Simple Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce

barbecue chicken

Remember my grilling phase?  It was the one I found myself engulfed in just before my “Felicity” phase (still in full swing, by the by), if that helps to jog your memory. 

Well, it’s seen quite the resurgence since I got home from San Antonio—where I’d only days before scarfed a serious amount of seriously good barbecued pork. The only real trouble I’ve run into here at home with my grill is: it’s making me complacent.

Entering rutsville.

barbecue chicken

I haven’t been too adventurous or creative with what I’ve chosen to char and for the most part, I’m just constantly rotating the same six or seven summery favorites: chicken, pork, steak, veggies, s’mores…

barbecue chicken

Solution for the moment? S’more s’mores.

But inevitably, the marshmallows or the grahams run out—never the chocolate—and I’ve been forced to turn boldly to homemade sauces.

barbecue chicken

First on my list: Kansas City-style barbecue sauce—so named because it follows in the tradition of Kansas City’s signature sweet, spicy, and tangy barbecue. Here, I’ve achieved the flavor and texture with a thick tomato base (ketchup), brown sugar, molasses—for richness and depth, vinegar—for welcomed tang, and chipotle chile in adobo—for an interesting dimension of spice and certainly for heat.

barbecue chicken

I don’t want to get all gushy here, because, well, ohmybarbecuuue, so how ’bout we just leave it at this: make it. Use it to baste chicken breasts while you’re grilling, then generously brush some more on top once they’ve developed a smoky caramelized crust on all sides. And just as you’re about to take your first bite, swish your forkful of chicken through the tiny pool of sauce that has formed on your plate. You will not regret it.


Simple Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce

Yield: 2 cups, 16 Servings

Serving Size: 2 tablespoons


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, finely chopped (sold in a can in the Latin foods section)


  1. Heat the oil in a sauce pan set over medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the ketchup and stir to incorporate. Add the molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, and chipotle chile. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until it has thickened slightly, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Allow the sauce to cool slightly, then transfer it to a blender and pulse until smooth. Brush it on grilled chicken, beef, pork, or use it as a sandwich spread or a dipping sauce. The sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


Nutrition Information for 1 Serving (2 tablespoons): Calories 70, Total Fat 0.9 g, Total Carbohydrate 15 g, Dietary Fiber 0.1 g, Sugars 14.1 g, Protein 0.1 g


  1. says

    I’m a Memphis BBQ gal because that’s where I spent 21 years of my life there so I’m kind of partial to the Memphis heat but this really does look delicious and the great thing is I have everything on hand to make it. That’s always a plus.

    And s’mores. Gah. How can you go wrong with roasting those babies all the time. My favorite.

  2. Jennifer says

    I’ve been itching to make a bbq sauce, this will be my first attempt since it sounds delectable!

    Tis the season!

  3. Hootie says

    Awesome! Thanks :) I LOVE chipotle in all forms that I have tried (many). Trust, as soon as I make my way through the haul I brought home from the store yesterday and need to go to the store again, I will make this. Made your strawberry banana pancake recipe again minus the strawberry and banana plus thawed frozen blueberries…success!
    My phase right now is Ally McBeal on Netflix, highly recommended! I love the episode when this happens

    • says

      Two things: 1. YES to blueberry pancakes! Making them this weekend! 2. My friend Camille rewatched all of Ally McBeal two years ago on Netflix and this is bringing me back. Should I watch? Will the dancing baby scare me? :)

Leave a Reply

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