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Our Family's Sweet Smoky Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce

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    Our Family's Sweet Smoky Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce

    This photo of my KC style sauce on some brisket in SPUWYC prompted Mr. Bones to ask what sauce it was and also prompted a DM from Joetee asking for the recipe when I replied that it was our family's Kansas City style sauce, so here we are.

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    My inlaws, who lived in the greater Kansas City area, probably started working on this in the 1960's, playing with ingredients and ratios. Since my wife and I got married in 1979, we've been working from their base recipe but fiddling with it along the way. Many of the changes came as I've gotten her to like spicier foods and we've gradually raised the spice and heat level. The base amounts I'll give here have tripled the chili powder from her parents' version, but when I'm making it only for us, that amount goes up again another 50-100%. Also, we've gone from a "dash" of Tobasco to a good shake, along with some cayenne to taste. Finally, the original had a dash of lemon juice. I've upped that quite a bit and lately switching to lime juice plus zest has taken it over the top.

    My father-in-law also would cut this with an equal amount of water to use as a baste, but I never baste.

    McElwee-White Family Kansas City Style Sauce


    2 cups ketchup (we always use Heinz)
    1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins for best taste)
    3 teaspoons chili powder (I prefer Badia these days)
    1 teaspoon table salt
    1-2 good shakes Tobasco sauce
    1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
    1/8 teaspoon (or more to taste) cayenne
    1/2 cup hard packed brown sugar (dark brown is even better)
    Juice and zest from half a lime


    Mix all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. A hand mixer can be used to make sure brown sugar dissolves fully, but I usually just stir with a spatula.

    Store refrigerated. Will keep for a month or two.

    Historical Note

    Here's a picture of the original recipe card that my mother-in-law typed up for us to go into the recipe box she gave us when we got married. It clearly has gotten a bit of use over the years. Note that she wrote it up primarily as the basting sauce and that what we make these days is our version of her "cold meat sauce" with the values on the left.

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    Last edited by Jim White; December 16, 2020, 01:26 PM.

    Thank-you for sharing the sauce recipe and the history behind it.


      Good old Liquid Smoke. I have an old recipe (typed up on an index card) from my Uncle Art that called for liquid smoke too. His BBQ sauce is vinegar based.


        Very cool history

        Thanks fer sharing with us, Brother!

        I’ll be tryin some out, starting with th base...

        no heatin it up, I gather?


        • Jim White
          Jim White commented
          Editing a comment
          Nope, just mix and go!



          Thank you very much, Jim. I really appreciate that you included brands, as well. As I noted here last Christmas, my wife made her world famous (our world) cheesecake. For some reason she did not use Philadelphia brand cream cheese. It was horrible. Luckily, she has a sense of humor and when we pass the cream cheese aisle I sometimes pick up an off brand and sneak it into the cart just to get a chuckle out of her. Ps - your cookbook looks a lot like mine. Gotta taste the sauce with the finger while flipping through the pages.
          Last edited by tbob4; December 16, 2020, 02:22 PM.


            Thank you for taking the time to share this with us. I love the photo of the recipe card and the years of love the card shows! It is this type of touch, family history and such, that I truly enjoy reading about on The Pit!

            Thank you again for sharing!


              Is there much sweetness to it or just hot? It sound very good. Thank you.


              • Jim White
                Jim White commented
                Editing a comment
                Oh it's mostly sweet. I don't find it hot at all.

              Ok thank you very much.


                Seems like it should be heated to disolve everything and let them mary together.


                  Sounds like a tasty sauce. I love the family recipe part of it. I remember my mother's recipe cards looking just like that.



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