Copycat Gates Barbecue Sauce (a.k.a. Fake Gates)

There are many Kansas City barbecue sauces that I enjoy: Rosedale is great when you want something sweeter, Jack Stack is nice when you want something thicker, but Gates is my all-purpose winner. I feel they do a great job of balancing the sweet and vinegar tang and pepperiness, and that’s what makes it so great on beef, pork, turkey or chicken. It’s even my favorite french fry dipping sauce.

But bottles of barbecue sauce are heavy to ship and to carry in luggage. So when I heard that there was a Gates knockoff recipe floating around online, I jumped on it. It’s not a bad sauce, but if you’ve had Gates and you know what it’s supposed to taste like, it’s just spicy ketchup. After a little reverse engineering (with a LOT of scaling down) and the purchase of a bottle of liquid smoke, we think we’ve hit on the best knockoff this side of the Atlantic.

I’ve scaled the recipe back to one quarter of the original. Because I’m not starting with ketchup, I’ve adjusted the salt, sugar and vinegar, so it won’t be 1/4 across the board.

1/4 c brown sugar
1 T + 1/4 t salt (adjust it if you want, but this seems to bring it closest to real Gates)
1 1/2 t celery seed
1 1/2 t cumin
1 1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 1/2 t garlic powder
1 t chili powder
1 t black pepper, coarsely ground
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1 t liquid smoke
1 t Worcestershire sauce
2 c (500 ml) tomato sauce

Mix sugar, salt, celery seed, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, chili powder and black pepper in a bowl. Whisk together vinegar, liquid smoke, Worcestershire and tomato sauce. When well combined, whisk in dry ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Yields about 3 1/2 cups of sauce and keeps refrigerated in a tightly covered container for 2-3 months.

3 thoughts on “Copycat Gates Barbecue Sauce (a.k.a. Fake Gates)”

  1. shoreacres

    Interesting that I’m just back from Kansas City. I went out for barbeque one night, fully prepared to compare it unfavorably to Texas barbeque. What caught me was the meat – it was absolutely marvelous and better than any brisket I’ve had. I asked the server what cut was used, and in fact it was shoulder. Very interesting.

    And now, I’m off to find some real Gates at my store. Texas may embargo the stuff at the border – if they do, I’ll have your recipe to try.

    1. Sarah

      Hi shoreacres,

      The meat in Kansas City is pretty extraordinary. It ‘s very interesting that you had shoulder – I use pork shoulder here pretty often and it’s very forgiving. I love brisket, but due to differences in butchery styles, they just don’t really cut that here. Plus, beef is extra expensive and I am loath to screw it up.

      If you’re back in KC and you do have the chance to go to Gates, be prepared for their unique greeting, “HI MAY I HELP YOU” shouted at you from behind the counter.

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