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What is Duck Sauce?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Duck sauce is a sweet and sour sauce that has a long association as the perfect compliment to Chinese cuisine. It can be used as a glaze and an ingredient in recipes as well as being an ideal dipping sauce. It's made with dried fruit, sugar, and spices.

The basic ingredients duck sauce are quite common, and it's usually made with dried plums, dried apricots, vinegar, sugar, and a few spices. Because of the fruit, it's sometimes referred to as plum sauce or apricot sauce. In fact, when the sauce is used as an ingredient in some recipes, it will often be listed as by one of it's fruity names.

What makes duck sauce match so well with many Chinese dishes is the sweet and sour flavor combination. Many Chinese dishes use portions of chicken or fish that are deep-fried. Using a fork or chop sticks, a bite-sized piece can be dunked in the sauce before it is eaten. The result is a sweet and sour taste that is combined with the satisfying crunch of the fried batter. Along with the fried meats, the sauce is also great for dipping an egg roll or even mixing in fried rice.

Outside of Chinese cuisine, duck sauce can also be used as a glaze on various types of meat. Boneless chicken breasts can be coated with a layer and baked, for example, and even grilled fish can be spread with just a hint before it is grilled. The sauce works very well with wild duck as well, as one might expect. Spreading a little over the duck before baking and then a second glazing a few moments before the duck is ready to come out of the oven will give the meat a pleasing taste that adds a sweet and sour flavor to the natural juices.

The sauce can also be used on other items, and makes a good glaze for baked or barbecued spareribs. Brushing it on during the cooking process will help bring out the natural flavor of the spareribs, and also give them a wonderful presentation. Along with spareribs, baked and grilled pork chops can also benefit from this glaze.

As a sweet and sour dipping sauce or glaze, duck sauce is a versatile condiment that can easily dress up all types of food. It is commonly available at most supermarkets, although the ingredients can often be purchased at any supermarket or Asian food markets for cooks who want to make it at home.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including DelightedCooking, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon999179 — On Nov 10, 2017

foureals, we know the difference between plum sauce and duck sauce. Plum sauce is for Thai food and duck sauce is for Chinese food. -Boston.

By anon349495 — On Sep 26, 2013

It's called duck sauce because it was served with pancakes to go along with Peking Duck.

By SarahSon — On Aug 30, 2012

I have a recipe for duck breast that is served with an orange duck sauce. Maybe this sauce was originally served with duck meat and that is why it is referred to as duck sauce.

What I like about this sauce is that it is very versatile and tastes just as good on pork and chicken as it does with duck. The sauce is orange colored and includes orange juice, orange zest and sections of oranges which gives it the bright color.

By John57 — On Aug 30, 2012

Whenever I order Chinese food I always ask for some extra sweet and sour duck sauce. I use this to dip my egg rolls in and also like to pour it over the top of my entree.

The combination of the sweet and sour is one of my favorite sauces and my Chinese food would seem pretty bland without it.

By andee — On Aug 29, 2012

Personally I think referring to this sweet and sour sauce as plum or apricot sauce sounds much more appetizing than calling it duck sauce.

Since it is made from plums and apricots, it makes you wonder why it was ever called duck sauce in the first place?

By anon176103 — On May 14, 2011

Duck sauce was developed in the 1920's by a chinese chef Wen Duc, and was famously known as Duc's Sauce. Later in the US it was called Duck Sauce.

By anon155782 — On Feb 24, 2011

where does the name come from? is there any reason why it was named duck sauce if it's sweet and sour.

By calabama71 — On Sep 19, 2010

@foureals: I thought I would add to your comment that duck sauce is not just “plum sauce”. Duck sauce is also made from apricots, which are not plums. However, plums and apricots are crossbred and become pluots. I guess you could then call it pluot sauce.

Whereas most duck sauce is made from plums, your comment, as insightful as it was, is not 100% correct.

By foureals — On Jun 27, 2009

We all know that Duck Sauce is an American concoction and is no way a real Chinese condiment. It is *not* "sometimes" referred to as plum sauce, it *is* plum sauce. The majority of East coast people ask for duck sauce since they have no clue that it is "Plum Sauce" But that just shows you what kind of palate they have.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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