Vegan Kansas City Barbecue Sauce

Vegan Kansas City BBQ sauce in a dish on a wood table with cherry tomatoes around it.
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Kansas City BBQ Sauce Background

You haven’t had vegan bbq until you’ve had this vegan Kansas City BBQ sauce. Henry Perry invented this tangy bbq sauce in Kansas City, Missouri. Henry Perry went by “The Barbecue King,” so you know this sauce is bringing home the classic smokey sweet flavors of Southern BBQ without the actual smoke. Unlike barbecue sauces from other regions (such as Louisville Style, Alabama White, Carolina Gold, Lexington Style, etc.), Kansas City Style BBQ relies on smoke and spice to create a sweet, tangy, sauce with the perfect heat level. This classic southern bbq sauce is an excellent all-purpose choice for pulled jackfruit, tempeh ribs… Really, this sauce is perfect for any barbecue dish your heart can dream up. (BBQ Chick’n pizza anyone?) Maybe that’s why they also call it Easy KC.

Is Barbecue Sauce Vegan?

Not always. Quite a few ingredients can keep barbecue sauce from being vegan, but brown sugar is usually the culprit. If sugar is not labeled as organic, then there is a high chance it is processed using bone char, often sourced from cows. To avoid this risk, choose organic sugars for your sauces, and you’ll have made it vegan with little to no effort on your part!

Making your own barbecue sauce is quick, cheap, and customizable. Join a movement of people who won’t settle for bland barbecue. Homemade sauce tastes way better than any pre-made sauce you can find. The twenty minutes it takes to make will be worth it. But if you choose to go with a store bought barbecue sauce, watch out for ingredients like beef and chicken stock, non-organic sugars. When in doubt check for the Vegan stamp of approval or ask the store employees if they have a list of vegan products they can give to you. Trader Joe’s has excellent vegan bbq sauce options. They also have a list of vegan products that they sell throughout the store.


The stars of this vegan Kansas City BBQ sauce are tomato sauce, tomato ketchup, and molasses. The smoky, bitter flavor of the molasses combines with the sweet brightness of tomato ketchup and tomato sauce to create the dense and complex tastes you would normally get from a grill; but if you’re like me, you don’t have a grill and are making due in your (very small) kitchen.

This sauce is one of the easiest ones I’ve ever made.

Firstly, grab a medium pot. Start by combining the tomato sauce, tomato ketchup, molasses, liquid smoke, red wine vinegar, and vegan butter directly in the pan. Bring the pot to a medium heat.

Watch the sauce closely. If the sauce starts bubbling caustically (it’s popping and you’re scared to stir it because it could burn you) then that’s a sign you need to turn the heat down. We’re going for a gentle simmer here. Stir continually and toy with the heat to ensure the sauce stays at a healthy simmer. As you do, measure out the rest of the seasoning straight into the sauce. If you’re, like, Ina Garten, you can pre-measure into a tiny bowl and then add it all into the pot at once. Garlic, onion, chili powder, cayenne, salt, pepper–and a secret ingredient, a dash of cinnamon–are the seasonings I picked out for this recipe, but I can’t wait to see what variations y’all come up with in the comments!

Vegan Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce

A vegan twist on a barbecue classic.
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Sauces
Cuisine Barbecue
Servings 2 cups


  • 1 cup Ketchup
  • 1 cup Tomato Sauce
  • 3/4 cup Organic Brown Sugar must be organic to be vegan
  • 3/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Unsulfured Molasses
  • 2 tbsp liquid smoke hickory and mesquite work well
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter such as Earth Balance
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne optional (reduce or add to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch cinnamon


  • In a medium pot, over medium heat, mix tomato sauce, tomato ketchup, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, liquid smoke, and butter. Continue to stir.
  • Add the dry spices (onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, chili, salt, pepper, dash of cinnamon, and cayenne to taste). Stir well.
  • Reduce heat to low and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sauce will thicken more as it cooks and when it cools.
Keyword Vegan Barbecue Sauce, Vegan BBQ Ideas, Vegan Cookout Ideas

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