Rib Sauces

In BBQ - Grilling - Smoking, Recipes, Ribs by Mike StinesLeave a Comment

Tasty grilled ribs with vegetablesIt’s time to fire up the cookers and get your summer barbecue in full swing! Instead of the usual burgers and dogs accompanied with some great IPA craft beer, do some pork ribs… sure it takes more time and effort than burgers but it’s a great way to impress your guests.

No matter how you cook your ribs – in a smoker, an oven or slow-cooker – a great barbecue sauce can accentuate the flavor. The best sauces for ribs tend to be thick and sticky so they hold to the ribs. Remember that any sauce that contains sugars (like tomatoes do) will burn at temperatures above 265 degrees F. If you are cooking at temperatures above this, wait until the ribs are cooked before applying the sauce. This will prevent burning so you can avoid blackened ribs.

Kansas City Style
Author: Heat Scale: Mild
Serves: 2 cups
This is a rich, thick tomato-based barbecue sauce considered Kansas City-style… a combination of sweet with a touch of heat in a thick tomato-based sauce. Adjust the heat by changing the amount of chili powder and cayenne.
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne chile
  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until golden. Add remaining ingredients and reduce heat.
  2. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes until thickened.
Classic Rib Sauce
Author: Heat Scale: Mild
Serves: 3 cups
This rib sauce has a touch of heat, a bit of smoke and a lot of flavor.
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 5 cloves smoked garlic, pressed (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Purée the onion and water in a small food processor.
  2. Heat a medium sauce pan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil begins to simmer, add the onion purée.
  3. Simmer until slightly browned. Add the remaining ingredients.
  4. Mix thoroughly and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes.
Memphis-style BBQ Sauce
Author: Heat Scale: Mild
Serves: 3 cups
Traditionally ribs in Memphis are served without a sauce but most Memphis BBQ joints have sauces available “on the side.” This sauce has a mixture of sweet and vinegar with a hint of heat.
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons prepared (ballpark) mustard
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon mild chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until lightly browned.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, over low heat for 20 minutes.
  3. Allow the sauce to cool. If desired, the sauce can be puréed to make a smoother sauce.


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Grilling & BBQ Editor | Mike holds a “Doctorate of Barbeque Philosophy” (Ph.B.) degree from the Kansas City Barbeque Society. His book Mastering Barbecue has been called the “go-to” book for BBQ knowledge.

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