Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce

Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce

The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 15 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
44 Calories
0g Fat
11g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 44
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 125mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 3mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 29mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Sweet and sour is a very popular sauce in Chinese cuisine, with many different ways to make it. This recipe is the style that would be found in a Chinese (Cantonese) restaurant, with a red ketchup base. You can use it for stir-fry pork, chicken, or vegetables. You can enjoy this sauce as a dipping sauce for egg rolls or fried shrimp. With this recipe there's no reason to store sweet and sour packets anymore, you can simply make your own at home.

This sweet and sour sauce isn't just for Chinese food. It goes great with things like chicken nuggets as a dip, glazed on chicken wings, and spread on hamburgers. If you love sweet and sour sauce, you can add it to anything you want. Make a double batch of sauce—one to use right away and another for the freezer.

In addition to this typical red sauce, see a variation that adds orange juice and fresh ginger for a bright flavor with an extra kick.


Watch Now: Incredible Homemade Sweet and Sour Sauces

"I made this with big chunks of rock sugar, and it was delicious. The rock sugar melts down by the time the sauce is simmering. I also made two versions: one with potato starch and one with cornstarch and they were both very good." —Diana Rattray

Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1/2 tablespoon potato starch or cornstarch

  • 7 ounces water (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)

  • 3 1/2 ounces ketchup (about 1/3 cup; or 2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste)

  • 3 1/2 ounces rice vinegar (7 tablespoons)

  • 3 1/2 ounces rock sugar

  • Salt (to taste)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce ingredients

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

  2. Mix the potato starch with 1 tablespoon of water (or a little more, as needed) to make a slurry.

    Mix the potato starch with 1 tablespoon of water

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

  3. Add all of the ingredients to a saucepan and mix evenly before you start cooking.

    Whisk ingredients together in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

  4. You must continuously stir the sauce to prevent the sauce from getting lumpy.

    sauce cooking in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

  5. Bring the sauce to a boil and turn the heat to the lowest temperature and simmer until the sauce texture has turned thick and sticky. Then it’s ready.

    sauce in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

  6. You can stir fry some pork or chicken with vegetables and pour the sauce in.

    vegetables and sauce in a wok

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

  7. If you have any extra sauce, you can keep it in a dry and clean container after it is cooled down and store it in the fridge. Usually, this sauce should last 7 to 10 days in the fridge.

    Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce in a jar

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg


  • If you happen to have some lumps in your sauce, pour it through a fine mesh strainer.
  • If the sauce is too thin for your use, Make another slurry with about 1 teaspoon of starch and a small amount of water and add it to the simmering sauce; continue to cook until thickened as desired.


  • You can use about 1/2 cup of superfine sugar or demerara sugar instead of the rock sugar, but rock sugar is preferable for taste.
  • You can use tomato paste instead of ketchup. Less tomato paste is used as it has a more concentrated tomato flavor and it will be diluted by the water. You can use white vinegar rather than rice vinegar.
  • For an orange-ginger sweet and sour sauce, do not add the potato starch slurry at the beginning. Finely mince 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh ginger and cook it in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in the saucepan until it is fragrant and starting to brown. Now add 2 tablespoons orange juice, 1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce, ketchup (or tomato paste), vinegar, sugar, water, and salt and bring this to a boil. Once boiling, you can strain it through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the minced ginger. Return the sauce to the pan and add the slurry of potato starch and water, heating it until its thickness is to your liking.
  • For spicier sauce, add some crushed red pepper flakes or some sambal (chili sauce or chili garlic sauce).
  • For a bright red sauce, add a few drops of red food coloring.

How To Use Sweet and Sour Sauce

What Is the Difference Between Rock Sugar and Other Sugars?

Rock sugar is milder in sweetness than refined sugars because it is made with a sugar and water solution. It is commonly used in East Asian cuisine. Rock sugar adds sweetness without adding flavor.

Can You Freeze Sweet and Sour Sauce?

Leftover homemade sweet and sour sauce may be frozen. Put it in a zip-close freezer bag or airtight container and freeze it for up to 3 months.