Easy Kansas City BBQ Sauce Recipe

3.88 from 31 votes
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Homemade Kansas City BBQ Sauce couldn’t be easier! This sweet and slightly spicy homemade BBQ sauce represents the flavors you would expect from a Kansas City style sauce. With a tomato base, molasses, sugar, and seasonings, you get that classic flavor with a little bit of heat.

Jar of Easy Homemade KC BBQ Sauce
Kansas City Style BBQ sauce has a touch of sweet, spicy, and that rich flavor from molasses.

Add to ribs, burgers, chicken, or pulled pork, this versatile and easy Kansas City BBQ Sauce is finger licking good.

Kansas City BBQ Sauce Highlights

  • Blackstrap Molasses is the main ingredient that adds richness and depth
  • Fresh onions and garlic add more natural flavor than dried powders
  • This sauce will last three months in the refrigerator
  • This recipe is naturally gluten-free and vegan

Ingredients

You will see many recipes that call for dried onion powder or granulated garlic. While dried spices are fine (and we use them too), taking the extra step to sauté and use fresh ingredients will go a long way in the flavor arena.

  • Yellow onion – for the right balance of onion flavor and sweetness. As it sautés in the pan it will mellow out and even sweeten slightly. If you use a red onion, the sauce will have a more pronounced onion flavor.
  • Ketchup – to make it easy so you don’t have to balance a ratio of tomato sauce and tomato paste to get the right flavor.
  • Molasses – key for a KC-style sauce as it adds the element that makes it authentic. As the molasses simmers and the sauce reduces it takes on the smoky flavor without the need for liquid smoke.
  • Brown sugar – this sweetens the sauce and provides the right balance with the acid.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – to finish to the sauce. We add water to thin out the sauce as needed.
  • Cayenne pepper – for a touch of heat. If you don’t want heat you can leave this out, or cut it in half.
  • Dried spices – to add more flavor, like chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.

How to Make BBQ Sauce From Scratch

It’s quite simple. All you really need to think about is finding the balance between sweet, which will come from your sugar, molasses, and ketchup, savory and heat, which is driven by onions, garlic, peppers, or dried spices. And the final touch is acid, which helps with a strong and complex finish to the sauce. You can get acid from apple cider or white vinegar, or even mustard.

Let the combination simmer together and you have sauce!

Mason jar filled with homemade Kansas City Style BBQ sauce
A good homemade BBQ sauce should be thick, but not so thick it won’t pour easily.

How to Make Kansas City BBQ Sauce

  1. Soften Fresh Ingredients: Start by warming up a stock pot, then sautéing the onions until translucent and soft, but not caramelized then add garlic and stir for another minute.
  2. Add Liquids: Add ketchup, molasses, apple cider vinegar, and water and bring to a simmer.
  3. Add Seasonings: Finally add everything else.
  4. Blend: Using a hand immersion blender, blend the ingredients to grind up the onion and garlic and get a nice smooth consistency.
  5. Simmer: Bring back to a simmer and cover for another 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and then using a funnel, pour the sauce into a mason jar. This helps the sauce reduce slightly and brings the flavors together.
BBQ Sauce simmering in a stock pot
An immersion blender helps with the consistency.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Long Will BBQ Sauce Stay Fresh?

Adding a little apple cider vinegar is a great way to maintain a shelf life on your sauce. How long can you keep a fresh BBQ sauce you may ask? Up to three months in the refrigerator.

What Is A Kansas City Sauce?

Sauces come in all flavor profiles. Really it reflects the flavors regionally that evolved around the country. In the Carolinas, you have vinegar-based sauces (among others). In Texas, you’ll find less of a sauce and more of a flavor mop while cooking. And in Alabama you’ll find a mayo-like white sauce.

But in Kansas City, it’s all about the sweet and slightly spicy tomato and molasses based sauce. The kind that many of us grew up with. The kind that KC BBQ joints tend to toss their famous burnt ends in. If you haven’t been to Oklahoma Joe’s, or some of the other pit houses in the state, it is worth the trip. You can learn more about other styles of BBQ sauces at this post about BBQ sauce styles.

What to Put This On

This sauce is versatile. Slather onto ribs, maybe use as the glaze base for your burnt ends, or maybe just serve the sauce to dunk your meat into. Here are a few recipes to use this sauce in!

A spoonful of BBQ sauce

More Easy BBQ Sauce Recipes

Explore all of our BBQ sauce recipes or explore some of our favorites.


This post was originally published February of 2019 and republished in 2024 with new steps for the recipe, modification of ingredients, and based on reader feedback.

About Vindulge

Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.

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Jar of Easy Homemade BBQ Sauce Kansas City Style
3.88 from 31 votes

Easy Kansas City BBQ Sauce Recipe

An Easy Kansas City style BBQ sauce recipe with sweet and heat. 
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 3 cups

Equipment

  • Immersion Blender

Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • ¼ cup blackstrap molasses
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Instructions 

  • Preheat: Preheat a 3 ½ quart sauce pot over medium heat. Add olive oil. 
  • Sauté: Next add onions and sauté for 5 – 6 minutes, stirring often, or until translucent and soft, but not caramelized. Add garlic and stir for another minute.
  • Simmer: Add ketchup, molasses, apple cider vinegar, water, and tomato paste and bring to a simmer. Should take about 5 minutes to come to a simmer.
  • Blend: When the liquids are simmering, add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Using a hand immersion blender, blend the ingredients to grind up the onion and garlic.
  • Store: Bring back to a simmer and cover for another 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and then using a funnel, pour the sauce into a mason jar.

Nutrition

Calories: 446kcal | Carbohydrates: 97g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 2377mg | Potassium: 1235mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 83g | Vitamin A: 1966IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 137mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, BBQ sauce
Servings: 3 cups
Calories: 446
Keyword: BBQ sauce, easy BBQ sauce, homemade BBQ sauce, kansas city bbq sauce
Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!

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About Mary


I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I bbq low ‘n slow on a pellet grill and it’s perfect for its bark and its bite 😉 I’ve made it at least 5 times and it’s always fantastic. So easy I can’t see why anyone would buy sauce off the shelf

    1. I cannot believe we did not catch that! Updated and thanks for pointing out! Add to the other liquids is the right answer. 🙂