Taste Test: Trader Joe’s Bold and Smoky Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce

A true to form, high-quality barbecue sauce
Dan Myers

If you like your barbecue sauce sweet and smoky, you'll like this one.

Trader Joe’s makes a Kansas City-style barbecue sauce through its self-titled house brand, and it’s one of the best that you’ll encounter.

Kansas City-style sauce is sweet and smoky, and most of the mass-produced sauces on the market, including KC Masterpiece and Sweet Baby Ray’s, use high-fructose corn syrup to reach the right level of sweetness. This one doesn’t: it’s only ingredients are tomato paste, sugar, molasses, vinegar, salt, hickory smoke flavoring, onion and garlic powders, and caramel color. No preservatives, no artificial flavors.

It’s clear that a lot of work went into developing this sauce: there’s a near-perfect balance among sweet the sweet, smoky, and vinegary flavors, although there’s zero spiciness, which some might consider to be a downside. It has a great woody, smoky smell, and a whiff of it puts you in the mood for a barbecue.

We think that the best use of a sauce like this would be for chicken, but it certainly won’t do any harm to a rack of ribs or a pulled pork sandwich. If you’re in the supermarket and can’t decide which barbecue sauce to get, you might just want to head over to Trader Joe’s and pick up a bottle of this stuff instead.  


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