hot Sauce

Glad to know that I'm not the only one who is grieving the loss of the Hot Sauce. cwhiteside is my fellow mourner and we both want to know how hokie2009 knows that it has a dry mustard base. I do not have a bottle in my possession. I live on the west coast now. I tried to get my sister to go buy me a bottle before they closed, but I don't think she did it. I recall, as cwhiteside said, that the main ingredients WERE cayenne pepper, vinegar, spices....
Let's figure out that recipe!
Last week I started a fermented cayenne pepper sauce with mustard seeds and a tiny bit of vinegar and a tiny bit of cabbage (for the pickle juice??). It's not ready to try yet, but I'll post when it is. I just wish I had a bottle of the old sauce for side by side comparison.

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  1. Hi, Frank's wife Linda here. Well over 10 years ago Frank brought me one of those teeny cups (maybe a tablespoon) of the sauce from Bill's and asked me to copy it. Of course there were no ingredients listed. It's not much fun tasting BBQ sauce over and over attempting to make one match the other. Anyhow, the recipe below is what I came up with. It just happens that Frank went over to Bill's for lunch on their last day, but they had run out of food. However he was able to buy a bottle of their sauce, and I happened to have some of my copycat here at home. I had Frank do a blind taste test, and I can't remember which one he chose as Bill's, but he said that though they were not exactly the same, they were mighty close, and he didn't prefer one over the other.

    3/4 c. cider vinegar
    15 oz tomato sauce
    1/2 c. yellow mustard
    1 T. red pepper flakes
    1 t. cayenne pepper powder
    1/2 t. sugar
    1 1/2 t. salt
    1 t. MSG
    2 t. fresh ground black pepper
    1 t. chipotle powder

    I added the chipotle powder in the last year. I don't remember if I substituted it for part of the cayenne powder or if I simply added it. For that you're on your own.


    4 Replies
    1. re: fcbaldwin


      Thanks for the recipe. I just made a batch, and I find it more of a mustard-based NC sauce, but maybe it will change as the flavors mingle. I didn't have the chipotle powder, so I'll have to pick up some and add that in to see i it makes a difference.

      1. re: cwhiteside

        The chipotle powder was an afterthought just in the last year or so, not necessary. I'm sure it wasn't in Bill's. Just reduce the mustard some though I know there is some in Bill's, maybe not as much as I used. I may have adjusted the cayenne lower when I added the chipotle, so you might want to add a little more cayenne if it's not hot enough.

        When I made the first batch all those years ago, it was probably closer to the real Bill's. Over the years it's evolved a little. Maybe you'll end up with a batch at some point that you like better than Bill's. <g>


        1. re: cwhiteside

          No such thing as a "mustard-based NC sauce". Mustard-based bbq sauce is a South Carolina "innovation".

        2. re: fcbaldwin

          I tried to replicate it a few years ago and came close, will have to do it again. I had used ketchup, yellow prepared mustard, hot pepper sauce like Frank's, but I could see using flakes and cayenne instead,; cider vinegar; sugar, and--I'm pretty sure this is key--a little allspice. Also tried a little clove in the alternative, and nutmeg. There's a sweet spice in there, I believe, we just have to play around with that. Kind of like Sauer's barbeque sauce, also from Richmond. And salt, and pepper. I didn't use MSG. Please see the ingredients below, taken from the bottle, from an earlier post. Bill's uses tomato concentrate, and not ketchup. But at the end the just list "spices", and that's where we are going to have to work at the right combo.

        3. Dont blame your sister too much if she wasnt able to get it - it seems from the news that many if not all of the stores actually closed a day or so earlier than announced and even then were only filling previously placed orders.

          1 Reply
          1. re: PenskeFan

            I ran into the same thing with my sister - she went by a couple of locations and they were closed early.

          2. The fermented cayenne pepper sauce is good, but tastes nothing like Bill's sauce. It tastes "raw", so I am guessing that Bill's is a cooked sauce. So I guess I'll try some cooking next... Will keep y'all posted!
            P.S. I haven't tried Linda's recipe. I don't think that Bill's Hot Sauce has any tomato in it. Being a NC style BBQ fan, using tomato in barbecue sauce is just something I can't bring myself to do. For me, any BBQ sauce with tomato in it speaks of Texas. I call that stuff "Texas Barbecue", never to be confused with "barbecue" which involves pork, smoke, vinegar, cayenne pepper, maybe some black pepper and salt, but that's about it! :) This is why I am intrigued by the "dry mustard" which hokie2009 has mentioned. Could there be mustard in Richmond's Bill's Barbecue Hot Sauce? Hmmmm....

            4 Replies
            1. re: mavora

              NC has 2 traditional sauces, both of which are vinegar based. Eastern style is usually just vinegar, salt, red pepper flakes, sometimes a little sugar, never any tomato. Western, or Lexington style, is vinegar, salt, red pepper, a little sugar or brown sugar and a small amount of tomato paste, sauce or ketchup. The amount of tomato product is pretty small, it's still a very thin, primarily vinegar sauce. Nothing like a thick sauce found in Texas.

              1. re: mavora

                Frank just called and said I need to post the ingredients on the label of the bottle he picked up on that last day. Note that ingredients are supposed to be listed in order of weight or volume (don't know which). Also, I'll wager a dollar to a Duck Donut that this is not cooked.

                Apple cider vinegar, tomato puree (tomato concentrate, salt), prepared mustard (water, distilled vinegar, mustard seed, salt, turmeric oleoresin paprika, spices), sugar, ground red pepper, spices.


                1. re: fcbaldwin

                  Wow Linda - thanks for the post. That is very helpful. So it looks like no pickle juice. I think your recipe is very close, just a little heavy on the mustard.

                  1. re: fcbaldwin

                    Thank you, Linda!!!!! Our heroine!!! And thanks to Frank, too. Well, I'm eating humble pie WITHOUT hot sauce. It DOES have tomato in it. Back to copycat sauce makin'...will be trying Linda's recipe now. Thanks again for posting the ingredients.

                2. About 10 or 12 years ago--I now live in DC--I seriously approached them to see if they would consider franchising to the DC area, but they turned me down, because they were concerned that they wouldn't be able to control the quality. I missed it so much a couple of times I asked them to ship some by Fed Ex to DC, and they very sweetly accommodated me. I believe they could have done very well in tihe DC area, because everyone I served it to loved it. Oh, well . .