Kansas City BBQ Sauce is sweet, tangy, spicy, and so irresistible! It's perfect for last-minute mealtimes or to use as a marinade for your summer cookouts.
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Though, Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce is probably what you're thinking of when you think of a classic BBQ sauce. This delicious BBQ sauce is tomatoey, tangy, sweet, thick, and delicious on pretty much ANYTHING!
Add it to pork ribs on the grill or onto chicken thighs in the slow cooker—this is the best KC BBQ sauce recipe you'll find!
This Kansas City sauce is included in my American Eats collection of recipes, where I explore classic recipes that are traditional to each state in the US. Kansas City actually straddles the state lines of both Kansas and Missouri and this style of barbecue is popular in each. I've already explored some of my favorite tastes from Kansas like this Cast Iron Pan Pizza and this Classic Kansas Chili if you're looking for something a bit different, but as we head into Missouri week I wanted to focus on the barbecue side of things!
Why We Love This Recipe
- Customizable to your own preference of spiciness, sweetness, or even smokiness.
- Made with simple ingredients you may already have in your pantry.
- This easy sauce is ready in just 30 minutes, perfect for last-minute mealtimes!
What You'll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Oil - Olive oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil will work well for sauteeing the onion and garlic. You can also use butter if you wish.
- Onion - A classic savory staple for the base of this sauce.
- Tomato - Tomato paste and tomato ketchup
- Spices - We'll use a mix of spices including smoked paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and ground cinnamon.
- Seasonings - Use kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, as well as dry mustard, and freshly minced garlic cloves.
- Apple juice and apple cider vinegar - They add a tart sweetness to the sauce that compliments the tomato flavor well.
- Sugar and molasses - Dark brown sugar and molasses will thicken the sauce while making it irresistibly sweet as well.
How to Make Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce
- Sauté. Sauté the onion in hot oil for 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir it into the onion for 30 seconds.
- Add tomato and spices. Next, add the tomato paste, smoked paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and ground cinnamon.
- Cook. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring until the mixture darkens to the color of a brick. Blend the sauce after simmering until smooth.
- Add remaining ingredients and cook. Add in the remaining ingredients and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.
- Blend. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender or in an upright blender, to the desired smoothness. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before storing.
Kansas City BBQ sauce has a thicker consistency and is sweeter than a classic BBQ sauce. Made with onions, spices, ketchup, and molasses, other ingredients are often also added to give it a variation of flavors, such as liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce. This recipe also uses apple cider vinegar and apple juice to give a sweet freshness to the sauce.
Kansas BBQ sauce will typically be spicy and sweet, but this homemade recipe will allow you to make it as spicy or sweet as you like. You can even make it spicier by adding in hot sauce or chipotle chili powder, or smoky by adding in liquid smoke.
Allow the sauce to cool completely to room temperature before storing. Put sauce in an airtight container like a glass jar or bottle, then store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Tips for Success
- Do not overcook the sauce, as this could burn the sugars and ruin the flavor.
- You can use Kansas City Style BBQ sauce as a condiment, or as a sauce to brush on meats for recipes like my Easy Beef Kabobs during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
This sauce is even better after 1 day if you let the flavors meld together, by sitting it in the refrigerator overnight.
Substitutions and Variations
- Add in a pinch of cinnamon, 1-2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder, and 1-2 teaspoons hickory flavored liquid smoke.
- Instead of sauteeing the onion and garlic, you can eliminate the oil and replace the onion with 1 teaspoon of onion powder and garlic with 1 teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Substitute the brown sugar or molasses with honey in this recipe at a 1:1 ratio.
More BBQ Recipes
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Kansas City BBQ Sauce
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped (about 1 cup)
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper can be doubled for a spicier sauce
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 2 cups ketchup
- ½ cup apple juice
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- ⅓ cup molasses
- Cook onion in hot oil for 5 minutes. Add garlic for 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and spices and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until darkened to the color of a brick. Blend sauce after simmering.
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender or in an upright blender, if desired.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
- Storage: Put cooled sauce in an airtight container like a glass jar or bottle, then store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.