The Meatwave: Barbecue & Grilling Recipes, Reviews, Tips, and Tricks

Thu Nov 20, 2014

Sauced: Arthur Bryant's Original Barbeque Sauce

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Arthur Bryant's Original Barbeque Sauce

Sauce Stats

Arthur Bryant's Original Barbeque Sauce
Produced by
$4.99 for 18oz at the Kansas City BBQ Store
Water, Seasoning (Sugar, Mustard Flou, Spices, Dried Garlic, Dried Onion, Soybean Oil), Vinegar, Salt, Tomato Paste, Lard, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Benzoate
Rusty Orange
Meatwave Rating
out of 10
Only in a Pinch
More Sauce Reviews

A barrage of spices give this sauce an earthy and spicy flavor that's overly tart, crying out for sugar to bring a cohesiveness to the off balance.

Arthur Bryant's Original Barbeque Sauce


Arthur Bryant's Sweet Heat was one of the first sauces I reviewed, and I remember it fondly. Looking back through my archives, I decided I wanted to revisit some of the sauce producers from my early reviewing days and see how they stand up now that I've worked my way through more than 100 bottles of sauces.

Arguably one of the most famous barbecue joints, most of have probably at least heard of the name Arthur Bryant's. This Kansas City institution has been around over 100 years, starting in 1908 when Henry Perry began selling barbecue in the Garment District. Charlie Bryant was under Henry's employ when the store moved to its current location in the 18th Street and Vine neighborhood. During these formative years, Charlie's brother Arthur paid him a visit and never left. Following Henry's death, the business switched hands to Charlie, and then later to Arthur after Charlie's passing. Arthur took the time to really perfect the smoked meats and sauces that still continue on today.


This sauce has a strong spiced vinegar aroma. It smells like a complex and earthy pepper sauce, something akin to Frank's Red Hot without as much heat and a less harsh vinegar tang. There's a deep tomato backdrop to it without the sugar, very much hitting on the tomato paste base. Within the barrage of spices, notes such as onion, garlic, and hot pepper are distinguishable, although definitely not the only players at the party.

Thickness & Texture

The rusty orange sauce is mostly smooth, but has a bit of a textured appearance from all the spices and thick tomato paste. Though its opaque, some of these spices can be seen, mostly as black specs of pepper, with the rest blending in with the orange tomato base. From a suspended spoon, this sauce first falls in a fast and steady stream, but then begins to get a little chunky as it slows. Three or four final drips quickly leave the spoon, ending with a medium coating left clinging, whose opaqueness completely masks the silverware underneath.

Out of the Jar

That load of spices really defines this sauce from start to finish. The fist taste is a mix of earthy spice suspended in a mellow vinegar. As the sauce settles on the tongue, the tartness amps way up to an unpleasant apex, while the tomato comes out and adds depth with no sweetness to balance out the extra acidity. The spices create a gritty texture that lingers as the sauce begins to leave the tongue. As this point, more earthiness from the peppers comes out along with heat. It's a very off flavor and leaves an awkward hot and spicy aftertaste.

Arthur Bryant's Original Barbeque Sauce

Slathered & Cooked

The sauce coated the chicken evenly and baked down very well. Too well in fact, as all the moisture left the sauce and created a dry spice coating on the leg. The crust remained unchanged over direct heat, with no burning or burn off. As the looks implied, there was no real sauciness to this, it was all spice. Like out of the jar, it was super earthy with a mild heat. The rather off and unpleasant characteristics of the spice mixture remained, making the final chicken leg taste a little dry, confused, and overly complex.

Put to Use

I really want to get a bottle of Sweet Heat again and see how it holds up to my more discerning taste buds now. It's hard for me imagine that an Arthur Bryant's sauce I loved so much had much in common with this original recipe. Sure Arthur Bryant's Original hit barbecue sauces points along the way—tomato, vinegar, heat, etc.—but it did so in such an odd and off balanced manner that it was somewhat unpleasant on the whole. I think more sugar and moisture would fix this sauce, which maybe is why the Sweet Heat worked where this one failed. I've yet to visit Arthur Bryant's, but when I finally do, I'll shy away from the Original recipe and leave my smoked meats bare or use Sweet Heat to ensure I have an optimal experience.


  • 01
  • MikeinMN says
    I feel a little better after reading this review, as all I have ever read is raves about everything Arthur Bryant's. I was there on a busy day.The sauces were midway through the long line, and I bought a 3 pack before trying them because I didn't want to wait in line twice. I thought their BBQ was OK at best, and I was also disappointed in the sauces. Maybe I caught them on a bad day for the meat (it happens) but the sauce was, in my opinion, about a 3 of 10 just as reviewed here.
    Posted Fri, Nov 21 2014 8:22pm
  • 02
  • Walash says
    As a native Kansas Citian, I disagree but get where you're coming from. Tart and sharp, earthy and sometimes awkward, it's an acquired taste for sure. To me though what sets it apart is there's nothing quite like it out there. Maybe it's flavored with a bit of nostalgia, but it's definitely more than a three

    KC isn't next door to NYC, but worth the trip for the BBQ if nothing else. I recommend timing it with the American Royal or a Chiefs home game for the tailgating.
    Posted Wed, Dec 24 2014 6:57pm
  • 03
  • Bob says
    I'm also native to the KC area, and have never understood why people rave about Arthur Bryant's. It's not that it's horrible, disgusting and vile, because it isn't, it's just that labelling it "barbeque sauce" sets expectations for what it's going to be like that don't really match the actuality. "Nothing quite like it out there" is fair enough, but I think I can possibly be a bit more descriptive.

    Imagine someone from to whom the very notion of BBQ sauce is a foreign concept. He's never actually tasted any ... in fact, the only sauce of any kind he's ever had is Worcestershire sauce. However, he's heard about this "BBQ sauce" thing and wants to try his hand at making it, but the only description of it that he can find that makes any sense to him is that it's got vinegar in it, but it also has tomato paste and spices and is somewhat thick in consistency. It's not outside the realm of possibility that he might come up with something resembling Arthur Bryant's Original, which to my tastebuds bears more than a passing resemblance to Worcestershire sauce with tomato paste and "BBQ spices" added.

    Posted Tue, Feb 24 2015 4:32pm
  • 04
  • David says
    I like the earthy flavors. I also like the fact that, like the other classic KC joint, Gates, their sauce isn't sugary. My thinking is that sweet does not compliment meat at all... people just have sugar cravings. For me, don't mess with a great sauce... eat a candy bar.
    Posted Sat, May 30 2015 2:01am
  • 05
  • yucca tan says
    I try new foods/sauces, that I don't like, a couple of times to finalize my feelings about it. Author Bryant's original BBQ sauce just out right sucks, it taste horrible. Get a spoonful of paprika and suck on it, that's what ABs BBQ sauce taste like. There's really nothing good I can say about the taste. I threw it out after a month of 8 tries. I would give it to someone I don't like as a gift.
    Posted Tue, Sep 15 2015 8:49pm
  • 06
  • Peter says
    I've always loved this sauce precisely for three reasons: 1) its unique flavor, heavy on celery seed. 2) It's not a sugar bomb like most sauces and 3), no "smoke flavoring"/Liquid Smoke in it. It's a true barbecue sauce in the original sense, a sauce to be used for barbecue, not a sauce that tastes like barbecue (although, yes, the definition has shifted to the latter for most people.)

    Posted Mon, Jul 17 2017 12:02pm
  • 07
  • HungryHeath says
    I used this sauce for the 1st time yesterday & ruined a batch of burnt ends. Worst sauce I have ever tasted!
    Posted Sun, Dec 3 2017 12:14pm
  • 08
  • Sam Nachbar says
    Well obviously you're not a president & your tastes are not refined enough.
    Posted Fri, Jan 5 2018 1:17am

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