One of the perks of getting stationed in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas is the close proximity to Kansas City. And, if the Food Network has taught you anything about Kansas City, it is that they take their barbecue very seriously! Here we share our go-to recipe for quick and easy Kansas City style barbecue sauce that you can make at home!

The History of Barbecue Sauce

The birth of Kansas City barbecue can be traced back to the early 1900s, when Henry Perry, a Tennessee transplant, began selling slabs of his slow-cooked ribs wrapped in newspaper on the side of the street. He amassed quite the cult following as he moved to various spots around the city, eventually landing his business in an old trolley barn. Hungry laborers quickly became hooked on the harsh and peppery barbecue sauce that coated his ribs. After Perry’s death in 1940, Charlie Bryant took over the restaurant, who then sold it to his brother Arthur a few years later. Arthur Bryant relocated the business again, changed the name, and revised Perry’s original recipe, namely with the addition of molasses to increase the level of sweetness found in the sauce. To this day, Arthur Bryant’s still operates out of the same location.

Currently, Kansas City boasts over 100 barbecue restaurants, and as the old saying goes, “Ask any two Kansas City residents where to get the best barbecue, and you’ll get three different answers!” Whether it is Arthur Bryant’s, Gates, Joe’s, Jack Stack, or one of the many mom-and-pop shops, everyone has their favorite!

The Kansas City Difference

So, what makes Kansas City style barbecue sauce different from other regional sauces, you ask? North Carolina’s version is traditionally a thin, vinegar-based sauce that soaks the meat as it cooks. South Carolina prides itself on their combination of mustard, vinegar, and spices. And Alabama? Well, their “white sauce” is a mixture of mayo (yes, mayo), vinegar, and spices. Kansas City style is much thicker than its other regional counterparts, relying heavily on ketchup as the base to bring a sweet tanginess to the sauce. From there, brown sugar, molasses, vinegar, and spices are incorporated and simmered until thickened, then it’s all slathered on to your meat of choice!

Barbecue Sauce Made at Home

To the meat-centric residents of the Midwest, barbecue is not a verb, it is a noun. It is a way of life, an institution, for those dedicated to its perfection. Now don’t get us wrong, we have much respect for the art of the barbecue. However, most of us simply do not have the time or equipment to be a pit master at home! Our recipe is super versatile — just simmer on the stove for 20-25 minutes, then allow to cool. It can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks or poured into freezer bags and frozen for later use!

The Recipe

Print Recipe
Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce
This tomato-based barbecue sauce is great slathered on ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and more!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
  1. Add all of the ingredients to a small pot over medium heat. Whisk until well combined, then allow to come to a low boil. Once the sauce starts to bubble, reduce the heat to med-low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.


We encourage you to experiment with your sauce! Like a little smoke flavor in your sauce? Add a teaspoon of liquid smoke! Want some kick? Shake some of your favorite hot sauce into the pot until it reaches your desired heat level!

How To Use Your Homemade Barbecue Sauce

You have this amazingly aromatic sauce simmering on the stove, now how are you going to use it? Here are some ideas:

  • Pour some of the sauce into a bag with chicken breasts, then seal and toss until the chicken is well coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours, then throw it onto the grill. Baste the chicken with more of the sauce as it cooks.
  • Add a pork shoulder to a crockpot along with 1/2 cup chicken broth and salt and pepper to taste. Cook the pork on low for 6-8 hours, until fork tender. Shred the pork, then stir in the barbecue sauce to taste. Serve on rolls with a side of coleslaw.
  • Make your own pizza! Either make your own homemade dough or buy premade pizza dough from the store. Omit the regular pizza sauce and substitute barbecue sauce instead! Pile on some shredded mozzarella, thinly sliced chicken breast, veggies, and pineapple for a fun barbecue chicken pizza night at home!
  • Pick up a slab or two of pork ribs from your grocery store or local butcher. Rinse the meat, then pat dry with paper towels. Rub the meaty side of the ribs with a hefty layer of a meat rub (we love this Holy Smokes Espresso Chili Rub from The Set Table). Wrap the ribs tightly in aluminum foil, then bake in a 250-degree oven for two and a half hours. Unwrap the foil, baste the ribs with a thick coating of barbecue sauce, then place back into the oven for 30 minutes to one hour. Serve with extra sauce on the side.

Want to see what your friends are cooking at other duty stations? Check out Living Like a Local: Okinawan Taco Rice for the down low on how to recreate this crave-worthy dish at home!

 Mastering Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce

Photo Credit: Christina Carter

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Christina is a Marine Corps spouse currently living in Southern California with her husband and two children (they're not bossy, they have leadership skills!). She started The Set Table, a meal kit delivery service in Okinawa, Japan in 2014, then opened Meriwether's, a coffee shop, cafe, and market, in Leavenworth, Kansas in 2015. When she is not cooking up new recipes in the kitchen or buried in receipts in Quickbooks, you can find her on the hunt for cute work out clothes in the hopes they will motivate her to go to the gym more frequently. In her spare (hahaha) time, Christina enjoys reading professional development books, spending time being active outdoors, and a good "that's what she said" joke, and thinks that there is never a wrong occasion for a glass of wine.


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