AmazingRibs.com is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

This Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce Is The Real Deal

Arthur bryant's

Although there are several distinctly different regional styles of BBQ sauce in the US, the thick red stuff is what most of us reach for when our spouse says “pick up some barbecue sauce, willya?”

If you are no longer living with your parents, you really should have a house sauce made without preservatives, additives, stabilizers, and emulsifiers, so that when your guests ask “what brand of sauce is that?” you can plunk a hand labeled bottle on the table. When they beg you for the recipe, you can then tell them “It’s a secret” and mumble the old saw that ends in “and then I’d have to kill you.”

Although the original KC sauces were probably vinegary, hot, and not sweet, similar to Arthur Bryant’s Original Barbeque Sauce (the photo above is a 5 gallon/18.9 liter jug of sauce that has been aging in the window of the great restaurant for decades), since the 1970s, the prototype has been KC Masterpiece — tomato based, and sweet. The style has spread coast to coast and nowadays, when you say “barbecue sauce”, although there remain many regional and creative styles, most people think of the KC style.

The best have multiple sources of sweetness (brown sugar, molasses, honey, and onion — which gets sweet when it is cooked); multiple sources of tartness (vinegar, lemon juice, hot sauce, and steak sauce); multiple sources of heat (American chili powder, black pepper, mustard, and hot sauce); and it gets layers of flavor from all the above as well as ketchup, Worcestershire, garlic, and salt. Most Kansas City sauces are brass bands with multiple layers of flavors, sweets, and heats. Because they are thick and tomatoey, they sit on top of the meat, not penetrating very far. For this reason you don’t want to use too much. Just one or two layers, max. Let the meat shine through. Don’t drown it in sauce.

That’s the idea behind my recipe. It’s not KC Masterpiece, but it is a KC Classic.

Barbecue sauce on his chest

A sauce of some substance

Mike was driving home to LA from a business trip to Kansas City. In Arizona he sees an elderly man walking on the side of the road. He stops and asks if he would like a ride.

With a silent nod of thanks, the elder got into the car.

Driving on, Mike tries in vain to make a bit of small talk with the man. The old man just sat silently, looking intently at everything he saw, studying every little detail, until he noticed a brown bag on the seat next to Mike.

“What in bag?” asked the old man.

Mike looked down at the brown bag and said, “It’s a bottle of barbecue sauce from Arthur Bryant’s. I got it for my wife.”

The old timer was silent for another moment or two. Then speaking with quiet wisdom, he said:

“Good trade…”

ENDTEXT

Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce Recipe


Ribs with Kansas City BBQ sauce
Tried this recipe?Tell others what you thought of it and give it a star rating below.
4.71 from 595 votes
Try this authentic Kansas City-style BBQ sauce recipe and you'll never use the bottled stuff again.

Serve with: a local Kansas City beer.


Course: Sauces and Condiments
Cuisine: American
Difficulty: Easy

Makes:

Servings: 6 cups

Takes:

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

Notes:
Optional. If you are cooking indoors, or if your meat does not have a lot of smoke flavor, or if you just want more smoke flavor, you can add 1/3 cup of liquid smoke to this recipe.
About the vinegar. I like my sauce tart. Trust me, although it may taste tart from the bottle, it is perfect on meat. If you are not big on vinegar, cut it in half.
About the honey. The recipe above is to my taste but I have found that most people like it better if I add another 1/2 cup of honey for a total of 3/4 cups.
About the steak sauce. There are many different brands and they all have different flavor profiles, but what we want here is the meaty depth of savoriness that they call umami, so use whatever you have on hand.
About the hot sauce. A simple sauce like Tabasco is all you need. I like the chipotle flavored version.
About the oil. You may use butter or bacon fat for a bit more flavor, but keep in mind, they can get rancid with time, and they will likely shorten shelf life to about 1 week. Use a bottled vegetable oil and it can keep months.
About the salt. Remember, kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
Secret optional ingredient. Add 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste. This exotic ingredient isn't really that exotic. It shows up on the ingredient lists of a lot of great BBQ sauces. It has a sweet citrusy flavor and really amps up a sauce. If you can't find it in an Indian or Asian grocery, it is available online. Click the link and order it from Amazon.
Metric conversion:

These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page

Method

  • Prep. In a small bowl, mix the American chili powder, black pepper, and salt. In a large bowl, mix the ketchup, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, lemon juice, steak sauce, molasses, honey, hot sauce, and brown sugar. Mix them, but you don't have to mix thoroughly.
  • Finely chop the onion and crush or mince the garlic cloves.
  • Cook. Over medium heat, warm the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and sauté until limp and translucent, about 5 minutes. Crush the garlic, add it, and cook for another minute. Add the dry spices and stir for about 2 minutes to extract their oil-soluble flavors. Add the wet ingredients. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes with the lid off to thicken it a bit.
  • Taste and adjust. Add more of anything that you want a little bit at a time. It may taste a bit vinegary at first, but that will be less obvious when you use it on meat. I recommend you run with my recipe the first time and then you can make it your own. Strain it if you don't want the chunks of onion and garlic. I like leaving them in, they give the sauce a home-made texture.
  • Serve. You can use this sauce immediately as you would any other BBQ sauce, but I think it's better when aged overnight. You can store it into clean bottles in the refrigerator for a month or two.

Related articles

Published On: 6/16/2014 Last Modified: 9/11/2021

  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.


If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and much more!

Millions come to AmazingRibs.com every month for quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 4,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner like TV network or a magazine publisher to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club, but please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get 21 great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial membership, and help keep this site alive.


Post comments and questions below

grouchy?

1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.

Moderators

  Max

Click for comments...

Spotlight

These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on AmazingRibs.com and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys: https://tinyurl.com/amazingribs



Surely you know somebody who loves outdoor cooking who deserves a gift for the holidays, birthday, anniversary, or just for being wonderful. There he is, right in the mirror! Here are our selections of best ideas, all Platinum or Gold Medalists, listed by price.

Click here to see our list of Gold Medal Gifts


Is This Superb Charcoal Grill A Kamado Killer?


The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it’s easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is beautifully designed, completely portable, and much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado.

Click here to read our detailed review of the PK 360

Click here to order directly and get an exclusive AmazingRibs.com deal


GrillGrates Take Gas Grills To The Infrared Zone


GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, kill hotspots, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke.

Click here for more about what makes these grates so special


The Efficiency Of A Kamado Plus The Flexibility Of The Slow ‘N Sear Insert

kamado grill
Built around SnS Grill’s patented Slow ‘N Sear charcoal kettle accessory, this 22-inch kamado is a premium ceramic grill that brings true 2-zone cooking to a kamado.

Click here for our article on this exciting cooker


The Pit Barrel Cooker May Be Too Easy


The PBC has a rabid cult following for good reason. It is absolutely positively without a doubt the best bargain on a smoker in the world. Period. This baby will cook circles around the cheap offset sideways barrel smokers because temperature control is so much easier.

Click here to read our detailed review and the raves from people who own them


Bring The Heat With Broil King Signet’s Dual Tube Burners

3 burner gas grill

The Broil King Signet 320 is a modestly priced, 3-burner gas grill that packs a lot of value and power under the hood. Broil King’s proprietary, dual-tube burners get hot fast and are able to achieve high, searing temps that rival most comparatively priced gas grills. The quality cast aluminum housing carries a Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Click here to read our complete review


Masterbuilt MPS 340/G ThermoTemp XL Propane Smoker


This is the first propane smoker with a thermostat, making this baby foolproof. Set ThermoTemp’s dial from 175° to 350°F and the thermostat inside will adjust the burner just like an indoor kitchen oven. All you need to do is add wood to the tray above the burner to start smokin’.

Click here to read our detailed review