Skinnytaste > Grilling Recipes > Homemade Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce

Homemade Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

Homemade sweet and spicy Kansas City BBQ sauce made with tomato sauce, honey, molasses, vinegar and spices.

Homemade sweet and spicy Kansas City style BBQ sauce made with tomato sauce, honey, molasses, vinegar and spices.
Kansas City BBQ Sauce

This homemade BBQ sauce is so easy to make from scratch. Simply combine the ingredients and simmer on the stove for less than 30 minutes. The results are a thick, tangy sauce with the perfect balance of sweetness and spice. This Kansas City BBQ sauce is perfect on Slow Cooker Pulled PorkBBQ Shrimp, chicken, ribs, or beef.

Homemade sweet and spicy Kansas City BBQ sauce made with tomato sauce, honey, molasses, vinegar and spices.

Homemade BBQ Sauce

The best part of making BBQ sauce from scratch is that you have complete control of what goes into it, whether it’s the amount of heat or sugar. Did you know most brands of BBQ sauces and ketchup sold in the supermarket contain high fructose corn syrup? Don’t worry – I also have a homemade ketchup recipe!

My daughter Karina makes ribs with this sauce, which she claims are the BEST because of the simple homemade BBQ sauce. She made them for me recently, and I agree they were amazing. She made a rub for the ribs and then baked them in the oven for two hours. While they baked, she whipped up this BBQ sauce and then slathered it all over the ribs towards the end.

Kansas City BBQ Sauce Ingredients

While the ingredient list may be long, the ingredients require no prep, so it goes pretty fast. Just measure and pour into the pot.

  • Tomatoes: canned tomato sauce and tomato paste make up the base of the sauce.
  • Sweetener: Kansas City BBQ sauce is sweeter, so I use honey and molasses.
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Liquid Smoke: Liquid smoke is found near the BBQ sauce at supermarkets.
  • Spices: Cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, chili powder

How To Make BBQ Sauce

  1. Making BBQ sauce is easy! Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Let it cool before transferring it to a mason jar or container.
  3. Refrigerate the sauce for up to a week or freeze it in small containers or an ice cube tray for a few months.
  4. To use the sauce, brush it over chicken, meat, shrimp, etc. towards the end of the cooking time – about 10 minutes before it’s finished.


  • If you don’t like spicy BBQ sauce, leave the cayenne out.
  • If you want it less sweet, use less honey.
  • I recommend using the molasses, but maple syrup would work if you don’t have it.
  • If you don’t have liquid smoke, you can skip it, or use smoked paprika instead of regular.
  • Swap apple cider vinegar for red wine vinegar.

Homemade BBQ Sauce Ingredients.Homemade sweet and spicy Kansas City style BBQ sauce made with tomato sauce, honey, molasses, vinegar and spices.Homemade sweet and spicy Kansas City BBQ sauce made with tomato sauce, honey, molasses, vinegar and spices.Homemade sweet and spicy Kansas City style BBQ sauce made with tomato sauce, honey, molasses, vinegar and spices.

More BBQ Recipes You’ll Love:

Homemade Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce

4.95 from 40 votes
Sweet and spicy Kansas City style BBQ sauce made with tomato sauce, honey, molasses, vinegar and spices.
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: American
Homemade sweet and spicy Kansas City style BBQ sauce made with tomato sauce, honey, molasses, vinegar and spices.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Yield: 17 servings
Serving Size: 2 tbsp


  • 1 1/3 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup molasses, unsulfured
  • 2 tsp all natural hickory liquid smoke, Colgin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder


  • In a large saucepan combine all the ingredients and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • Let it cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • For using on grilled meat, brush onto chicken, pork or beef the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Last Step:

Please leave a rating and comment letting us know how you liked this recipe! This helps our business to thrive and continue providing free, high-quality recipes for you.


Makes 2 cups + 2 tbsp. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.


Serving: 2 tbsp, Calories: 65 kcal, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Protein: 0.5 g, Sodium: 362 mg, Fiber: 0.5 g, Sugar: 10 g


Photo credit: Jess Larson

Rate and review this recipe!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this Recipe:

152 comments on “Homemade Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce”

  1. So simple and flavourful! I’ve made this sauce many times for use with the Skinnytaste slow cooker pulled pork recipe. It’s always a hit with my family and guests. I love knowing exactly what goes into my sauce. It is also delicious on barbecued chicken.

  2. I made this bbq, all I had to add was a tsp of celery seed, but the sauce with or without celery seed is amazing

  3. Why have I ever purchased barbecue sauce in the store if I can have this? Wow! I made this for the pulled pork recipe, and I thought of cutting it down to yield the 1 cup needed but knew it could mess with the seasonings. And now I realize I may drink the rest before it goes into the refrigerator. I cannot stop eating it. This is so good!

    1. This was good but a little too tomato sauce taste. Next time I think I’ll scale back on the tomato sauce and I didn’t have molasses. I will use it next time. I used chicken breast and put it into the crockpot came out fine.

  4. We like spice and this sauce was too spicy for most. Even omitted the chili powder and only used 1/2 the cayenne pepper and it still has a good kick. Or perhaps my spices are just really fresh. Delicious flavors but proceed with caution on the pepper amounts. Enjoyed it on Gina’s easy and satisfying pulled pork.

  5. This sauce is fabulous. I roughly doubled the recipe for 2.5 lbs. of meat, since I shred my mine more than the typical restaurants (mine is no more than 3/16″, mostly less). I thought I would a bit leftover, but I used it all. It was the perfect amount.

  6. My son loves BBQ sauce but I have such a hard time finding one with no high fructose corn syrup. We just made this and my son said it’s his new favorite! So easy and so delicious!!! 

  7. Sounds delicious!  I was wondering if it freezes well, there are only two of us and I would probably only use 1/2 a cup at a times so I’m curious if it would freeze well? 

  8. My husband and I really enjoyed this sauce. I live in Tokyo and it’s hard to find good American style BBQ sauce so this was a winner. Very easy to make and made a good amount. I’m going to be making this all summer for pulled pork and chicken!

  9. Avatar photo

    I have really liked every recipe I have tried from Skinnytaste and I like this one too. On the bbq sauce I omitted the cinnamon the second time I made it, added more pepper, garlic salt, onion powder and smoked paprika.

  10. Avatar photo
    Seana Borgeson

    First I want to say thank you for taking the time to add WW points. Why is it more on Blue then it is on green and purple? It kind of seems impossible for any recipe to be more on blue then on green..

  11. Question for you Gina~ After cooking this, can it be jarred and canned like a I do a jam for longer shelf life? This BBQ sauce is AMAZING!!

      1. Yes. The beauty of cooking via a recipe is that anyone that has a general understanding of flavors is that you’re able to omit or add flavors that you’re familiar with and that jive with the recipe overall. If you omit the liquid smoke, it will taste different, but it won’t destroy the sauce. You just won’t have the smoky flavor that liquid smoke provides i.e. as if you cooked your meat on a smoker. Good luck!!

  12. Someone suggested using an ice cube tray to freeze portions of bbq sauce. Is there any reason it wouldn’t be advisable with this recipe? Has anyone tried freezing this? Thank you!

    1. Yes, I have put this in the freezer! I make this (from one of Gina’s cookbook recipes, looks like the same ingredients), enchilada sauce and the Mariana sauce recipes on the same day if I can and freeze them all.  I have little ice cream containers I put them in, but I’ve also cooled the sauce and put it in ziplock freezer bags per cup. No issues for me and I’ve been doing that for a while!

  13. I’ve made this multiple times for use with a recipe for crock pot pulled pork.

    This is a very good barbecue sauce! It’s got some kick, so for those of you that might not want so much heat, don’t put in cayenne. I like it just as it is.
    It is comparable to what you will find at a good southern BBQ place.

  14. How long does it last in the fridge? I have some I made a few months ago but I’m not sure if it’s still good.

  15. I’m sorry if I missed this, but wondering how many freestyle points this is? I made it last night and absolutely love it!

  16. This is simply the best BBQ sauce EVER!  Made it exactly as written and I might use a little less cayenne next time…it’s a little spicy but not too much when paired with food.  Love this sauce!

    1. Wegmans sells molasses. Its in the baking/spice aisle.
      I think just about any grocery store sells it…I’ve bought it many times over the years. TIP: make sure you don’t buy the “Blackstrap” molasses that usually sold right next to the regular because it has a different flavor profile…very strong taste!

  17. I have been making this sauce for years, so obviously I love it. Now I am vegan and I still make it. I simply swap some maple syrup for the honey. I like heat, so I add lots of cayenne and chili powder. Tonight I will be simmering my lentil meatballs in the sauce to serve as an appetizer for our guests. 

  18. This has become my got to recipe for BBQ sauce. My friend made a huge batch and sent me the recipe and I have been using it ever since. I’ll switch up the flavors and use a  mesquite flavor depending on the crowd. Love this!!!! Even if your a beginner it’s super easy to whip up. And people will be so amazed how easy it actually was for you to make it (or play it up. I’m not judging). 

  19. Very good BBQ Sauce. I substituted equal portions of Honey for the Molasses. Separate and add more cayenne to a portion for some with a kick. Family loved it. Good on pulled pork and trying on ribs today.

  20. I made this tonight to use for your pulled pork recipe and it was phenomenal! Next time I think I’ll add a less honey because it was just a little sweet for my taste but this recipe is definitely a keeper.  The sauce on the pork was perfect! Thank you!!

  21. Would it work to parboil my chicken in this sauce before putting it on the grill? I've done that with a different recipe that is also a marinade, and I like to partially cook my chicken before grilling.

  22. This is my go-to recipe for BBQ sauce… everyone loves it and asks for the recipe, and I gladly direct them to your site, Gina!

  23. What do you use for tomato sauce? I need a suggestion for a good quality one. Thanks! I love your blog 🙂

  24. Made this tonight and was super happy with the result! I can't believe I made bbq sauce (to go along with your pulled pork recipe). I substituted brown sugar for the molasses because I didn't have molasses, and it turned out fine. For us, I think I'll half the cayenne and black pepper, but that's just a personal preference. Thanks!

  25. Do you think maple syrup would work in place of the honey? I've made this many times since you first posted but we gave up honey a few months ago. I love this recipe and really hope I can still make it!

  26. Avatar photo
    Chantal Vandereems

    I've just finished making some of this delicious BBQ sauce. I plan on using one cup of it for the Pulled Pork recipe and have some in a small container to brush on my turkey burgers. However, I still have 2 cups left. Can I freeze it?

  27. OK…SO YUM!!!! Little too sweet for my buds, so I just added 1/2 more of the required measurements of spices and smoke…and viola..perfection! Also, to thicken up a bit, just add a bit of corn starch, like 1/2 tsp. Thanks make clean eating fun!

  28. This BBQ sauce is awesome! Thank you! I've made other recipes that did not taste that great, but this one is amazing!

  29. When you say "Tomato Sauce", what do you actually mean. I'm an Aussie – do you mean tomato ketchup, marinara sauce, passata or something else?

  30. This was much too sweet for my taste. What is the best way to adjust this recipe so that it's less sweet and more like traditional BBQ sauce??? Thank you so much for the recipe. I really had no idea you could make your own BBQ sauce!

    1. couple options. If you want more spice, add more cayenne or add some hot sauce/tobasco sauce. If you want to just tone down the sweet flavor, reduce the amount of Molasses a LITTLE. It's super sweet so I would say add maybe half the amount and taste and add a little at a time from there. The honey is much milder in flavor than the molasses but i'm sure that could be adjusted too.

  31. I really like this barbeque sauce. I make it whenever I have pulled pork. I do leave the liquid smoke out though because I don't like the taste of that.

  32. Avatar photo
    Valerie Willis

    Just finished making this and it is AMAZING! It has a nice kick at the end 🙂 Thanks for another amazing recipe!

  33. Do you think I could substitute the red wine vingegar with rice vinegar or white wine vinegar? I have red cooking wine, but not red wine vinegar. Any suggestions?

  34. I don't know if you're still answering questions about this or not, but I have all ingredients on hand except molasses. Could I substitute something?

  35. OMG – I just made this in preparation for the mini bbq turkey meat loaves with bacon. This is amazing. I don't think I ever need to buy another bbq sauce ever again. And to save time for the next batch I measured out all the dry ingredients and put it in a little container so it is ready to go. All I need to do from there is mix the the canned and liquid ingrediants, add in the already measured out spices and I'll be good to go. Can't wait to see how the turkey meat loafs turn out – I am sure they will be yummy!

  36. Avatar photo
    Quick Question

    I know you say to 'brush the sauce on to the meat the last 10 minutes on the grill'…But I am wondering what would happen if you put this sauce on the meat and set it in the fridge over night before cooking…Would it work at all like a marinade, or does it just work best added to the meat at the end (as you originally said)? THANKS! It looks great, I can't wait to try it either way! 🙂

  37. Hi, I was just wondering what tomato sauce is, is it like a passata or tomato puree? I'm assuming it's not Ketchup because that's essentially what tomato sauce is here 🙂

    1. Here is a previous reply to similar question:

      Anonymous5/8/12 11:21 AM

      3/4 of a cup (which is the small 6 fl. oz can) of tomato paste plus 1 cup of water can be substituted for 2 cups of tomato sauce according to my Better Homes and Gardens cook book. I would mix this and then measure out 1 and 1/3 cups or even a little less. I don't think it has to be exact. I hope that makes sense (what you mix up will be 1 and 3/4 cups but it is the equivalent of 2 cups of tomato sauce).

  38. My sauce just finished! Think I put just a tad too much tomato sauce in. Any ideas on what to add more of to lessen the tomato flavor?

  39. My boyfriend picked this sauce over Sweet Baby Rays! Soooo good! (And no HFCS!) Perfect amount of spicy and sweet. Thanks for the great recipe!

  40. I don't want to cut out the honey (luv it). But don't have molasses. Can you use agave in place of the molasses ?

  41. Gina, I just tried this sauce, and it turned out amazingly well! I am a Kansas City native and BBQ lover, and it was everything I expected and more. My natural foods market didn't have all-natural liquid smoke, but they did have a smoke salt. I ended up grinding it down a little finer, but it was really a great substitute. Thanks again!

  42. We are on the Paleo diet in our house- would leaving out or using much less honey and molasses really mes this recipe up?

  43. Avatar photo
    Wookie Princess

    I made this last night. Had a little taste and it was great. We are having the pulled pork tonight! Love your recipes!

  44. I'm sorry, I'm stuck on the tomato sauce thing too. I'm Australian and what we call tomato sauce is essentially the same as ketchup in the US (so won't be able to find it labeled as 'tomato sauce' in the supermarket). Are you able to describe it any further (eg. a mix of tomato paste and tomato puree)? I'm so keen to try this!

    1. 3/4 of a cup (which is the small 6 fl. oz can) of tomato paste plus 1 cup of water can be substituted for 2 cups of tomato sauce according to my Better Homes and Gardens cook book. I would mix this and then measure out 1 and 1/3 cups or even a little less. I don't think it has to be exact. I hope that makes sense (what you mix up will be 1 and 3/4 cups but it is the equivalent of 2 cups of tomato sauce).

  45. Just found your sight, sounds great! Lots of awesome sounding recipes. I am trying to cut way back on sugar, corn syrup, ect. how could I do that in this recipe? Could I use splenda in place of ? Thanks

  46. I just made this sauce and OMG! That is all that i can say! I am simply in heaven as this is to die for! I can't wait to add it to the pork loin that I have in the crockpot for the pulled pork recipe! Thank you so much for this awesome recipe!

  47. it says 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp red wine vinegar–is that suppose to be 1/2 cup __ something? or is it all red wine vinegar

    1. You'll want to measure and add red wine vinegar twice. Measure 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar and add it to pot. Then Measure another 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar and add it in as well.

  48. Hi Gina – or anyone who has made this, can I please have more direction on the tomato sauce…can I use pureed tomatoes? Or when you say small can do you mean a small can of spaghetti sauce?

    1. Not spaghetti sauce. In the same aisle as the spaghetti sauce and puréed tomatoes, you will find cans that literally say "tomato sauce" ie Contadina makes one. If you get the small can (8 ounce), you will need two.

  49. I have not read all the comments so maybe this question has been asked and answered already so forgive me asking it again. How long, after made, will this sauce last in the refrigerator? Thanks

  50. Thank you! BBQ sauce is cooking on the stove. Tried a bit on some leftover chicken, and the heavens rejoiced! This will wn me big points in the favorite daughter, favorite BFF, favorite girlfriend categories

  51. Gina! I religiously check your blog every morning when the smokers at my office take their first break. I was so excited for this as I had pork in the crock pot for dinner tonight! It was a great addition to our meal and my husband has strengthened faith in my kitchen skills!

  52. Pulled pork is my favorite food of all time. I will make this sauce tonight so as soon as the pulled pork recipe is out I can make that. You have certainly brought a smile to my face today!!

  53. Can the liquid smoke be omitted without a drastic change to the taste? I don't care for it but my husband loves it (I see a compromise in our future).

  54. Avatar photo
    Annie |

    You had me at "liquid smoke"… YUM.
    And WAY less points than normal bbq sauce!!

  55. Excited to try this out…. being a kansas girl born and bred, I'll let you know what I think after I test it out!

    Thanks, Gina.

  56. I'm another KC native so I can't wait to try this. The best sauce here used HFCS. Ick. By the way, Hunts now makes ketchup without HFCS. I have seen it at all the regular grocery stores and usually buy it at SuoerTarget.

    1. Avatar photo
      Gina @ Skinnytaste

      I found an organic Heinz ketchup yesterday at the health food store that only uses organic sugar. I'm so happy!

  57. OK – this may sound dumb – but what do you mean by tomato sauce – do you mean tomato ketchup or something more like passate (seived tomato)?

  58. Mmmmmm can't wait for the pulled pork recipe, perfect timing because I have grocery shopping to do tomorrow!

  59. Soon as I saw that this was KC Style BBQ sauce, I couldn't resist coming by to see it! I'm from there originally and was thinking I need to try making a bbq sauce at home so I can control the ingredients. Will be adding this to my bbq list for warmer months!

  60. Yum….. cannot wait to make this….. I have a pork shoulder and wanted to crock it and this sauce will be PERFECT!

    As always – thank you!

  61. *sigh* I wish you'd have read my mind yesterday! I just read every label in the store and found TWO brands of barbeque sauce that didn't have HFCS. If I hadn't have bought some, I'd be making this over the weekend for the chicken I intend to barbeque in the oven.

    I am from Texas, and we like our sauce on the vinegar-y side, but this (and the store bought stuff) should work in a pinch. I need to scale down my dad's sauce recipe.

    1. I'm so excited to try this sauce!! I was just thinking about doing pulled BBQ chicken this week! But I do second this Gina– any chance you might consider tweaking it to have a Texas style sauce? OR advice on how that might work? Thanks for all your fantastic recipes!

  62. This looks awesome, definitely going to try out this weekend! Where did you buy all natural hickory liquid smoke?

    1. Liquid smoke is a dark liquid that has a wood smoked flavor to it. You should be able to find it in any grocery store. It's a smalle bottle usually around the bbq sauces or worschetshire. I use it all the time. I add it to my sauce for meatloaf, bbq baked beans, marinades for steak etc… Go easy with it, depending on how much smokey flavor you like, a little can go a long way.

  63. This is AWESOME!! I just used the last of our store bought BBQ sauce (on the amazing Crock Pot Kalua Pork!!), and had thought to do a search here on Skinnytaste to see if I could find a recipe….and here it is! Yay! Thank you very much!

    1. Avatar photo
      Gina @ Skinnytaste

      Sure, you can put it in the crock pot with water, add some onions, carrots and let it simmer all day, then shred.

  64. How long would it keep in the refrigerator? Is it something you could make a batch of and use until it's gone?

    1. Avatar photo
      Gina @ Skinnytaste

      I've kept it in the refrigerator for weeks and it was fine, but I'm not sure so I don't want to say they wrong thing.

    2. Gina, I threw out my liquid smoke years ago when I learned it was essentially liquid carcinogen, no thanks!! But I miss the flavor in my homemade ribs and now I see them in your bbq as "all natural liquid smoke" and my ears perked up!! Where can I get that and is it truly all natural?? Thanks so much, can't wait to try this sauce recipe!

    3. Liquid smoke is actually liquid smoke. There's nothing unnatural about it. It's literally just condensed smoke. The reason it's a carcinogen is that smokey things are actually carcinogenic! That nice burned crust on your chicken.. that crispy toast.. this is the price we pay for tasty things.

    4. Actually, many liquid smoke companies filter their product for the carcinogens you were talking about, which makes liquid smoke a lot safer than smoking/barbecuing something yourself.

    5. There is a spice company called 'Spice Barn' that produces a dry 'Hickory Smoke Powder' which works well for me when making up breakfast sausage spice mix.

  65. This is great! I was just looking at my BBQ sauce yesterday and wishing for something better. Now, I have it! 🙂

    Can't wait for your ketchup recipe!

    1. Ketchup is easy. I’m allergic to onion/garlic family so I had to figure it out. Tomato paste, water and cider vinegar, and salt to taste. Water added at the end for consistency.