This sweet and sour sauce has a perfectly balanced sweet and tangy flavor that will rival your favorite Chinese restaurant! It's a perfect dipping sauce, a super glaze for fried chunks of chicken or pork, tempura-battered shrimp, or pan-fried short ribs, and a fantastic stir-fry sauce! Once you see how easy it is to make sweet and sour sauce at home, you'll never buy the bottled stuff again!
Sweet And Sour Sauce Recipe
This well-loved and very popular Chinese food sauce is always a hit with the family! It's been a while, but when I was growing up, my Mom and I would enjoy some takeout food from a little Chinese restaurant.
I still can't believe that she would have to ask, "What would you like?" Um, sweet and sour, please! Some things never change, and I am still a die-hard fan of this addictive red sauce that I have loved for as long as I can remember!
🥘 Ingredients For Sweet and Sour Sauce
All you need is a handful of simple ingredients to make your own sweet and sour sauce! The red food coloring is purely for presentation and can be left out if desired.
- Canned Pineapple Juice - 1 cup of canned pineapple juice (1 28-ounce can of diced pineapples, drained).
- Light Brown Sugar - ¾ cup packed light brown sugar.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - ⅓ cup of apple cider vinegar.
- Ketchup - 3 tablespoons of ketchup.
- Soy Sauce - 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.
- Ginger - ½ tablespoon of fresh ground ginger or ¼ teaspoon of dried ground ginger.
- Red Food Coloring (optional) - 2-4 drops.
- Cornstarch - ½ tablespoon of cornstarch (combine with 2 tablespoons cold water to make a slurry).
*Be sure to see the free printable recipe card below for ingredients, exact amounts & instructions with tips!*
🔪 How To Make Sweet and Sour Sauce
This sauce is super simple, just be sure to stay nearby and monitor it constantly. You will need your measuring utensils, a can opener, a saucepan, a whisk, and a spoon.
1 batch makes about 2 cups of sweet and sour sauce which is usually plenty for most recipes!
- Combine. Start out by combining 1 cup of pineapple juice, ¾ cup of light brown sugar, ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons of ketchup, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, ½ tablespoon of grated ginger, and 2-4 drops of the optional red food coloring in a small saucepan.
- Boil. Bring the saucepan with the ingredients to a low boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the temperature as needed to maintain a low boil during cooking.
- Make a slurry. While the sauce is heating, mix the cornstarch and cold water to make your slurry. Add the cornstarch slurry into the sauce once it has reached a low boil.
- Stir frequently. Stir the sauce constantly while cooking at a simmer for about one minute, or until thickened and clinging to your spoon. Remove from heat once it reaches your desired thickness.
- Cool. Allow the sauce to cool completely before storing it if you will be using it later.
💭 Tips & Notes
- Use Canned Pineapple Juice. This is a pretty big thing! Just like in my pineapple curd, you need to use canned pineapple juice rather than fresh pineapple juice. Fresh pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain (in the stem, fruit, and juice of the pineapple) which will break down the cornstarch and prevent your sweet and sour sauce from thickening. The bromelain enzyme is broken down during the canning process, which is why canned pineapple is required for this recipe.
- Stirring is key. You want to keep your sauce at a low boil and stir it frequently to prevent it from burning or becoming too thick!
- Authenticity. Practically everything that we are used to here in America has been 'Americanized' in some way, shape, or form. Sweet and sour sauce as we know and love it, is based on the original Cantonese sauce also called sweet and sour that was first used with sweet and sour pork. The well-known chef, Leung Kim, of Hong Kong included rice wine vinegar, Chinese brown candy, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, dark soy sauce, and salt in his sweet and sour recipe. His friend, Willie Mak, a gourmet also from Hong Kong, suggests using a less acidic apple cider vinegar along with superior quality brands for your ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and dark soy sauce as the key to a great sweet and sour sauce.
Store your sweet and sour sauce after it has cooled completely. Use an airtight container and keep the remaining sauce refrigerated. If stored properly, the sauce will last for up to 2 weeks.
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Usually no, because of the soy sauce. However, you can purchase gluten-free soy sauce to make this recipe gluten-free!
Sweet and sour sauce has a great balance between those two flavors which lends itself well to a variety of foods! It is delicious on cooked chicken or pork, but it also makes a fabulous marinade for beef! You can use it to enhance your sandwiches or serve it as a simple dipping sauce for french fries or egg rolls. There are so many options!
The most likely reason is that you did not allow the cornstarch to dissolve fully in the cold water slurry before adding it to your saucepan. Be sure to stir or whisk frequently as your sauce thickens to keep it smooth.
🥢 More Chinese Food Favorites
- Won-Ton - Homemade cream cheese won-tons make a great appetizer for any Asian-inspired meal!
- Chinese Beef Meatballs with Hoisin Ginger Sauce - Juicy meatballs with a sticky Hoisin ginger sauce!
- Potstickers - Make perfectly crispy dumplings from frozen in your air fryer!
- General Tso's Shrimp - Crispy breaded shrimp in a sweet and salty sauce that's hard to resist!
- Chicken with Garlic Sauce - Pan-fried chicken and crispy veggies in a rich and savory garlic sauce!
- Egg Rolls in the Air Fryer - The air fryer is the very best way to make crispy and delicious egg rolls!
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📖 Recipe Card
Sweet And Sour Sauce
- In a small sauce pan, combine the pineapple juice, light brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, ginger and red food coloring.1 cup canned pineapple juice, ¾ cup light brown sugar, ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar, 3 tablespoon ketchup, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ tablespoon fresh ginger, 2-4 drops red food coloring
- Bring the saucepan and sauce to a low boil over medium high heat, reducing the heat if needed to keep it at a low boil.
- Mix the cornstarch with cold water to make your slurry. Add the slurry to your sauce once it has reached a low boil and cook at a simmer for about one minute, stirring constantly until thickened and clinging to your spoon.1 ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- Remove from heat once the sauce has thickened and allow to cool before using as a dipping sauce.
Fresh vs Canned Pineapple JuiceThis is a pretty big thing! Just like in my pineapple curd, you need to use canned pineapple juice rather than fresh pineapple juice. Fresh pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain ( in the stem, fruit and juice of the pineapple ) which will break down the cornstarch and prevent your sweet and sour sauce from thickening. The bromelain enzyme is broken down during the canning process, which is why canned pineapple is required for this recipe.
Storing Your Sweet and Sour SauceStore your sweet and sour sauce after it has cooled completely. Use an air tight container and keep the remaining sauce refrigerated. If stored properly, the sauce will last for up to 2 weeks.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!