Home ยป Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce

Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce


I got called up to a patient’s room yesterday because the patient’s daughter felt her diabetic mother was being served an “unhealthy” lunch. Her lunch included a chicken Caesar salad with a “twist” (i.e. pasta) and a vanilla pudding. The daughter started by telling me how much insulin her mother takes and that she’s a very “brittle” diabetic (I hate this term, no idea why…probably because there’s no real medical definition). She then went on to tell me that she feels her mother was served FAR too much carbohydrate.

While I ran a quick calculation of the patient’s needs and the carbohydrate content of her lunch, I felt her lunch was perfectly balanced and the appropriate amount of carbohydrate.


But, my response was not what the daughter wanted to hear. Apparently, she felt vanilla ice cream (23 grams of carbohydrate) was a better option for her “brittle” diabetic mother than the vanilla pudding (15 grams of carbohydrate), in terms of carbohydrate content.

Who knows. You win some, you lose some.

The moral of the story is…people care a lot about carbohydrate (even if they’re misunderstood). And sugar. Rightfully so.


Most Americans fail to realize that condiments are not only packed with salt, but also with sugar — barbecue sauce being one of the worst offenders. Not too long ago, a reader asked if I had a low-sugar barbecue sauce recipe and while I am 100% sure that I’ve made one before, I guess it either never made it onto the blog or the blog swallowed it whole. So, dear reader…I hope you’re reading this! And for all of those whole gave a ton of thumbs up on Facebook…this recipe won’t disappoint.

As I mentioned yesterday, I served this Kansas-City Style Barbecue Sauce with the Crispy Grilled Chicken Thighs. My family loved the barbecue sauce just as much, if not more, than the chicken! Food Network Magazine featured an array of barbecue sauce recipes in one of their latest issues and this one stuck out to me most. Plus, my mom is from Kansas City and it made me think of her. 🙂



Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce slightly adapted from Food Network

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup low-sodium tomato sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp molasses
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp yellow mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp liquid smoke


Heat the in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is golden, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, 1 cup water, the vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, mustard and garlic powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer 35-45 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. Stir in the liquid smoke. Strain the sauce, pressing on the solids to extract any liquid.

Yield: 2 1/2 cups (20 servings, 2 tablespoons each)

Nutrition Information (per serving): 37 calories; 0.7 g. fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 125 mg. sodium; 7.8 g. carbohydrate; 0.5 g. fiber; 0.25 g. protein

Result: Tangy and so, so flavorful. I more than doubled the simmer time to create a much thicker sauce that had deeper, richer flavors. You can certainly simmer longer (less yield), or for a thinner sauce, reduce the simmer time. I also chose to use a ketchup that was free of high fructose corn syrup, but you could also use a reduced sugar ketchup. This recipe has a few less calories, 1/3 to 1/4 less sodium, and about 30% less sugar and carbohydrate than your average bottled BBQ sauce. Enjoy!


I haven’t made dinner the past 2 nights opting to workout instead – tonight….dinner!! Thank you for your patience in email responses. This new job has me hustling and busy, busy, busy (but loving it!)!

Be well,

Share With Your Friends!


  1. Erica { EricaDHouse.com }
    July 19, 2012 / 6:32 am

    Sometimes people just have to be instigators. Nothing you said would have been right – I’m sure that won’t make you feel any better but I’ve definitely been there!

    As a vegetarian I don’t have a lot of uses for BBQ sauce but if I’m ever craving faux burgers or want a good side for fries I will definitely try this!

  2. Amy B @ Second City Randomness
    July 19, 2012 / 7:40 am

    It’s funny, because until I started reading blogs, I had no idea what went into BBQ sauce. The fact that there was sugar in it totally blew my mind!

  3. The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh
    July 19, 2012 / 8:28 am

    This looks excellent and I’m digging the sodium content on this! This might be the kick in the rump to get me to finally make my own.

  4. Jessen
    July 19, 2012 / 9:12 am

    Hey Nicole. I’m curious about the liquid smoke. I have that Magazine and when I seen the Kansas City BBQ Sauce, I thought that sounded like too much of LS? I’m guessing it was just right?

    • Nicole, RD
      July 19, 2012 / 9:16 am

      I know what you mean…but it was 2 tsp and it was delicious! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Anne Marie@New Weigh of Life
    July 19, 2012 / 9:45 am

    I’m always up for trying a new bbq sauce. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  6. Biz
    July 19, 2012 / 12:20 pm

    Sans the onion, I am all over this. I love, love tangy sauces. This reminded me that I need to make North Carolina bbq sauce again – so good!


    It must be frustrating when people don’t get diabetes, or think they know. One of my sisters co-workers (who is diabetic) feels that its okay to eat a sugar laden piece of pie, as long as she doesn’t eat it all in one sitting, but through the course of the day. She’s also afraid of needles and has yet to start taking insulin at her doctors request! ๐Ÿ™

  7. Kristen @ Swanky Dietitian
    July 19, 2012 / 6:42 pm

    That is very frustrating. Ahh, the life of a dietitian. Glad you are loving your job though! ๐Ÿ™‚
    This bbq sauce looks delicious. I have never made bbq sauce from scratch, but definitely want to after seeing this! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Heather
    July 19, 2012 / 8:02 pm

    Oh Nicole! That sounds soooo frustrating. I also hate the term “brittle” in regards to people with diabetes. On another note, that BBQ sauce sounds amazing!!!! I like doing homemade sauces:)

  9. Kate
    July 20, 2012 / 12:23 am

    I think most people have a misunderstanding of what is a better choice when it comes to food.

  10. STH
    July 20, 2012 / 1:22 am

    People have lots of misconceptions about nutrition, I think, but they also get so emotionally invested in a certain way of eating, almost like it’s their favorite sports team or something. I’ve learned the hard way to stay away from online discussions of how to eat healthy or how to lose weight because they usually turn into shouting matches between the “Paleo Forever!” people and the “Vegan is the Only Way!” folks. Pretty tiresome. I tell people, “when Gary Taubes gets his RD, then I’ll take his advice on nutrition!”

  11. Kathleen @ KatsHealthCorner
    July 20, 2012 / 9:00 am

    Homemade BBQ sauce?! That is so cool! Thanks for sharing this! ๐Ÿ˜€

  12. Heidi
    July 23, 2012 / 12:17 pm

    My son has always hated BBQ sauce. A few months ago I made my own and he LOVED it. When I asked him the difference, he said that it didn’t taste “fake”. I cut the sugar in half for almost all of my recipes. We like things TOO sweet nowadays. Maybe one time out of 25 will the family even notice.

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  14. Holly
    August 27, 2012 / 10:31 pm

    I’ve tried to make homemade barbecue sauce in the past and have never found a recipe I like. I’m sold after trying this recipe. What a great balance of flavor! I’ll be making this instead of buying corn syrupy sauces in the future. Thank you for another great recipe!

  15. Alan lamb
    April 14, 2015 / 1:43 pm

    I am on a low sodium diet. I Made this sauce on Saturday and it turned out fantastic. I made just a few changes. Used only 1 TBSP if vinegar, only used 2 TBSP of WS and I added few dashes of cayenne pepper. I also diced my onions real small so I didn’t need to strain it. I didn’t need to add the water or corn starch also. Simmered it for 1 1/2 hours and it turned out nice and thick. Going to make a large batch and can it in pint jars so I be stocked up for the summer. Thanks so much for this great recipe.

    • Nicole Morrissey
      April 14, 2015 / 8:56 pm

      Glad you liked it!

  16. Alan Lamb
    May 27, 2015 / 8:58 am

    in the directions it says to add 1 cup of water. In the list of ingredients it does call out any water. Please clarify. Thanks!!

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