St. Louis barbecue sauce is a ketchup-based sauce that has more of a tangy flavor and thinner consistency than its Kansas City counterpart.
It has a distinct tomato flavor and a definite tang from the vinegar, making it a versatile sauce for those that want a more savory flavor on their barbecue.
This recipe will walk you through the steps to make a flavorful St. Louis-style barbecue sauce that pairs perfectly with all types of grilled meats to add a little extra flavor to your food.
What is St. Louis-style barbecue sauce?
The origin of this style of sauce can be traced back to the early 1900s and a grocer named Louis Maull.
He sold groceries and delivered them to people in the St. Louis area and began making condiments and sauces to sell as well.
He rolled out his Maull’s Barbecue Sauce in 1926 and claimed to include 20 different ingredients in the mixture.
Because St. Louis barbecue tends to lean more towards “hot and fast” rather than the “low and slow” style of barbecue that you see in other areas, this sauce is best left as a finishing sauce as the sugar in the sauce had a good chance of burning when exposed to too much heat.
Ingredients you’ll need
This sauce is quick and easy to whip up with simple ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen already.
The first ingredient in this sauce is ketchup. Sure, you could combine tomatoes, sugar, and vinegar to replicate ketchup at home, but I find that store-bought ketchup is the perfect combination of flavor for this sauce.
Apple cider vinegar
For an additional touch of tang, you want to add a bit of apple cider vinegar. It helps boost the tanginess of the ketchup and keeps the sauce from being too sweet.
You can alternatively use distilled white vinegar or rice vinegar.
While this sauce is not inherently sweet, you do need to add a bit of brown sugar to help balance the punch of flavors from the vinegar.
You can use either light brown sugar or dark brown sugar and can even add a little extra if you want it to be a bit sweeter.
To round out the tangy flavor profile of this sauce, a bit of yellow mustard is added.
You can alternatively use Dijon mustard or spicy brown if you want a bolder flavor, but I find that the flavor of plain, yellow mustard is perfect for this sauce.
You can adjust the spices and seasonings you use based on your personal preference.
I like to use garlic powder, a bit of cayenne pepper for heat, salt, and ground mustard. You can also add onion powder if you want to add additional onion flavor.
Tools you’ll need
Medium-sized saucepan or pot
You need a saucepan or a pot that is at least 2 quarts. I like to use a pan because I find that the sauce will come to a boil faster, but a pot is also perfectly fine.
Make sure that you choose one with a lid, as the sauce needs to simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes.
Large spoon or silicone spatula
Whatever spoon or utensil you usually use when making a sauce will work perfectly.
I like to use a silicone spatula (as opposed to a wooden spoon) because the sauce won’t stick to it.
You don’t absolutely need a whisk to mix your sauce, but I like to use one to make the process faster.
This sauce whisk is a favorite of mine.
Mason jar (or similar storage container)
You can store this sauce in the fridge for up to a week, so I recommend a container with a lid, as opposed to covering a bowl in plastic wrap.
You want a container with a good seal to prevent your sauce from spoiling prematurely, so I find that mason jars are really the best vessel to store homemade barbecue sauce.
What to serve St. Louis-style barbecue sauce with
This sauce is a savory and versatile sauce that pairs well with many different types of food. It has a distinct ketchup flavor and does not have a lot of sweetness.
It works great on all types of grilled meat (as opposed to smoked meat) and does not overpower the flavor of your food.
This sauce is perfect for things like pork ribs, grilled chicken, and grilled pork chops.
It does have sugar in it, so you want to be careful not to sauce your food too early in the cooking process so that the sauce does not burn.
It’s best used as a finishing sauce or served on the table alongside your food.
Here are some great recipes that pair wonderfully with St. Louis-style barbecue sauce:
St. Louis-style Barbecue Sauce
- 1 cup ketchup
- ¼ cup water
- ⅛ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp yellow mustard
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground mustard
- Add all the ingredients to a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together until well-combined and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
- Serve immediately or transfer to a mason jar (or similar storage container) and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.