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Unlocking the Secrets of Authentic Chinese Plum Sauce Recipe

If you're a fan of Chinese cuisine, you've probably come across plum sauce at some point. This sweet and tangy condiment is a staple in many Asian households, and it's easy to see why. Plum sauce is incredibly versatile and can be used as a dipping sauce, stir-fry sauce, glaze, or marinade. It pairs well with meats, vegetables, and even tofu, making it a great addition to any dish.

A bowl of mixed plums, sugar, vinegar, and spices being simmered on a stovetop

While you can easily find plum sauce at your local grocery store, making it yourself is surprisingly easy and yields a more authentic flavour. Traditional Chinese plum sauce is made with fresh plums, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and spices. The ingredients are slowly simmered together until they form a thick, syrupy sauce that's bursting with flavour. Whether you're a seasoned cook or a beginner, making your own plum sauce is a great way to add a touch of authenticity to your Chinese dishes.

Key Takeaways

  • Chinese plum sauce is a sweet and tangy condiment that's used in a variety of dishes.
  • Making your own plum sauce is easy and yields a more authentic flavour.
  • Traditional Chinese plum sauce is made with fresh plums, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and spices.

History and Origin

A wok sizzles as plums, ginger, and garlic simmer in soy sauce and vinegar, infusing the air with a sweet and tangy aroma

Traditional Uses

Chinese Plum Sauce, also known as Duck Sauce, is a sweet and tangy condiment that has been a staple in Chinese cuisine for centuries. It is made from sweet plums or other fruits such as peach, pineapple, or apricot, along with sugar, vinegar, salt, ginger, and chili peppers. The sauce is usually served as a dipping sauce for various dishes such as spring rolls, dumplings, roasted duck, chicken, shrimp, or with noodles and rice.

In addition to being a delicious condiment, Chinese Plum Sauce also has cultural significance. It is often served during special occasions such as weddings and Chinese New Year celebrations. It is believed that the sweet and sour taste of the sauce symbolizes the balance of yin and yang, which is an important concept in Chinese philosophy.

Regional Variations

There are many regional variations of Chinese Plum Sauce, each with its own unique twist. For example, Detroit-style plum sauce is a popular take on Chinese-American plum sauce found in most Chinese restaurants in the southeastern Michigan area. It is made with a blend of plums, apricots, and pineapples, along with sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and ginger.

Another popular variation is Sichuan-style plum sauce, which is known for its spicy kick. It is made with Sichuan peppercorns, chili peppers, and ginger, along with plums, sugar, and vinegar. This variation is often used as a marinade for meat dishes such as pork and chicken.

Chinese Plum Sauce is a versatile and delicious condiment that has been enjoyed for centuries. Whether you prefer it sweet or spicy, there is a variation of this sauce that is sure to please your taste buds.

Selecting Ingredients

A hand reaching for plums, ginger, soy sauce, and sugar on a kitchen counter

When it comes to making Chinese plum sauce, selecting the right ingredients is crucial. Here are some tips to help you choose the best ingredients for your recipe.

Choosing Plums

The most important ingredient in Chinese plum sauce is, of course, plums. Look for plums that are ripe but firm, with a deep, rich colour. Black plums are often used in Chinese plum sauce recipes, but other varieties can work as well. If you can't find fresh plums, you can use canned plums or plum jam instead.

Spices and Seasonings

To give your Chinese plum sauce its signature flavour, you'll need to add a few key spices and seasonings. Ginger, garlic, and Chinese five spice are all common additions to plum sauce recipes. Fresh ginger and garlic are best, but you can use powdered versions if you don't have fresh on hand. Chinese five spice is a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. You can make your own blend or buy it pre-made.

In addition to these spices, you'll also need sugar, vinegar, and salt. Brown sugar is often used in Chinese plum sauce recipes, but you can use white sugar if that's what you have. Rice vinegar is a good choice for its mild flavour, but you can use other types of vinegar as well. Finally, be sure to taste your sauce as you go and adjust the salt and sugar levels to your liking.

Preparation Techniques

A chef mixes plums, sugar, vinegar, and spices in a saucepan. They simmer the mixture until thick and smooth

Cooking Process

To prepare Chinese plum sauce, you will need to cook the plums with a combination of seasoning and spices. You can use a variety of cooking methods, including boiling, simmering, or slow cooking. One popular recipe suggests boiling the plums with brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, and Chinese five-spice powder for about 45 minutes until the plums have softened and the sauce has thickened.

Blending Methods

Once the plums have been cooked, you will need to blend them until they are smooth and pureed. There are several different blending methods you can use, including a food processor, immersion blender, or stick blender. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, a food processor can puree larger batches of plums at once, but it can be more difficult to clean. On the other hand, an immersion blender is easier to clean, but it can only puree small batches at a time.

When blending the plum sauce, you can also add additional ingredients to adjust the taste and texture. For example, you can add a bit of water if the sauce is too thick, or honey if you prefer a sweeter taste.


If you want to preserve your Chinese plum sauce for later use, you can also consider canning it. Canning involves sterilizing jars and lids, filling them with the plum sauce, and then processing them in a boiling water bath. This will help to extend the shelf life of the sauce for up to a year or more.

The preparation techniques for Chinese plum sauce are relatively simple and straightforward. With a few basic ingredients and the right cooking and blending methods, you can enjoy this delicious sauce at home.

Serving and Pairing Ideas

A bowl of homemade Chinese plum sauce sits next to a plate of crispy spring rolls, with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables arranged around it for pairing ideas


Chinese Plum Sauce is a versatile dipping sauce that can be paired with a wide range of dishes. You can serve it alongside fried or steamed dumplings, egg rolls, and spring rolls. It also makes a great accompaniment to roasted duck, pork, chicken, and shrimp.

To enhance the flavour of the sauce, you can add a dash of soy sauce, sesame oil, or rice vinegar. You can also sprinkle some chopped green onions, cilantro, or toasted sesame seeds on top of the sauce to add some texture and visual appeal.

Dish Pairings

Chinese Plum Sauce can be used as a glaze for grilled meats or as a condiment for stir-fried vegetables. It pairs well with rice, noodles, and other starches. Here are some ideas for dishes that you can pair with Chinese Plum Sauce:

  • Sticky Chicken Drumsticks: Marinate chicken drumsticks in Chinese Plum Sauce and then bake them in the oven until they are sticky and caramelized.
  • Plum Sauce Noodles: Toss cooked noodles with Chinese Plum Sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil for a quick and easy meal.
  • Plum Sauce Fried Rice: Stir-fry rice with eggs, peas, and diced carrots, and then add a dollop of Chinese Plum Sauce for a sweet and savoury flavour.
  • Plum Sauce Shrimp Stir-Fry: Stir-fry shrimp with garlic, ginger, and vegetables, and then add Chinese Plum Sauce and soy sauce for a flavourful sauce.

Chinese Plum Sauce is a delicious and versatile sauce that can elevate any dish. Experiment with different pairings and accompaniments to find your favourite combination.

Storing and Preservation

Chinese plum sauce being poured into sterilized jars, sealed tightly, and stored in a cool, dark pantry for long-term preservation

Once you have made your own homemade Chinese plum sauce, you'll want to know how to store it properly so that you can enjoy it for as long as possible. Here are some tips on how to store and preserve your homemade Chinese plum sauce:


Canning is a great way to preserve your homemade plum sauce for long-term storage. You can easily make a double batch or more and can it so that you can enjoy this delicious plum sauce all year long! All you have to do to can this is ladle the hot plum sauce into sterilized jars, seal with the lids and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.


If you plan on using your plum sauce within a few weeks, you can store it in the refrigerator. Make sure to store it in an airtight container and it should last in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.

Shelf Life

The shelf life of your homemade Chinese plum sauce will depend on how it is stored. If you have canned your plum sauce, it can last for up to a year or more in the pantry. If you have stored it in the refrigerator, it should last for up to 4 weeks.


To keep your plum sauce fresh, make sure to store it in an airtight container. Also, make sure that the container is clean and dry before storing your plum sauce in it. If you notice any signs of spoilage such as mold or an off smell, it is best to discard the sauce.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your homemade Chinese plum sauce stays fresh and delicious for as long as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

A bowl of Chinese plum sauce surrounded by ingredients like plums, sugar, vinegar, and spices on a kitchen counter

What can I use as a substitute for plum sauce?

If you can't find plum sauce or simply want to try something different, you can use hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, or sweet and sour sauce as substitutes. However, keep in mind that these sauces have different flavors and consistencies, so they may not work as well in certain recipes.

How do I make an old-fashioned plum sauce?

If you're looking for an old-fashioned plum sauce recipe, try this one: Traditional Chinese Plum Sauce from Scratch. It uses fresh plums, ginger, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and spices to create a sweet and tangy sauce that's perfect for dipping, basting, or glazing.

What are some simple steps to make Chinese plum sauce?

Here are some simple steps to make Chinese plum sauce at home:

  1. Pit and chop fresh plums.
  2. Combine plums, sugar, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and spices in a saucepan.
  3. Simmer the mixture until it thickens and the plums break down.
  4. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps or skins.
  5. Transfer the sauce to a jar and let it cool before using.

For more detailed instructions, check out this recipe: Homemade Chinese Plum Sauce.

What dishes pair well with plum sauce?

Plum sauce is a versatile condiment that pairs well with many dishes. Some popular options include roasted duck, pork chops, chicken wings, spring rolls, dumplings, and stir-fry dishes. You can also use it as a dipping sauce for egg rolls or as a glaze for grilled meats.

Are hoisin sauce and plum sauce interchangeable?

While hoisin sauce and plum sauce have similar sweet and savory flavours, they are not interchangeable. Hoisin sauce typically contains soybeans, garlic, and chili peppers, while plum sauce is made from plums, sugar, vinegar, and spices. If you're looking for a substitute for plum sauce, hoisin sauce may work in some recipes, but it will change the overall flavor profile of the dish.

Can you suggest a spicy twist to a traditional plum sauce recipe?

If you want to add some heat to your plum sauce, try adding a pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. You can also experiment with adding other spices, such as cinnamon, star anise, or Chinese five-spice powder, to give your sauce a unique twist. Just be careful not to overpower the delicate plum flavor.