Chinese sweet and sour sauce possibly is the most famous Chinese sauce. There are so many yummy dish made with this sauce including sweet and sour chicken, sweet and sour pork etc. I have received e-mails and facebook message asking about how to make Chinese sweet and sour sauce. Elaine has decided to introduce different Chinese combined stir-fry sauces so you can use them directly with your own recipe creations.

Chinese sweet and sour sauce is known as 糖醋汁 in Chinese and is a type of sauce used mainly in quick stir-fry recipes in China. Basically, the main ingredient should be deep-fried or pan-fried firstly before tossing with the sauce in wok . This cooking method is named as “溜” in Chinese which meaning stir-fry and cook very quickly.

Chinese sweet and sour sauce

Everyone may have a unique sweet and sour sauce. If you do not like sour taste that much, you can reduce the vinegar or lemon juice slightly or add a little bit more sugar.In different Chinese cuisines, Chinese sweet and sour sauce is widely been used. For example, sweet and sour pork tenderloin(糖醋里脊) from Sichuan cuisine, Guo Bao Rou (锅包肉) from Northern China, sweet and sour ribs and sweet and sour fish in Jiangsu province.

There are many variations of Chinese sweet and sour sauce. Some use tomato sauce while others just use vinegar and sugar directly. Following are two most commonly used recipe for tuning Chinese sweet and sour sauce.

Have a look of all of the basic sauces and condiments we are going to use for perfect Chinese sweet and sour sauce.  They are green onion, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, ketchup, and black vinegar, and dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, cooking wine, sugar and starch. You do not need to use them all in one type of Chinese sweet and sour sauces. Just basic information for ingredients! If you need more information about the sauces and condiments for Chinese cooking, check Chinese Sauces.

Chinese sweet and sour sauce

Now comes to this Chinese sweet and sour sauce with ketchup—this is the all-purpose sauce for around 500 g foods or making a rice bowl dipping sauce

Chinese sweet and sour sauce

You can follow the step to make a perfect Chinese sweet and sour sauce or mixing all the ingredients together for a quicker version.

Chinese sweet and sour sauce

Chinese sweet and sour sauce

Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce

All-purpose Chinese sweet and sour sauce, for around 500g food or a small rice bowl of dipping sauce! How to use it, add your fried chicken, pork, fish, shrimp, tofu and whatever you want before or after adding water starch!
4.75 from 20 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: sauce
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: sweet and sour
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Author: Elaine


  • 2 middle size garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1 tsp. green onion white
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Basic sweet and sour sauce

  • 4 tbsp. ketchup
  • 8 tbsp. water , 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • a small pinch of salt if needed

Water starch

  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp water


  • Heat up vegetable oil in pan or wok; add garlic, green onions and ginger to stir-fry for around 2 minutes or until aroma with low fire.
  • Then pour the basic sauce to the wok, bring all the content to a boiling. And add water starch in. Keep on stirring in the process.


If rice vinegar is not available, you can use lemon juice to replace it.

Chinese sweet and sour sauce

This sauce with ketchup is mainly used for recipes with a bright color including sweet and sour chicken, sweet and sour pork with pineapple, sweet and sour shrimp.

Wait, it is still not the end. 

Another way to prepare Chinese sweet and sour sauce: Ginger, garlic and green onions are always needed for a basic taste layer.  However if the main ingredients is marinated with ginger and green onion water previously, they can be skipped.

Chinese sweet and sour sauce with darker color

  • 2 middle size garlic cloves
  • 1 root ginger
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 tablespoon cooking wine
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons water

This is a traditional Chinese sweet and sour sauce mainly used in traditional dishes for example sweet and sour ribs and sweet and sour fish etc. However, if the sauce is used for marinating before frying, water can be skipped. Example dish: sweet and sour ribs.

When seeing a recipe calls for vinegar, you may wonder whether to use white vinegar or black vinegar, right? For some recipes needing a bright color, please use white vinegar and light soy sauce only. And for others with a heavier caramelized color, black vinegar should be the first choice.

Combined spicy Chinese sweet and sour sauce

  • 2 middle size garlic cloves
  • 1 root ginger
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 tablespoon cooking wine
  • 1 teaspoon spicy chili oil or several dried chili peppers (a combination is also great)
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons water

This can be used in many spicy and sour meat dishes, for example spicy and sour pork belly, spicy and sour meat ball etc.

Please note that the amounts of the basic ingredients might be changed depending on the particular recipe for example if pineapple is add as side vegetables, then reduce the amount according and vinegar should be avoided.

Wow, this is a long page and I hope you like it. Thanks for visiting.

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  1. I love the orange dipping sauce that the chinese BBQ restaurants give you when you order the crispy skin bbq pork. I can’t buy it anywhere, doesn’t taste the same. Do you have a recipe for this? I only know that there’s pineapple in it cause I bit into a chunk of pinapple.

    1. Hi Lien,
      I am sorry that I do not have the recipe for the sauce. Usually crispy skin bbq pork is served with sugar, soy sauce or hoisin sauce in China. So I cannot figure out the recipe for you. But the combination with BBQ pork and pineapple sauce is really great since pineapple is such an excellent fat solver.

    1. Tom,
      In that case, you can use homemade tomato paste to replace ketchup. Is black vinegar acceptable for your? If yes, you can skip ketchup and add some black vinegar.

  2. Thank you so much . I was making sweet n sour sauce n added to much viniger but with this advice I added lemon juice garlic n ginger now it perfect thanks for saving my day and a whole pot of sauce…..

  3. I’m new to Chinese cooking and don’t understand how much is 1 ginger? Peel and leave the whole thing in a chunk? grated? Sliced? Chopped? Please explain.

      1. You never updated the recipe on how much ginger root to use. You just say 1 ginger. Tell us in weight or length of root.

  4. Hello,

    I am looking for a sweet and sour sauce that is darker colored and contains water chestnuts, green onion, and small red peppers. it is served with Firecracker Shrimp. Do you by chance know what this sauce is?

    Thank you!

    1. Sorry Erica. I really hope that I could help but I am not familiar with Firecracker shrimp and have never eaten that.

  5. What are in the bottles that you have in the picture. Just wondering so I can buy them.
    Thank you.

  6. Curious, the original recipe uses Rice Vinegar, but the Authentic Chinese Version lists simply Vinegar, and the 3rd lists Black Vinegar. The notes mention using White Vinegar to make light sauces. Is the Authentic Chinese Version using Rice Vinegar, White Vinegar, or Black Vinegar? i am not familiar with Rice Vinegar and it’s flavor/properties so don’t really know if they are all interchangeable and just picked for final color of sauces or have distinctly different tastes. Thanks.

    1. That’s a good question, Brendan. I will update this post and introduce the types of Chinese sweet and sour sauce with the detailed introduction on all types of vinegars used in China. Stay returned.

    1. Maggi soy sauce may influence the color of the sauce. I read the ingredients on the bottom and it contains caramel color, which will darken the color of the sauce. I would still recommend using common light soy sauce.

  7. 5 stars
    These look great! I’ve been trying to find a recipe I had years ago, sweet and sour pork marinated in a sauce that wasn’t too sweet, no ketchup, just ginger, wine, soy and…cant remember. But you marinated the pork, rolled the pieces in cornstarch to fry as usual, then added the marinade to the cornstarch and all to the pan to thicken;made a delicious, light, clear sauce I really prefer to most other sweet and sour anything. The pork stayed crisp because you put that back in last, the veggies were all cooked perfectly, just brilliantly easy, too two bowls, one pan, Your middle sauce looks similar, but have you ever heard this style of preparing it?