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7 Best Plum Sauce Substitute Options

The fruitness and tanginess are second to none with plum sauce. It’s the sauce to use for dipping, glazing, and marinating. But what if you don’t have any around? If you’re looking for a plum sauce substitute, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve got several lined up as alternatives for one of the tastiest Chinese sauces.

You can substitute plum sauce for homemade plum sauce, duck sauce, hoisin sauce, and teriyaki sauce. But these are just to name a few, as I’ve got several more of the best substitutes for plum sauce just for you!

A bowl of Chinese plum sauce with a side of plums.

🤷 What is Plum Sauce?

Plum sauce is a part of the vast list of condiments used as Asian dipping sauces. It’s commonly used in Asian cuisine, particularly in Chinese cuisine. It’s also known as Chinese plum sauce or Asian plum sauce. The sauce is made from fresh plums, vinegar, sugar, ginger, garlic, and chili. Some variations might even incorporate a ponzu sauce substitute for a citrusy twist. But a true Chinese plum sauce, or sū méi jiàng, has a pinkish color to it.

🧑‍🍳 How do you Make Plum Sauce?

To make plum sauce, start by washing and pitting the plums. Then, simmer the plums in a pot with water until they become soft. Add sugar, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and chili to the pot and continue to simmer until the mixture thickens. You can thicken sauce without cornstarch or flour. Once the mixture has thickened, strain it through a fine mesh sieve, transfer it to the pot, and continue to simmer until it thickens to how you like it.

A jar of plum sauce with ginger and garlic.

📌 What is Plum Sauce Used For?

Dipping Sauce: Plum sauce, when infused with Sriracha, jalapenos, or chili powder, creates a tantalizingly spicy dipping sauce. Using chili powder substitutes will help create an even better flavor for appetizers like chicken wings, egg rolls, spring rolls, and dumplings.

Marinade: For meats such as Peking duck, roasted duck, grilled chicken, and baked pork, plum sauce serves as an excellent marinade. It tenderizes the meat while imparting its signature sweet and tangy flavor profile.

Stir-Fry Sauce: Transforming into a stir-fry sauce, plum sauce adds a delightful sweet-tangy essence to vegetable stir-fries, rice dishes, and noodle preparations, enhancing the overall flavor profile of the dish.

Glaze: Using it as a glazing sauce for pork chops and dishes like char siu, pork belly, or ribs is pure flavor. Opting for the thickest consistency of plum sauce ensures the meat is coated with a sweet-tangy flavor, enhancing its taste while caramelizing its exterior.

Moo Shu: In moo shu, a Chinese dish featuring shredded pork, vegetables, and scrambled eggs, plum sauce acts as a unifying element, infusing the dish with its sweet and tangy notes, tying together the diverse ingredients harmoniously.

sweet and sour chili sauce and hoisin sauce

💡 7 Best Plum Sauce Substitutes

DIY Plum Sauce

This first plum sauce substitute is not really an alternative, but a prompt to make a simple homemade plum sauce. Tweak the ingredients, taste, and consistency to suit your personal taste. Cook plums, sugar (or honey), soy sauce (or salt), vinegar, ginger, garlic, and chili in a saucepan to their boiling point and then simmer. This recipe will create a delicious plum sauce from scratch, that you can refrigerate and use whenever you like.

Duck Sauce

This is a direct substitute for plum sauce if you are eating it as a dipping sauce for roasts or deep-fried appetizers. Egg rolls, spring rolls, and fried wonton dumplings are complemented by this glistening, thick orange sauce. It boasts a more prominent sweet-sour flavor than plum sauce, so it holds up to greasy foods with ease.

Hoisin Sauce 

In a pinch for plum sauce and the roast duck on the table can’t wait? Hoisin to the rescue. Plum sauce and hoisin sauce have varying uses, but generally hoisin tends to be well stocked in most grocery and Asian food stores. In fact, hoisin is the original Peking “duck sauce” from Beijing (then known as Peking). You won’t get the tang from plum sauce, but its sweet and salty flavors will surely make up for it. The consistency of hoisin also makes it a great option for basting and marinades. 

A pot of umeboshi with plums added to the top.
umeboshi (salted plum)

Umeboshi Paste

Umeboshi or Japanese pickled plums have an acquired salty-sour taste. This umami-rich paste can be mixed with brown sugar and teriyaki sauce to form a delicious alternative to plum sauce. The result will be a combination of sweet, salty, and sour flavors with a fruity undertone. You can also mix it with olive oil to make a sugar free salad dressing. The above combination takes the consistency of the teriyaki sauce and can be used as either dipping sauce or marinade. 

Asian Sweet & Sour Sauce

This is a good substitute for plum sauce because its sweet and sour flavors are a perfect echo, like a mild version of chili garlic sauce or pepper jelly on Brussels sprouts. Just like plum sauce, this is a versatile option that can be used in many dishes, most especially for stir-fries, dressings, and dips. Add a dollop of chili garlic sauce to amp up the flavors on top of the naturally sweet-salty blend.

Teriyaki Sauce

Looking for a plum sauce equivalent for your marinade? Use this teriyaki sauce alternative in place of plum sauce. Teriyaki sauce is made with sugar, soy sauce (light or dark), mirin, and sake, but it would benefit from being infused with garlic, ginger, and leeks if you are using it as a marinade or for basting meats. You can also reduce it to use it as a glaze. You can also use light soy sauce alternatives and dark soy sauce alternatives to make the sauce.

A sauce bowl of teriyaki sauce with pepper shavings.

Fruit Jams

You will likely have some kind of jam in your pantry. Fruit jam makes for a great base for a sweet-savory dipping sauce, though the final flavor will depend on the type of fruit. Mix the jam of your choice with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and some chili, just as you would make a homemade plum sauce. The result will be equal to a sweet, tart plum sauce, perfect to use for basting, marinades, glazes, and salad dressings.

🧐 FAQs

What do Americans call plum sauce?

Americans typically refer to plum sauce as “duck sauce.”

What does Plum Sauce taste like?

Plum sauce’s quite unique flavor profile is sweet, sour, and tart, with a bit of a kick. It’s not that hot, but there’s a spicy undertone coming from the ginger, chili, and sometimes garlic.

What are some alternatives to plums in a recipe?

Some of the most popular alternatives include apricots, peaches, nectarines, and even apples. These fruits have a similar texture and sweetness to plums, making them a great choice for recipes that call for this fruit.

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