Kansas City Barbecue Sauce. The King of Barbecue Sauces!

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Kansas City barbecue sauce is the king of all barbecue sauces, and you’re gonna learn how make it right now!

Exciting…isn’t it?

Why is Kansas City barbecue sauce the king of barbecue sauces? This sauce, without question, is the most popular barbecue sauce in America.

When people, not us of course, buy bottled barbecue sauce, this is the style of sauce they are typically purchasing. When you order barbecue, in most restaurants, this is the sauce that is served with it. When you ask for some barbecue sauce at the fast food place, this is what they throw in the bag.

It’s everywhere. And with good reason; it’s delicious!

Kansas City barbecue sauce is a thick, sweet and spicy sauce. It's a tomato based sauce that is sweetened with molasses.

It’s usually fairly spicy at you favorite barbecue joint. Most bottled versions are pretty mild. This sauce does come in a variety of spice levels; from mild to blisteringly hot. K.C. Masterpiece is an example of a bottled Kansas City barbecue sauce.

This is typically what most people think of when they think of barbecue sauce.

Best Barbecue Sauce Recipe

You’re in for a rare treat!

I wish I could say this recipe was handed down to me for generations, but I’ve got an even better story that that!

At one of my first jobs as a restaurant cook, the chef loved to make smoked foods. That’s where I learned a lot about making sausages and barbecue.

One of our specialties was pulled pork sandwiches.

We smoked the pork butts for hours, shredded them, and tossed the meat with some barbecue sauce and pork stock. It was then served on soft, squishy buns. Heavenly!

But the Chef wouldn’t give me the recipe for the barbecue sauce! And the Sous Chef would tell me the ingredients, but not the proportions.

So…One day I come to work early. It was just me and the dishwasher. I sneak upstairs to the Chef’s office.

Now all Chefs have a stash of their recipes somewhere. Even if they haven’t looked at the recipe for years, there’s a piece of paper or a notebook with the original recipe or idea somewhere.

So there I am, digging through the Chefs drawers and filing cabinets, nervously looking over my shoulder. I mean, you could get lynched for just looking in the kitchen when somebody was making barbecue sauce, much less rifling through peoples drawers for their secret recipes.

Finally I come upon it…

The Secret Barbecue Sauce Recipe!

I pull out a pen and paper and feverishly scribble down the recipe. The original gets tucked back in the filing cabinet and I make my way downstairs to start my shift.

With a big grin on my face!

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Kansas City Barbecue Sauce

Recipe Notes: You can find Ancho and Guajillo chili powders at your local Mexican market or order them online. You can also use regular chili powder. Not all chili powders are created equal, some are spicier than others. Make sure you taste your sauce, like everything else you make, before serving it!

This Kansas City barbecue sauce is quite spicy, like it should be. If you like it milder, add only ½ teaspoon of the freshly ground black pepper and ½ of the chipotle chili.

The smoked onions and garlic, along with the chipotle chili will add smoke flavor to your sauce. You can leave out the liquid smoke if you like or add ¼ to ½ teaspoon liquid smoke if desired. It’s strong stuff, so go easy on it. If you don’t want smoke in your sauce, don’t smoke the onions and garlic, and leave out the liquid smoke.

  • 1 smoked onion
  • 2 smoked garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp Ancho chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp Guajillo chili powder
  • Or 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp barbecue rub
  • 1 ½ cups chili sauce or ketchup
  • ¾ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup beer
  • ¼ cup apple juice or orange juice
  • 4 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp dark molasses
  • 4 Tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ to 1 chipotle chili finely diced
  • ½ to 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (Optional)
  1. If you’re not smoking the onion and garlic, proceed to step 7.
  2. Prepare your smoker for cooking, bringing the temperature between 200 ̊-225 ̊ F.
  3. Peel and roughly chop the onion. Peel the garlic cloves.
  4. Place the chopped onion and garlic cloves in a shallow disposable aluminum pan with holes poked in the bottom, or you can make a pan with aluminum foil.
  5. Smoke the onion and garlic for 1 hour using hickory or apple wood.
  6. After the garlic has cooled, crush or mince it.
  7. Heat a medium saucepan over medium to medium low heat. When the pan is hot, add the canola oil and the onion and sauté for 5-8 minutes until the onion has browned slightly.
  8. Add the minced garlic and chili powders and sauté for 1 minute.
  9. Add the remaining ingredients. Cover the saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, until the flavors meld and the sauce thickens slightly.
  10. Cool slightly, then puree in a blender or use an immersion blender for a quick puree with less clean up.

At this point, you can let the sauce cool and then reheat it right before basting with it or serving it on the side. You can also serve it at room temperature.

This sauce stays fresh in the fridge for about two weeks. It’s still good after that, but the flavors aren’t quite as bright.

Store your sauce in the refrigerator in a covered glass or plastic container. Here’s a tip though…glass doesn’t stain as easily as plastic.

There you go. The best barbecue sauce recipe ever.

Enjoy!

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