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What is Plum Sauce?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Plum sauce is one of several commonly used Chinese condiments that are served with various types of fried foods, including egg rolls, noodles, and different types of fried fish. The sauce is both sweet and tangy, allowing the product to work well in a number of different applications. Although often made with plums, the same basic sauce recipe can be prepared using apricots, pumpkins, peaches, or even some forms of melons.

A basic plum sauce is made using plums that have been allowed to ripen to the point where the flesh of the fruit is at its sweetest. As part of the preparation, the skin of the plum is usually removed by immersing the whole plums in hot water for a short period of time, allowing the skin to be peeled away from the fruit with relative ease. The pulp of the fruit is combined with white or brown sugar, white or rice vinegar, ginger, and some type of hot peppers. Some recipes call for the addition of such ingredients as white wine, minced garlic, and even a dash of soy sauce.

The sweet yet sour taste of the plum sauce makes it an ideal dipping sauce for egg rolls. In addition, this sweet and sour sauce is excellent for use with fish or chicken balls that have been breaded and deep-fried. The consistency of the product is just thick enough to allow it to cling without a lot of dripping. As the product has become increasingly popular in many cultures, the sauce is sometimes used as a steak sauce, or as a way to add some additional taste to hamburger patties. Another common use today is as a dipping sauce for various types of sushi, including vegetable sushi.

The choice of ingredients as well as the balance between those ingredients will determine both the consistency and the taste of the plum sauce. Some recipes produce a sauce that is somewhat thin and salty like duck sauce. Other methods create a sauce that is thicker and is more sweet than sour. Since the sauce can be prepared fresh in a matter of five to ten minutes, it is easy to adjust the flavor to match the preferences of those who will be using the product with an upcoming meal. Consumers can also purchase bottled plum sauce at a number of grocery stores and supermarkets, often with a choice between different brands that vary in tartness and sweetness, as well as texture.

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 wavy58 — On Sep 26, 2011

Egg rolls dipped in plum sauce are the best! Something about the combination of the sweet yet salty sauce with the cabbage, carrots, and shredded meat inside an egg roll is irresistibly perfect.

I dip the end of my egg roll in the sauce. After I have taken a bite and exposed the insides, I take a spoon and shove some plum sauce down inside. I take a knife and make slits along the top of the egg roll, and then I pour the sauce into the openings.

I make sure my egg roll is saturated with plum sauce. After you’ve tried the two together, you can’t eat a bite of egg roll without it.

By lighth0se33 — On Sep 26, 2011

I prefer the taste of apricots to plums, so I took my friend’s plum sauce recipe and switched out the fruits. Instead of using fresh pulp, I use preserves and dried fruit, because I have trouble telling if an apricot is ripe or not.

I combine one-third cup of dried apricots with water, a half cup of apricot preserves, a tablespoon of dijon mustard, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and half a teaspoon of ginger. I put it in a pot over medium heat until it boils. Then, I turn it down to low and let it simmer. After about five minutes, it is ready.

By StarJo — On Sep 25, 2011

I’m guessing that the type of plum sauce made with soy sauce is the salty kind. Soy sauce is jam packed with sodium, and just a tablespoon is enough to season a skillet full of food.

This is most likely the kind that the Chinese buffet in my town uses. It’s really good, but man, is it salty! I use it sparingly, because too much sodium speeds up my heart rate.

Sometimes, when no one is looking. I pour a bit of water into my plum sauce to dilute it. It still tastes great, just not as intense.

By orangey03 — On Sep 25, 2011

I tend to prefer the sweet plum sauce with my Chinese food. This is because things like chicken, fish, and egg rolls are usually pretty salty in their own rite, so they don’t need any added saltiness.

I love the combination of sweet and salty. The sweet plum sauce is versatile. It tastes just as good poured over a sweet roll as it does when eaten with meat. I have even dipped fortune cookies in the sauce, because they don’t have much of a flavor of their own.

By myharley — On Sep 24, 2011

I have a wonderful plum sauce recipe that I always get compliments on when I serve it. It is a perfect combination of spicy and salty. This sauce tastes good with chicken, pork, and of course, egg rolls.

The blend of plums,ginger, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, brown sugar and onion and lemon juice is what creates the tangy flavor that goes well with almost anything.

I prefer a homemade Asian plum sauce over the standard sweet and sour sauce any time I have the choice.

By julies — On Sep 23, 2011

Once you taste some fresh plum sauce nothing else really compares. There are many times that I will order egg rolls to go from my favorite Chinese restaurant.

I like to eat these at home with my own plum sauce because it tastes so much better than what is available at the restaurant.

It takes a little bit of time to make a batch of plum sauce, but it will keep well in the refrigerator for several weeks.

You get spoiled with the taste of fresh plum sauce and want it every time you eat Asian food.

By serenesurface — On Sep 22, 2011

Most of the plum sauces I've seen are made from red plums. Can plum sauce be made with yellow plums too?

We have some yellow plums growing near our house and they'll be pretty ripe soon. Would it be crazy to make plum sauce out of them?

By ddljohn — On Sep 21, 2011

@drtroubles-- Yea, I've made it once. I just cooked them on the stove on low heat for about half an hour to forty-five minutes without adding extra water. If you can remove the pits and skins first, go for it. Otherwise you can always strain it later and that's what I did.

As for the flavor, I had some lemon juice (or you can use vinegar), sugar, salt, soy sauce and black pepper on hand. As the sauce simmered, I checked the flavor and added whatever I felt was needed. I think this is the best way to get the exact taste you're looking for. You can also use chili pepper and garlic if you want, I didn't use those.

Good luck!

By ysmina — On Sep 21, 2011

I guess plum sauce is one of those rare foods that Asian and American cuisine have in common. I'm sure it's more common in Asia than in America though.

I grew up pretty familiar with plum sauce because it's made a lot in the South as we have a lot of wild plums growing there. My mom is really good at picking them every season and she always manages to do it when they are perfect- a little sweet and a little tart. Then she makes a sauce with them by pitting and simmering them on the stove. We usually have it on top of meat- beef, duck, or chicken.

I'm away from home and I've picked up ready plum sauce from the store once, but fresh plum sauce is definitely better. And when you make it fresh, you can always play around with the ingredients and make it as sweet or sour as you like, which is not possible with ready-made.

By drtroubles — On Sep 20, 2011

Has anyone had success with actually making their own plum sauce? Are there any tips you could give?

I am getting ready for a dinner party later this month and would really like to provide a nice selection of Chinese food with my own homemade plum sauce.

I have found an interesting recipe for a plum sauce stir fry, but find that my store bought plum sauce just isn't giving me the punch I would like. I really want to impress my guests and feel that if I can nail the plum sauce it will help make the meal perfect.

By Mae82 — On Sep 20, 2011

There is a fantastic Chinese restaurant near my house that always has fresh plum sauce on hand, and it really makes a difference. I was so used to having store bought plum sauce that I was pleasantly surprised when I tried a home made plum sauce recipe.

Apparently the restaurant I go to keeps their recipe for plum sauce a closely guarded secret, but I am still trying to replicate it on my own. It has been pretty tough but I think I am starting to get it right. Until I do, I am going to keep ordering my weekly dose of chicken balls with egg rolls so I can sample their sauce.

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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