Thursday, February 7, 2013

Homemade Sweet n' Spicy Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce

How to Make Homemade BBQ Sauce |

It makes me a little sick to think that one of the most popular store-brand barbecue sauces is Sweet Baby Ray's. Know why? The number one ingredient in that sauce is HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP (HFCS). 


Check the ingredients list on the back of the bottle next time you're at the store. Or maybe you have a bottle in your cupboard or fridge right now. Ingredients are listed in descending order, beginning with what's used most in the recipe (largest amount). Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce's first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. 

For a BBQ sauce, you'd expect it to be tomato sauce or ketchup, right? Or even plain ol' sugar, dark brown sugar or molasses. Not this. I get that it's a super sweet sauce, but that doesn't excuse the fact that they are using a super processed and very inexpensive ingredient to cut costs while sweetening their sauces. 

Know why it's so cheap to make? Cause it comes from corn, which is a crop that's subsidized by the U.S. Government. You know the majority of corn comes from a genetically modified seed, right? In other words, genetically modified to kill bugs (made their stomachs erupt) when they consume it. Among a host of other things. Sounds tasty, eh? 

People are raving about this brand all over Pinterest. If only they knew what was really in it! Especially since it's so darn easy to make your own barbecue sauce. Ridiculously easy. And guess what? You can add as much or as little sugar as you'd like. Add more for a super sweet Kansas City-style sauce or less for a more vinegary flavor. 

The point is you can make it at home for less money and it won't have all the shitty, fake, super-processed ingredients in it like high fructose corn syrup or monosodium-glutamate (MSG). 

And before I give you the recipe, let me be clear that this post was not created to attack Sweet Baby Ray's. They are one of MANY brands that sweetens their products with over-processed or weirdly engineered ingredients. 

That said, it's up to YOU to avoid these brands by rigorously reading the ingredients label of EVERYTHING you buy. Especially bread, cereal, crackers, sauces, yogurts, ice cream, granola bars...the list goes on. 

If it's something that's sweet, it's probably in it. If it's savory, it may be in it as well. Keep an eye out!

Sweet n' Spicy Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce
A sweet, thick, kansas city-style barbecue sauce with plenty of kick! Using all natural ingredients (no high fructose corn syrup), you can easily make homemade BBQ sauce that'll rival or surpass your favorite brand in only 20 minutes. Save money and eat healthier by ditching store-bought bottles that are filled with gross ingredients! Make this vegan friendly by omitting the butter.
Slightly Adapted from Serious Eats' Sauced: Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce
Yield: Roughly 2 1/2 cups


2 tablespoons of salted butter (use pastured butter if you can)
2/3 cup of organic dark brown sugar (use less if you want it more spicy/vinegary & less sweet)
1/3 cup organic apple cider vinegar (I highly recommend this brand)
2 tablespoons of yellow (or jalapeno) mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons of onion powder, sifted
1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
1 heaping tablespoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups of organic homemade ketchup* (or an organic brand without HFCS)
1/2 cup of organic tomato sauce**
2 or 3 shakes of Worcestershire sauce (from the bottle)
2 shakes of jalapeno hot pepper sauce or Tabasco (from the bottle)

*Regular Heinz ketchup is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup; however, their "organic" and "Simply Heinz" varieties are not. {Edit: A reader just brought something to my attention. Apparently, Heinz uses GMO beet sugar to sweeten their "Simply Heinz" variety and while you're avoiding HFCS you should also steer clear of this. I'd recommend looking for an organic brand or making it yourself.}     

**If you don't have tomato sauce on hand, feel free to use all ketchup (or better yet, homemade ketchup). You can also skip the ketchup and use all tomato sauce instead (2 cups total); however, I have not tried that yet. I assume you'd have to increase the amount of onion, garlic and vinegar slightly to account for the missing ingredients found in flavored ketchup. 

The onion powder has a tendency to clump, so it'll help to sift it first (optional). Melt the butter on low in a small to medium-sized saucepan equipped with a lid. When that's melted, combine the rest of the ingredients in the pan and stir thoroughly. Turn the heat up to medium and, stirring occasionally, heat until the sauce starts to simmer (not quite a boil). 

Reduce to low heat, cover with the lid and cook for 15-20 minutes. If you have leftovers, refrigerate in a tightly sealed container. Most recipes claim it stays good for up to a month, but I doubt that's necessary. My sauce is always consumed within a few days!

Notes & Tips

Mix this sauce with slow cooked pork shoulder to make phenomenal BBQ pulled pork!

This is just a starter recipe. I'm perfectly happy with it since it's my favorite style of BBQ sauce; however, feel free to experiment by using fresh onions or garlic, adding in some liquid smoke, etc. Get creative!

More homemade condiment & sauce recipes:

Question for Discussion: What's your favorite style of barbecue sauce? Does it come from a particular region? 

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  1. You're right, Elaina, making your own BBQ does seem super easy! How long have you kept this in your fridge before it seems like it turned?

    1. Great question, Tony. I've made it twice and both times have used it within 4-5 days; however, most of the recipes I've looked at say it lasts up to a month in the fridge, so long as it's properly stored with a tight fitting lid. A few sites have claimed that it will only last a week since the butter or oil in it will make it spoil quicker. I'm not sure about this claim. If you do make it, let me know long it keeps!

    2. I forgot one thing. My stepmother has been making homemade barbecue sauce for awhile now and she says hers lasts several months in the fridge.

  2. I just found this recipe on Pinterest and am so excited. It is soo hard to find a good Kansas City style sauce let alone one without HFCS in it. I'm going to give this one a try for sure!

    1. Awesome! Let me know how it turns out, especially if you tweak it. There are so many ways to jazz up barbecue sauce! Thanks for stopping by! :)


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