The Meatwave

Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce

Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce View Recipe

As I prepare to start my career as a competition barbecuer, I've been hard at work at honing my sauces to be as delicious and unique as possible, in hopes they'll give me an edge in the fierce battles that lay ahead. While I'm taking the barbecue cop-out and deeming my most recent sauces "secret," I traveled a long road of experimentation with different styles of sauce to get me to where I am today, and those recipes I'm more than happy to share. One the first, and most regular, sauces I made was of the thick and sweet variety, akin to what you'd find in Kansas City.

Kansas City Barbecue Sauce

Although I'm keeping my newest sauces a secret, there's a lot to learn from the processes developed along the way. For example, I've tried a lot of different ways to infuse an onion flavor in the sauce. My favorite has been sauteing onions in butter as first step to just about every sauce. A little browning on the onions gives them a slightly sweet flavor that adds a nice depth to a sauce.

Kansas City Barbecue Sauce

While I tend to prefer medium-thick sauce, if you're talking Kansas City, you're looking at pretty thick sauce. To achieve this, I traded in my usual tomato sauce base for ketchup, which gives the right thickness for a KC-style sauce. From there, molasses and brown sugar were added to build upon the sweetness of the ketchup, then a modest amount of vinegar for the required tang. Mustard, chili powder, and pepper finished off the seasoning department for a slight hint of heat.

Kansas City Barbecue Sauce

That mixture cooks for 30 minutes to ensure all the flavors meld together and sauce gets to the right thickness. Then a whirl in the blender smooths it out and it's ready to go.

Kansas City Barbecue Sauce

A good Kansas City sauce like this shines for its versatility—it works great on everything from ribs to chicken to beans, or it can be a dip or a baste. It also has the deep sweetness with a little tang that's probably the most ubiquitous characteristics of a barbecue sauce everyone is looking for. While this sauce recipe is pretty great as is, it's even better used as starting point for experimentation. There's a lot of room to customize it to your liking, which is exactly how I started out with developing my own "secret" recipes.

Print Recipe

Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce

  • Yield Makes 2 1/2 cups
  • Prep 10 Minutes
  • Cook 35 Minutes
  • Total 45 Minutes


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, chili powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Transfer sauce to the jar of a blender and blend until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, transfer to a jar and store in refrigerator for up to a month.

You Might Also Like


  1. Mike I've never cared for the taste of molasses, to me it tastes burnt and bitter. I've found that I like the flavor of Cane Syrup instead. Not the supermarket brands that are predominately HFCS, but the real stuff made by hand in deep in SE Georgia. It has a sweet, more refined flavor than molasses.

    Give it a try. You just might find the "edge" you were looking for to distinguish your sauce from others.

    Good luck on the competition.

  2. Chris Good tips on sauce development, Josh. Best of luck in your comps.

  3. Joe Hi, love your blog. I saw where you have the different store bbq sauces ranked on another one of your pages on here and you have nothing ranked "10". I higlly recomend trying B.B. King's bbq sauce from B.B. King's blues clubs, it is the best sauce i have ever had.

  4. Josh @Joe Thanks for the recommendation. I'll be sure to give it a try.

  5. Jesse One of the ingredients that adds to the flavor of BBQ is BBQ sauce. I really thank you providing these ideas since I want to make my own BBQ sauce better. I can't wait to try this on the weekends at home. In addition, I came upon another article about barbecues; I'd want to hear your opinions on it. Check it.