Mumbo Sauce

mumbo or mambo sauce with chicken wings
Diana Rattray
  • Total: 25 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 6 servings

Mumbo (or Mambo) sauce was originally developed by Chicago restaurant owner Argia B. Collins in the 1950s as a variation on barbecue sauce. It's believed the D.C. version was first served at a "Wings-n-Things" restaurant in the 1960s and became a popular condiment that can now be found in Asian takeout and soul food restaurants throughout the city. Because of a trademark dispute with the Argia sauce, the commercially bottled variation by Capital City Mumbo Sauce is known as Capital City Mambo Sauce.

Mumbo sauce is a sweet-sour blend of ingredients that is similar to a tangy ketchup or barbecue sauce, but thinner in texture. It is a versatile sauce that can be used as a dip for chicken wings, egg rolls, fries, and other fried foods, or it can be used to replace ketchup or barbecue sauce in just about any recipe. Feel free to make the sauce as mild or as hot as you like or add extra sweetener. The sauce does thicken more when chilled, but if you'd prefer it to feel be a ketchup-like sauce, reduce it a bit more.

Some recipes include pineapple juice and tomato paste, but this version—made with ketchup and cane syrup—is closer to the flavor of Capital City Mambo Sauce, which is available in the D.C. region and online. Feel free to double or triple the recipe for a larger amount. The heat level is easily adjusted with more or less hot sauce. You can also add a dash of cayenne pepper to the sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 3/4 cup cane syrup (such as Steen's or Lyle's Golden Syrup)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet, mild paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (or more for a hot version)
  • Dash kosher salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients for mumbo sauce
    Diana Rattray
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and whisk to blend.

    mumbo sweet and sour sauce in a saucepan
    Diana Rattray
  3. Bring the sauce mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook, occasionally stirring, for about 15 minutes.

    mumbo sauce simmering
    Diana Rattray
  4. Let the sauce cool and then pour it into a container or squeeze bottle; label with the name and date. Keep the sauce refrigerated and use within 2 weeks.

    jar of mumbo sauce
    Diana Rattray
  5. Serve the sauce with chicken wings, egg rolls, or use it as a glaze or barbecue sauce for meatloaf, ribs, chops, or chicken.

    Mambo sauce or mumbo sauce with chicken wings.
    Diana Rattray

Recipe Variations

  • If you can't find cane syrup, replace it with light corn syrup.
  • For a spicier sauce, add 1 teaspoon or more of hot sauce, or add cayenne pepper, to taste. 
  • For a slightly fruity flavor, replace the water with apricot nectar or pineapple juice.
  • The D.C. sauce is quite sweet, but feel free to experiment with less cane syrup. Or cut back on the syrup and supplement with a sugar replacement, to taste.
  • Replace the soy sauce with tamari or coconut aminos.