Papa's Semi-Famous Sweet-and-Savory BBQ Sauce Recipe

This is a Kansas City-style sauce, a variation of my father’s semi-famous* sweet barbecue sauce. Dad isn’t much for writing things down, and this sauce is no exception. He just starts mixing stuff up and says he knows it’s right by the color. I found this too mystical for my capabilities, so one day I finally got a notepad and measuring cup out and tracked all the ingredients and quantities he used so I could reproduce it. Over the years I’ve tweaked it a little to add molasses, which gives it a richer depth of flavor, and Bad Byron’s Butt Rub, which brings a spice complexity to it and adds a nice bit of heat on the back-end.

There’s more vinegar in this sauce than a true K.C. sauce, but I think it gives it a better balance. It’s got a great, zesty flavor and a fair amount of brown sugar, so it sticks to the meat really well and forms a succulent, sweet crust that takes ribs and chicken to another level. Apply the sauce the last 15 minutes of your cook over direct heat as the high sugar content will cause flare-ups if you apply too early.


Ingredient List

4 cups ketchup (I recommend Heinz)

2 cups dark brown sugar

1.5 cups apple cider vinegar

1 heaping Tbsp dark molasses

1 tsp ginger (powdered, paste or fresh-grated will all work)

Juice of ½ lemon

2 tsp minced garlic

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup Allegro marinade (you can sub soy sauce if need be)

¼ cup yellow mustard

1 Tbsp liquid smoke

3 heaping Tbsp Bad Byron’s Butt Rub (available online if you don’t have it locally)

1 stick salted butter


Bring to a low simmer and stir until ingredients are combined and butter is melted. Don’t bring to a boil or the butter will separate. 


* Semi-famous meaning our immediate family and friends.