Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce Recipe

Hey, guys! Welcome back to Early inTime! Today, I’m thrilled to share with you a quick and easy recipe for making Chinese restaurant-style sweet and sour sauce at home.

Forget about store-bought versions—this homemade sauce is delicious and uses simple ingredients you likely already have in your pantry.

Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce Recipe

Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce


  • Recreate the true Chinese restaurant-style sweet and sour sauce without pineapple juice, orange juice, or ketchup.
  • Easily whip up this delicious sauce using common pantry staples like sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, soy sauce, and water.
  • In just a few minutes, achieve that iconic red color and perfect consistency by bringing the mixture to a boil without overcooking.
  • Use the homemade sweet and sour sauce as a dip for crab rangoon or as a base for classic dishes like sweet and sour chicken.
  • Unlike some recipes, this authentic version skips the ketchup for a purer, restaurant-style taste.

In short,

To make Chinese sweet and sour sauce, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar, 4 tsp cornstarch, a pinch of salt, 3/4 cup water, 4 tsp white vinegar, and 1 tsp soy sauce in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, stirring until thickened. Add 2 drops of red food coloring, then serve as a dipping sauce or base for dishes like sweet and sour chicken.

chinese sweet and sour sauce

Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce Recipe

Yield: Condiment
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce

Let's dive in and make that iconic red sweet and sour sauce
that you love from your favorite Chinese restaurant.


  • 1/2 cup white sugar (100g)
  • 4 tsp cornstarch (or tapioca, arrowroot, etc.)
  • 4 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup water (180ml)
  • 2 drops red gel food coloring (I use Americolor)


Making the Sauce

Making the Sauce

  • Combine Sugar and Cornstarch: Place a small saucepan on the stove. Add 1/2 cup of sugar and 4 teaspoons of cornstarch to the pan. You can also use arrowroot powder, tapioca starch, or potato starch as alternatives. Whisk the cornstarch into the sugar to ensure it dissolves well when mixed with water.
  • Add Flavor Elements: Add a pinch of salt to the sugar and cornstarch mixture for balance. Pour in 3/4 cup of water, 4 teaspoons of white vinegar (you can use apple cider vinegar as an alternative), and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce.
  • Add Color: Every authentic sweet and sour sauce has that distinctive red hue. Add 2 drops of red gel food coloring to achieve that classic look.

Cooking the Sauce

  1. Whisk and Bring to a Boil: Blend the ingredients together using a whisk. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. The goal is to thicken the sauce and fully dissolve the sugar and salt.
  2. Watch for Changes: As the sauce boils, you'll notice a deepening of color, and the sauce will turn clear. Once it reaches this point, turn off the heat. Be cautious not to overcook, as it may cause the sauce to become watery.
  3. Final Check and Serving: After turning off the heat, stir the sauce to ensure no lumps. Now, you can serve it up! Use it as a crab rangoon dipping sauce or a base for sweet and sour chicken.


Note: This recipedoes not include ketchup, as traditional Chinese sweet and sour sauce typicallydoesn't contain it.


Who created sweet and sour sauce?

Sweet and sour sauce originated in China in the 1700s and evolved into the popular sauce known today in America during the late 19th century.

What is Chinese restaurant sweet and sour sauce made of?

For that iconic hue, Chinese restaurants’ sweet and sour sauce is typically made with white sugar, cornstarch, white vinegar, soy sauce, water, and red food coloring. It’s a quick and easy recipe that doesn’t include ingredients like ketchup, pineapple juice, or orange juice.

Is Chinese sweet and sour sauce healthy?

Chinese sweet and sour sauce is not particularly healthy as it needs significant vitamins and minerals. It is high in sodium, providing 7% of the recommended daily intake, but it contains 3 milligrams of vitamin C, contributing to 5% of the recommended intake.

Why is Chinese sweet and sour sauce red?

The classic red color of Chinese sweet and sour sauce comes from red food coloring, which is optional in the recipe.

Why is it called sweet and sour?

Sweet and sour sauce is named for its core ingredients: sugar (sweet) and vinegar (sour). The sweetness can come from various sources like honey, fruits, syrups, or even melted candy.

How do you thicken sweet and sour sauce?

To thicken sweet and sour sauce, you can add one more tablespoon of cornstarch and whisk it in. However, keep in mind that the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools down.

Do Chinese people eat sweet and sour?

Yes, sweet and sour is a Chinese dish, particularly popular in westernized Cantonese cuisine. Different provinces in China have variations of sweet and sour dishes.

Is red 40 in sweet and sour sauce?

The provided recipe does not include red 40. However, commercial sweet and sour sauces may contain ingredients like FD&C Red 40, among others.

Why is sweet and sour pink?

In the American version of sweet and sour sauce, the addition of fruit juice, commonly pineapple, and ketchup gives the sauce its red hue, making it pink. This modification contributes to a uniquely Western flavor.


Try this recipe, and you’ll be surprised at how close it is to the restaurant-style Chinese sweet and sour sauce you love. No pineapple juice, orange juice, or ketchup—just the real deal!

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