Kansas City Barbecue Sauce

Homemade Kansas City barbecue sauce! A rich tomato-based sauce that is just as sweet as it is spicy.

Kansas City Barbecue Sauce
Elise Bauer

Please welcome Hank Shaw as he continues on his tour through barbecue sauces, this time with a Kansas City style barbecue sauce. ~Elise

Sweet and Spicy

To me, Kansas City barbecue sauces are thick, tomato-based sauces that are just as sweet as they are spicy. Endless variations are possible, but the sweet-thick-tomatoey elements need to be there for KC BBQ.

This is a sort of apple-y version, with sweetness from both brown sugar and apple juice as well as an acid kick from cider vinegar. I add a little smoky chipotle powder, too, just because I like it; chipotle is not generally used in traditional KC barbecue.

Some Like It Hot

The cayenne added at the end is purely optional: I like things hot, but if you really can’t take heat, omit the cayenne and cut the chili powder down to 1 teaspoon instead of a tablespoon.

Kansas City Barbecue Sauce
Elise Bauer

Matures as It Cooks

This sauce will mature as it cooks. It needs at least 30 minutes to come together, but can cook for hours if you simmer it gently enough. Taste it periodically, and adjust the salt and heat as you go: Remember it’s easy to add more salt and spice, impossible to remove it.

Slather this sauce on slow-cooked chicken, ribs, pork or even beef. Don’t put it on until the end of the cooking process, though, because the sugar in it will caramelize fast... and the burn. Leave it to the final 10-20 minutes of cooking. Then brush a little on right when you serve.

Kansas City Barbecue Sauce

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Yield 2 1/2 cups

This makes enough sauce for 10 to 20 chicken legs or thighs, 4 racks of ribs or a regular pork shoulder.

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons butter

  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 4 clove finely chopped garlic cloves

  • 2 cups tomato sauce or ketchup

  • 1/2 cup apple juice

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 3 tablespoons paprika

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder

  • 1 tablespoon chipotle powder, optional

  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt, to taste

  • 1 tsp cayenne, to taste

Method

  1. Melt the butter and sauté onion and garlic:

    Heat the butter in a pot over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to brown. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.

  2. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer:

    Pour in the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Simmer slowly for at least 30 minutes, and up to 2 hours.

    Adjust the heat and salt levels with the cayenne and salt right before you plan to use this sauce, which is great on ribs, chicken and pork shoulder.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1593 Calories
65g Fat
269g Carbs
14g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
×
Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 1593
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 65g 83%
Saturated Fat 38g 188%
Cholesterol 153mg 51%
Sodium 5871mg 255%
Total Carbohydrate 269g 98%
Dietary Fiber 19g 67%
Total Sugars 209g
Protein 14g
Vitamin C 75mg 377%
Calcium 345mg 27%
Iron 12mg 65%
Potassium 2802mg 60%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.