Kansas City Rib Sauce

Kansas City Rib Sauce

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 25 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Yield: 2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
55 Calories
3g Fat
8g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 55
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 4%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 163mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 1mg 4%
Calcium 10mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 85mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This is a rich, thick, tomato-based barbecue sauce recipe in the Kansas City style. You get that traditional combination of sweet with a touch of heat in a dark, rich sauce.

Pork ribs are a traditional part of Kansas City barbecue, which also embraces beef ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and more. Kansas City pork ribs are given a slightly spicy rub, smoked "low and slow," then finished with a thick tomato-based barbecue sauce. This sauce will be very familiar to you as it has become the style typically produced for bottled barbecue sauce.

With this recipe, you won't be stuck picking up a store brand that may have high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, artificial smoke, and other ingredients you may prefer to avoid. It uses ketchup, so you will need to choose which ketchup to add. You may have an organic brand you prefer. Or, even better, your own homemade ketchup. Feel free to adjust the heat by changing the amount of cayenne called for in the recipe.

This recipe will make enough sauce for one rack of ribs. Double or triple the recipe if you are making more slabs.

The side dishes you would typically see with Kansas City barbecue include baked beans, french fries, and coleslaw.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) ketchup

  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) water

  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons paprika

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Kansas City Rib Sauce ingredients

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  2. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add garlic and cook over medium-high heat for 20 seconds. Take care not to burn the garlic.

    garlic and oil in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  3. Add the remaining ingredients—ketchup, water, cider vinegar, brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, and cayenne, and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer on low for 13 to 15 minutes until thickened. Stir occasionally. Watch for burning and reduce the heat or take it off of the burner, if needed.

    Kansas City Rib Sauce ingredients in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  4. Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes before using on ribs.

    Kansas City Rib Sauce in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  5. Prior to using the sauce on the ribs, set some sauce aside for a table sauce.

    Kansas City Rib Sauce in a bowl

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga


  • Store any unused sauce (that hasn't come into contact with uncooked meat) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week after preparation. The sauce can be made up to one week in advance. Simply reheat the sauce on the stovetop or in a microwave to use within 5 minutes.
  • If you are brushing the ribs with sauce, it should only be done while they are on low heat. The sugar in this sauce will burn at temperatures above 265 F, so this sauce should not be used for grilling. Usually, the sauce is added in the last hour of smoking.

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