Easy to Make Kansas City BBQ Sauce & Rub Recipes

Kansas City barbecue is most often seasoned with a dry rub, then slow-smoked over a variety of woods and served with a thick tomato-based barbecue sauce. The Kansas City BBQ sauce is an integral part of Kansas City-style BBQ. In fact, when you think of what barbecue and barbecue sauce taste like, you’re probably thinking of the distinctive Kansas City barbecue taste.

Most people will tell you that any proper visit to KC must include at least one all-out barbecue feast. And while you should definitely treat yourself to the real deal next time you’re in Kansas City, MO, it’s also easy to make your own at home with our Kansas City style BBQ recipe.

pork ribs

Who Invented Kansas City Style Ribs?

African American Chef Henry Perry, aka the Father of Kansas City Barbecue, found a rack of pork ribs that had been thrown away at the Kansas City stockyards. Like any good pit-master, Perry hated to see a part of the pig go to waste, so he slow-smoked the ribs until they were tender, thus inventing one of the most important styles of barbecue in the U.S.

Today, Arthur Bryant’s (1727 Brooklyn Ave, Kansas City, MO 64127) is usually the first place that comes up if you ask about Kansas City ribs and BBQ.

While Arthur Bryant’s is the most historic place to enjoy Kansas City BBQ, there are plenty of amazing barbecue joints in “KCMO” experimenting with their own styles and cooking techniques.

What is Different About Kansas City Style Ribs?

bbq ribs
Photo Credit: Q39

No baby backs here—in Kansas City, they barbecue ribs as a whole rack complete with burnt ends, rib tips, and lots of succulent fat. (If you’ve never had barbecued burnt ends, move that to the top of your list!)

And there’s no mistaking KC ribs when you taste them—the smoky flavor of the dry rub and the sweet, tangy sauce makes it obvious why the City of Fountains is considered one of best barbecue cities in the U.S.

Unlike Memphis-style ribs which are prepared with only a dry rub, Kansas City-style ribs lay on the sauce during and after they’re smoked with more available at the table, just in case.

What’s the Difference Between St. Louis Ribs and Kansas City Ribs?

Like St. Louis style ribs, Kansas City ribs are spare ribs taken from the belly of the pig, which makes them meatier and more marbled with fat that renders while cooking and adds extra flavor.

St. Louis-style ribs are squared off with the “rib tips” removed, while in Kansas City they smoke the whole rib rack, tips and all and retain the natural shape of the rib slab. Both the St. Louis style and KC style use dry rub.

What is the Difference Between St. Louis BBQ and Kansas City BBQ?

It’s all in the sauce: while they share some ingredients, St. Louis-style bbq sauce is thinned out with vinegar, making it less sweet and giving it an acidic kick. Kansas City-style bbq sauce is thicker and balances sweet, sour, and spice.

The sweetness comes from a tomato base and brown sugar instead of white sugar, meaning you can douse your meat in KC sauce and smoke it long enough to be extra tender without getting sticky and over-caramelized.

How to Make Rub & Sauce for Kansas City, MO Style Ribs

Kansas City-style ribs are a beloved barbecue delicacy known for their bold flavors and tender meat. To create this iconic dish, a dry rub featuring a blend of herbs and spices is generously applied to the ribs, infusing them with savory goodness. The ribs are then slow-cooked over low heat, allowing the flavors to develop and the meat to become incredibly tender.

How to Make the Rub

Kansas City dry rub is made with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen!

Yield: 1/2 cup

Kansas City-style BBQ Rub

bbq rub
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients: brown sugar, paprika, black pepper, kosher salt, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.
  2. Stir the ingredients until well combined, ensuring that there are no clumps.
  3. Taste the rub and adjust the seasoning according to your preference. If you prefer a spicier rub, you can increase the amount of cayenne pepper.
  4. Once the rub is ready, transfer it to an airtight container or a spice jar for storage.

To use the Kansas City-style BBQ rub:

  1. Ensure that the ribs are clean and dry.
  2. Generously apply the rub to all sides of the meat, pressing it into the surface to help it adhere. (note: once the rub starts to fall off instead of cling to the meat, that means you’ve applied enough.)
  3. Let the meat sit with the rub for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to penetrate, or wrap them in plastic wrap and let them rest in the fridge up to overnight.
  4. Cook the meat using your preferred method, such as grilling, smoking, or roasting, until it reaches the desired doneness.

Notes

This homemade Kansas City-style BBQ rub adds a perfect balance of sweet, savory, and smoky flavors to your favorite meats, creating a delicious Kansas City barbecue experience.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 51Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 673mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 2gSugar: 8gProtein: 1g

How to Make the Sauce 

Yield: 2 Cups

Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce

bbq sauce

This Kansas City barbeque sauce recipe is so simple and so tasty that you’ll never need store-bought sauce again, and you’ve probably already got the ingredients:

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the minced garlic and sauté for about 1 minute until fragrant.
  3. Add the ketchup, water, cider vinegar, brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, and cayenne pepper to the saucepan. Stir well to combine.
  4. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low.
  5. Let the sauce simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking or burning. This will allow the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken slightly.
  6. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if desired. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, you can add more brown sugar. For a spicier sauce, increase the amount of cayenne pepper.
  7. Once the sauce has reached your desired consistency and flavor, remove it from the heat and let it cool.
  8. Transfer the sauce to a jar or airtight container and refrigerate it until ready to use. The flavors will continue to develop as the sauce sits, so it's even better when made ahead of time.

Notes

This homemade Kansas City-style BBQ sauce is perfect for basting on grilled or smoked meats, such as ribs, chicken, or pulled pork. Enjoy!



Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 121Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 406mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 1gSugar: 16gProtein: 1g

How to Cook the Ribs in the Oven

pork ribs in oven

While Kansas City barbeque purists might tell you that the only way to cook ribs is in a smoker, the advantage of cooking in an oven is how accurately you can control the heat. Ribs want low, even heat to cook slowly and become fall-off-the-bone tender.

Preheat your oven to 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large, rimmed baking tray with aluminum foil and place a cooling rack on top of the foil. Place your rubbed ribs on top of the cooling rack so that it’s not making direct contact with the foil-lined tray.

Place the tray of ribs in the oven and cook for two hours. After two hours, remove the ribs from the oven and wrap them in aluminum foil (not tightly). Return to the oven to cook for another two hours at 225-250 degrees until they reach an internal temperature of 185 degrees Fahrenheit and bend in the middle when picked up. Sauce can be added during the last hour of cooking or after the ribs are totally cooked.

How to Cook the Ribs on the Grill 

pork ribs on grill

Heat charcoal and add it to one side of the grill. If you want to imitate the flavor of a smoker, you can add chunks of hardwood to the charcoal. Let the coals cook down to a temperature of about 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put the grate over the coals and place the ribs, meaty side down, on the side of the grill opposite the coals. This will keep the ribs from getting too much direct heat.

Cook for one hour, then flip the ribs every thirty minutes for an additional two to three hours for a total cooking time of three to four hours. If the ribs start to dry out, wrap them loosely in aluminum foil halfway through cooking, or apply sauce (but make sure your grill isn’t too hot or the sauce will burn).

When the rib rack bends in the middle, check to make sure they’ve reached an internal temperature of about 185 degrees Fahrenheit.

Apply more sauce and serve.

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