Kansas City BBQ Wings

My birth city, KCMO is known worldwide for its amazing bbq. Kansas City BBQ wings stand out because of their signature sauce; a deep crimson, sweet, tangy, thick dressing brimming with spices that emanate an undeniable kick of heat. Each bite is finger-licking good!

hand holding a kansas city bbq chicken wing

Kansas City BBQ

Kansas City is known as the BBQ capital of the world, and rightfully so with over 100 mouthwatering barbecue restaurants dotted around the metro area. 

 

Kansas City and barbecue go hand and hand and it’s been that way since the early 1900s.  To this day barbecue with city’s main attraction drawing crowds from all over the world.  

homemade kansas city bbq sauce in a pot

KC BBQ Sauce - A Little Taste of Home

I spent my first years living with my great-grandmother Vera Mae in a modest but loving home in KCMO. We would visit Gates BBQ for special occasions and were greeted at the door with a resounding, “HOW MAY I HELP YOU?” Customer service with a lil sass, yep, I was game, especially if that meant I was getting a good old beef on bun, extra sauce, please. If you’ve been to gates

 

As I got older, Gates BBQ was a stop I had to make every trip back home. I would bring a ton of their bbq sauces back with me to California because everyone in my family craved that little taste of home. Kansas City BBQ sauce is unparalleled and makes everything taste better.

Kansas City Style BBQ VS Everybody

Carolinas are known for hole hog and shoulder smoked bbq with both vinegar and tomato-based sauces. 

 

Texas is famous for dry-rubbed smoked brisket and smokes sausages. 

 

Memphis has the pulled pork game locked down.

 

Alabama stands out because of their uniquely white bbq sauce

Kansas City does it all; beef, pork, chicken, mutton you name it, it’s on the menu, slow-cooked, wood-smoked, and grilled with dry-rubbed spices. And it aint real unless its smothered in a thick, sweet, and tangy, tomato-based sauce. I used the signature sweet and tangy kc-style sauce for this recipe my TheKitchn feature recipe for Kansas City Style Wings.

chicken wings coated in kansas city bbq rub in a large bowl
chicken coated with kansas city bbq rub on a sheet pan

No Grill? No Problem

While the penetration of the smoke and charred bits produced from the grill offer a ton of flavor and text to these wings, you shouldn’t let not owning an outdoor grill get in the way of you enjoying this deliciousness. 

 

Below, I also share how to prepare these wings in the oven, which is still incredibly good. And if nothing else, you should at least make this super easy homemade Kansas City bbq sauce, which goes good on everything.

Key Ingredients

To make this flavorful bbq wings recipe, you will need the following key ingredients: 

 

  • Chicken wings. You can use whole or cut chicken wings, but make sure to let them thaw out first if you’re using frozen wings.
  • Spices. Get ready because we’re bringing out the whole spice cabinet for this one! You will need Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper (leave out if you want it less spicy), ground cumin, chili powder, celery seeds, salt, and pepper.
  • Ketchup. This is used to form the thick base of our Kansas City BBQ sauce. 
  • Dark brown sugar. I prefer to use dark brown sugar to sweeten up the sauce, but you can use molasses instead if needed. 
  • Apple cider vinegar. The acidity in apple cider vinegar adds a tangy component to our sauce and helps to enhance the rest of our bold and delicious flavors.
  • Worcestershire sauce. This helps to cut through some of the sweetness and imparts a mouthwatering umami flavor. 
  • Liquid smoke. A little of this goes a long way in creating that incredible smoky flavor you look for in a really great BBQ wings sauce.
kansas city bbq wings being brushed with sauce

How to Make Kansas City BBQ Wings

The preparation of this dish is split into three separate parts: chicken wing preparation, BBQ sauce preparation, and cooking the wings. We’ll break down how to cook wings in the next section, but first, let’s cover the prep stages. 

How to Prepare Chicken Wings: 

  1. Add smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, and black pepper to a small bowl. Stir to combine. 
  2. Pat the chicken wings dry with paper towels and place them on a baking sheet, then sprinkle the spice rub all over to cover them. 
  3. Cover and refrigerate the seasoned chicken wings for 2-4 hours. 

How to Make Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce:

  1. To a medium saucepan, add ketchup, dark brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, bay leaf, and spices. 
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring to combine. Once boiling, reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and remove the bay leaf, then add butter and whisk until thoroughly combined. 
  • Let the sauce cool down to room temperature, then refrigerate in an airtight container and store until ready to use.
plate of food with kansas city bbq wings, cornbread and coleslaw

Best Ways to Cook BBQ Chicken Wings

BBQ chicken wings can be cooked in two ways: on the grill and in the oven. Personally, I’m partial to cooking them on the grill because of the smoky flavor and char marks that you can only get on the grill. That being said, both options will produce delicious wings.

How to Make BBQ Wings on the Grill

  1. Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 1 hour before grilling. About 20 minutes before the chicken is ready, heat an outdoor gas grill for direct and indirect heat by heating half the burners to medium heat (about 375ºF) and half the burners to medium-high heat (about 400ºF). For a charcoal grill, create two-zone cooking by piling the lit coals onto one side of the grill.
  2. Scrape the grill grates clean, then oil the grill grates with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Place the wings flatter-side down on the hotter side of the grill, leaving space between each wing so the heat can circulate. Cover and grill for 10 minutes. Flip the wings, cover, then grill for 10 more minutes.
  3. Transfer a few wings to a large bowl, pour in just enough BBQ sauce to coat the wings, then toss with tongs until coated. Return the wings to the cooler side of the grill. Repeat until all the wings are coated.
  4. Cover and grill for 10 minutes to let the sauce heat up and caramelize on the wings. This sauce contains a good amount of sugar, so watch the wings closely to prevent scorching. The wings are ready when they register at least 165ºF on an instant-read thermometer. Brush with more sauce, then serve. 
close up of kansas city bbq chicken wings

How to Make BBQ Wings in the Oven

  1. Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 1 hour before roasting. Arrange two racks to divide the oven into thirds. Heat the oven to 400ºF and line a second baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Transfer half the chicken onto the second baking sheet. Arrange all the chicken flatter-side up in a single layer and space them apart evenly, then roast for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and brush all over with the BBQ sauce. Flip the chicken so the wings are flatter-side down this time.
  3. Increase the oven temperature to 450ºF. Return the chicken to the oven and roast for 8 minutes. Repeat flipping and brushing the chicken all over with the BBQ sauce, then continue to roast until the chicken is cooked through and registers at least 165ºF on an instant-read thermometer, and the sauce begins to caramelize; about 8 minutes more. Serve with the remaining BBQ sau.
messy hands holding a kansas city bbq chicken wing

What is Kansas City Style BBQ?

Kansas City BBQ sauce is made from a base of ketchup, smoky flavors like Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke, and some form of sugar. The combination of sweet, tangy, and smoky flavors is what makes this type of BBQ sauce so uniquely delicious.

How do you store BBQ chicken wings?

To store leftover cooked BBQ chicken wings, you will need to let them cool to room temperature and then transfer them to an airtight bag or container. Once properly stored, they can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3-4 months.

Meiko with family making plates of food for Juneteenth in the kitchen

BBQ wings should be shared with family

When you grab the wings your fingers get smothered and when you bite into the wings your face gets the best kind of sticky and I love everything about the mess. BBQ is one of those meals you want to just unbuckle your pants, roll up your sleeves, and get down and dirty for some edible family fun. 

I hope you give this recipe a try and if you do, don’t forget to rate and leave a comment down below. I also love to see your recreations so be sure to share a photo and tag me on Instagram using @meikoandthedish and #meikoandthedish.

platter of kansas city bbq chicken wings with bbq sauce on the side

Kansas City BBQ Wings

Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 13
Calories: 278kcal

Ingredients

For the spice rub and chicken:

  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 4 pounds whole or cut-up chicken wings
  • Vegetable oil for the grill grates if grilling

For the KC-style BBQ sauce:

  • 2 1/3 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Instructions

Prepare the chicken:

  • Place 3 tablespoons smoked paprika, 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon onion powder, and 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning in a small bowl and stir to combine.
  • Pat 4 pounds chicken wings dry with paper towels and place on a baking sheet. (If you plan to roast the wings in the oven, line the baking sheet with aluminum foil first.) Sprinkle the spice rub all over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 24 hours. Meanwhile, make the BBQ sauce.

Make the KC-style BBQ sauce:

  • Place 2 1/3 cups ketchup, 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon celery seeds, 1 teaspoon liquid smoke, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1 bay leaf in a medium saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to combine. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf. Add 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and whisk until melted and combined. Let cool and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.

Option 1: Grill the chicken

  • Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 1 hour before grilling. About 20 minutes before the chicken is ready, heat an outdoor gas grill for direct and indirect heat by heating half the burners to medium heat (about 375ºF) and half the burners on to medium-high heat (about 400ºF). For a charcoal grill, create two-zone cooking by piling the lit coals onto one side of the grill.
  • Scrape the grill grates clean. Oil the grill grates with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Place the wings flatter-side down on the hotter side of the grill, leaving space between each wing for the heat to circulate. Cover and grill for 10 minutes. Flip the wings, cover, and grill for 10 minutes more.
  • Transfer a few wings to a large bowl, pour in just enough BBQ sauce to coat the wings, and toss with tongs until coated. Return the wings to the cooler side of the grill. Repeat until all the wings are coated.
  • Cover and grill for 10 minutes more to let the sauce heat up and caramelize on the wings. This sauce contains a good amount of sugar, so watch the wings closely to prevent scorching. The wings are ready when they register at least 165ºF on an instant-read thermometer. Brush with more sauce before serving.

Option 2: Roast the chicken

  • Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 1 hour before roasting. Arrange two racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 400ºF. Line a second baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Transfer half the chicken onto the second baking sheet. Arrange all the chicken flatter-side up in a single layer and space them apart evenly. Roast for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and brush all over with the BBQ sauce. Flip the chicken so the wings are flatter-side down.
  • Increase the oven temperature to 450ºF. Return the chicken to the oven and roast for 8 minutes. Repeat flipping and brushing the chicken all over with the BBQ sauce, and continue to roast until the chicken is cooked through and registers at least 165ºF on an instant-read thermometer, and the sauce begins to caramelize, about 8 minutes more. Serve with the remaining BBQ sauce.
Tried this recipe?Mention @MeikoAndTheDish or tag #MeikoAndTheDish

Notes

Make ahead: The BBQ sauce can be made up to 1 month ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. The spice rub can be made up to a few weeks ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 278kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 60mg | Sodium: 1556mg | Potassium: 388mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 1546IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 2mg

Equipment

Sheet Pan
Basting Brush
Aluminum Foil
Weber Master Touch Grill
Whisk
Bowl Set

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

**The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products I use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Welcome! I’m Meiko, a Dallas-based food blogger who loves to share life and culture through food. There are no strangers around these parts only good eats. Let’s get to know each other better!

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