Best Homemade Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce
How to make an easy BBQ sauce your family will love
The crazy thing about this recipe, I didn’t think my family was going to like it.
Have you experienced this?
Let me paint a typical picture - -
When it comes to the classics, the traditional down home goodies, my family doesn’t like me trying to healthify the gold standard. Boy, was I surprised when my teenage son was looking around in the fridge for the leftover homemade bbq sauce I had made the day before for our BBQ Beef Patties.
He even said, “Where is the good bbq sauce?” To which I thought he was referring to something other than this recipe. He found it and put some sauce on his leftover pork ribs. It was a very proud mom moment.
What makes this healthified?
The use of natural ingredients and sweetness alternatives.
Let’s look at a comparison: (this recipe’s closest compassion in taste is Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce.)
Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce vs My Best Homemade Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce
When you look at the nutrition facts there is a slight change which is good. As a nutrition and fitness coach, I believe 1% wins built upon themselves and result in BIG gains. It is the theory that tiny changes make a sizable impact.
I have seen it many times, small changes that make a big difference... they don't seem like they are making an impact at the time, but oh boy! they are most certainly making the chances better.
When making the switch to a healthier alternative think of it on a spectrum - you don’t have to try and go all in all the time. There are times you will cook a really healthy recipe and other times you will cook a recipe that is just a bit better. That is just fine. It all moves you forward on your healthier journey.
Notice all the scratched out ingredients in the purchased BBQ sauce. In this barbeque sauce recipe with vinegar in it, everything is natural which is a great definition of healthier food. People are healthier when they eat more whole (unprocessed) food and fewer processed foods.
With this recipe for BBQ sauce, easy is the name of the game. You don't have to worry about spending a lot of time making it. It literally is pour, heat, and stir.
Interesting fact: Do little changes matter?
One small controlled trial recently found that people ate 500 more calories a day when they ate a diet high in ultra-processed foods compared to a diet consisting mainly of minimally-processed foods. Those who ate the ultra-processed food also ate faster and gained weight.
Proving the point, tiny changes can save you weight gain and help you slow down your eating, which is a wonderful strategy to include whey you are eating your meals.
Using Molasses in your sauce
In this BBQ sauce style, the molasses helps balance out the tangy flavor of the vinegar. It may be why so many people enjoy Kansas City Style sauce. Molasses is a form of sugar and should be used in moderation. Because of the higher mineral content, the most nutritious type of molasses is blackstrap. It can be bitter in taste and will take a while to get used to, but I encourage you to try it in this recipe sometime.
What ingredients do you suggest are the most important when making a Kansas City Style Sauce? There is a comment section at the bottom of the page, be sure to tell us your special ingredients.
Homemade BBQ Sauce Ingredients:
To make this sauce you will need the following ingredients:
- Tomato sauce: I used a no salt added brand
- Tomato paste: This gives the sauce a rich tomato look and taste
- Apple cider vinegar: A barbeque sauce recipe made with vinegar adds a bit of tang
- Brown sugar: You can substitute the brown sugar with honey, but I prefer to use equal parts brown sugar and molasses
- Molasses: It is a Kansas City Style BBQ must.
- Spices: Paprika, garlic powder, cumin, black pepper, and kosher salt
The Store Brand was Better
You will find it is worth checking the labels on your ingredients. The goal for this recipe is to take a processed condiment and make it a bit healthier by cooking it from scratch, but also to make it easy. If there are too many steps to make it healthier - it wouldn’t be easy. Easy plus healthier is the goal.
I was surprised to learn that the store brand had less sodium in the can of tomato paste than the name brand. Even the slight difference makes an impact on the overall health of this recipe.
Mealtime conversation starters
Creating memorable conversations is an easy way for couples to increase their bond. Plus it leads to interesting meal discussions. You may just find out something you didn’t know.
Ask this question as you enjoy your meal with homemade Kansas City Style BBQ sauce.
What’s your most embarrassing story about being sick?
Best Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce
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- 16 oz Hunts no salt added tomato sauce (2-8oz cans - for substitutions see notes)
- 6 oz tomato paste
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar or sub red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup molasses optional, or sub maple syrup
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 dashes hot pepper sauce or sub 2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt (for substitutions see notes)
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes.
- Take off the heat. Cover with a lid slightly ajar and allow steam to escape. Stir occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Enjoy immediately or let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
What to do with the leftover tomato paste or sauceFreeze it. I can’t tell you how many times I have had tomato sauce or paste grow mold on it in my fridge because I didn’t need the entire can for the recipe I used.
How to freeze tomato paste or sauce
- Measure 2 tablespoons of paste or sauce.
(2 tablespoons equal 1 oz. This makes it easy to add the amount you need in your next recipe creation.)
- Place the measured 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce or paste on a mini cookie sheet.
- Freeze until hard. (I generally wait until the next day to do the next step)
- Once frozen, place the 2 tablespoons portions into a freezer-safe sandwich bag.
- PRO TIP: With a permanent marker write what it is. (I have been known to not write what is in the bag and then have a not so fun, freezer guessing game.)
- Safely keeps in the freezer for 3 months, but I have kept it in longer with no issues.
Tomato SauceIf you choose a conventional tomato sauce rather than no-salt-added, please be aware that the nutrition value related to sodium will change dramatically.
SaltSimilarly, if you choose to use regular table salt rather than kosher salt, the sodium will increase because kosher salt has a bigger flake, and less salt fits into a teaspoon.
BBQ sauce from ketchup - A quick substituteNote: it does increase the sugar load When I am in a hurry I substitute Heinz Ketchup sweetened only with honey. I use the same amount as the tomato sauce and paste combined, 21 oz which equals 2 and ½ cups and 2 tablespoons.
Hand Size Portions
When you look at the nutritional values of a meal to log what you are eating, that is called tracking macros. A lot of people use this method to reach their health goals.
Looking at hand portion size and using this method to gauge how and what you eat is also a great method to help you reach your health goals. Many people who use this method often think this form of tracking meals is easier and more sustainable for a lifetime.
Want to learn more about hand portion size and how to use it to reach your goals? Check out the article How to Get Started with Hand Portion Sizes.
Michelle Johnson Jerome is an expert on busting through perfectionism. She is passionate about helping others live life with purpose and joy.
By drawing on her extensive experience as a nutrition coach, personal trainer, and yoga instructor she helps develop a realistic approach to goal setting that allows you to make progress and stop obsessing over mistakes. Find other articles written by Michelle on her coach profile. Discover your "easy button": learn how to manage life's unpleasant parts so you can move forward, reach your goals, and live your best life.