International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce

Kansas City barbecue joint

(American Midwest tomato-based grilling sauce)

Image by bk1bennett

Average: 2.3 (9 votes)

Tomatoey and sweet, this barbecue sauce comes from the great Midwestern barbecue tradition of Kansas City, Missouri. It is also the sauce most Americans think of when they hear "barbecue." Slow simmer the sauce for best flavor, then slather it over beef, chicken, pork and ribs.

Because of its high sugar content, Kansas City barbecue sauce should only be spread on meat toward the end of grilling to avoid burning and a bitter flavor.

Makes about 1 quart


  • Oil -- 3 tablespoons
  • Onion, chopped -- 1
  • Crushed tomatoes -- 1 (28-ounce) can
  • Tomato sauce -- 1 (8-ounce) can
  • White or cider vinegar -- 1/3 cup
  • Brown sugar -- 1/3 cup
  • Chili powder -- 1 or 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium flame. Add the onion and saute until the onion is translucent and just starting to turn golden, 4 or 5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer slowly for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add the sauce to a blender and puree. Adjust seasoning and store refrigerated for up to a month.
  4. To Use: Baste your meat or poultry with barbecue sauce during the last 10 to 15 minutes of grilling. Serve extra sauce at the table.

Kansas City Barbecue Sauce Variations

Kansas City barbecue sauce lends itself to endless variations. Give your batch your own personal stamp.

  • Tomatoes: Try using fresh chopped tomatoes, ketchup or even pasta or pizza sauce instead of the crushed tomatoes. Whatever you use, you should have about 4 cups total tomatoes to make a quart.
  • Sour Component: Substitute red wine vinegar or flavored vinegar for the white or cider vinegar. Or try using lemon, lime or sour orange juice,
  • Sweet Component: Instead of brown sugar, try using molasses, honey, piloncillo, jaggery, pomegranate molasses, pineapple juice, hoisin sauce or kecap manis to give your bbq sauce a sweet touch.
  • Spices: Adjust the flavor of your sauce with spices like paprika, cumin, coriander, celery seed, allspice, cloves and fresh or dried garlic.
  • Other Flavor Additions: Whiskey, rum, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Asian chile sauces, Tabasco sauce, Thai curry pastes, sesame oil, liquid smoke.


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