When most people think about their favorite BBQ sauce, what comes to mind is a thick sauce red to brown in color that is sweet and tangy with just touch of heat. This type of sauce is typically referred to as Kansas City style. Most of the BBQ sauces you find in your local supermarket are Kansas City style sauces. If you take a look at the ingredients you will find almost all of them have a tomato component (ketchup, tomato sauce, tomato paste, etc), a sweet component (sugar, honey, molasses, etc), a tangy component (vinegar, lemon juice, etc), some sort of liquid flavoring (Worcestershire, liquid smoke, soy sauce, etc,) and various spices (bbq seasoning, garlic, onion, and peppers such as black, white, crushed red, etc). In a nutshell, they are tomato-based, sweet and tangy and vary in degree of spiciness. Since this the most popular style of BBQ sauce, this is kind of sauce we will focus on making today. Let's get started!
Just like in making rubs, I like to start every BBQ sauce recipe with a trinity consisting of a ketchup, sugar and vinegar (tomato, sweet and tangy). Then I make a list of the flavors and spices that will round out the recipe.
For this recipe, we are going to start by blending the sweet, tangy and spice components and then develop that into a sauce. I like to use fresh ingredients where possible and included them as options in the ingredient list below. In a large sauce pan, add the following:
- 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup clover honey or honey blend
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup of water (can omit this if you like a thicker sauce)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice concentrate or juice from 2 medium size lemons
- 1 tablespoon of granulated onion or 1 small white onion finely minced
- 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic or 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons of barbeque spice (McCormick or Weber are best)
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Next we will add the tomato base and other flavoring components. Stir in the following:
- 1 24 oz bottle of ketchup
- 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
Now is when it really get's fun and where you can get creative an tailor the sauce to your own palate. NOTE: You will want to write down everything you do to tweak your sauce - trust me! I have created some masterpieces that I have not been able to duplicate because I skipped this crucial step!
Give your sauce a taste test. Is it too thin or too thick? Is is too sweet or not sweet enough? Is it too tangy or not tangy enough? Does it need more heat? Depending on your palate, you can now adjust the sauce and create your own masterpiece. Below are some suggestions.
If your sauce is not thick enough, add a small (6 oz) can of tomato paste. This will thicken the sauce without drastically changing the flavor. Add molasses and tomato paste to thicken and sweeten. Add vinegar and tomato paste to thicken and make it tangier. Add 2 cans of tomato paste, and equal parts of vinegar and molasses to thicken and make it sweeter and tangier. Start with 1/4 cup of molasses and/or vinegar depending on what you are trying to adjust. And remember each time you add something, STIR BEFORE TASTING AGAIN AND WRITE IT DOWN! Finally, you can also simmer the sauce a couple hours longer to reduce the liquid if it is still not thick enough after making adjustments.
If your sauce is too thick, add some water to thin it without drastically changing the flavor. Add apple juice to thin and sweeten. Add vinegar thin and to increase the tanginess. Add equal parts of vinegar and apple juice to thin and both sweeten and make tangy. Start with 1/4 cup depending on what needs to be adjusted. Each time you add something, REMEMBER TO STIR BEFORE TASTING AGAIN AND WRITE IT DOWN!
Finally, it is time to adjust the heat. I intentionally left a couple ingredients out of the initial batch which is where I usually add my spicy components. The reason I left them out is that it is very difficult to tame the heat in a BBQ sauce if you make it too hot from the get go and I have a high tolerance for heat so I am the wrong person to ask if something is spicy or not.
If you really like it hot, then add just a teaspoon of crushed red pepper in the very first step and we can adjust and make hotter in this last step. I recommend using a hot sauce like Frank's red hot or Tabasco sauce to kick up the heat. If you are a maniac for pain like me, use Dave's Insanity or Ghost Chili sauce to really kick up the heat! I suggest thoroughly stirring the hot sauce in a teaspoon at time testing after each dose until you get the heat where you want it. This is really the best way to ensure the heat ends up just right for you! OH - AND REMEMBER TO WRITE IT DOWN!
Last but not least, there are a number of other ingredients you can incorporate into the very first step to add sweetness, tanginess, flavors and spice. For sweetness, I have used Karo syrup dark or light, white sugar, turbinado sugar, agave nectar and even maple syrup. For tanginess, I have used different kinds of vinegars (balsamic, tarragon, rice, red wine, white wine), wines, beer and citrus juices. For flavors you can add bourbon, broths (chicken, beef), chocolate sauce, coffee, mustard, pepper jellies and soda pop. And for spices, I like using allspice, cinnamon, chili seasonings, chipotle chili powder, dehydrated peppers and mustard powder to name a few.
The recipe I have given you is a great starting point for you to create a wonderful BBQ sauce ... as long as you remember to WRITE DOWN YOUR CHANGES :) Please enjoy and please share your recipes! I am looking forward to hearing about your creations!