Chinese-American Plum Sauce

published Jul 12, 2022
Plum Sauce Recipe

A salty-sour-sweet condiment made from just three ingredients.

Makes1 cup

Prep2 minutes

Cook37 minutes to 50 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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A photo of plum sauce in a small clear bowl with a fried roll being dipped in.
Credit: Perry Santanachote

Plum sauce is a sweet-sour-salty condiment vaguely modeled after suin mui jeng (in Cantonese) or suan mei chiang (in Mandarin), which is made from the prunus salicina, a tree fruit more commonly known in English as Chinese plum, Japanese plum, or Japanese apricot. 

It’s become a popular Chinese American dipping sauce for egg rolls, spring rolls, crispy wontons, and other deep-fried snacks. It’s also known as duck sauce because it’s sometimes served with roasted duck.

This homemade plum sauce recipe consists of only a handful of ingredients. It’s also fruity and flavorful.

What Is Plum Sauce Made Of?

The main ingredients in plum sauce are as follows:

  • Salted/pickled plums
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sugar

The most important ingredient, of course, is the plum. European plums and dried plums would make the sauce too sickly sweet. The prunus salicina is actually more closely related to the apricot. Eden brand sells umeboshi plums (salted Japanese plums) and a umeboshi plum paste, which are perfect for plum sauce. You can find it at Whole Foods. At H-Mart, you can find pickled plums by the brand Koon Chun. Eden and Koon Chun are also available on Amazon.

Credit: Perry Santanachote

What Do You Use Plum Sauce For?

Plum sauce was initially used as a dipping sauce for egg rolls, which were invented in New York’s Chinatown during the chop suey era, and later as a condiment for roasted duck. You can also use it as a glaze for roasts, ribs, and chicken wings.

Is Plum Sauce the Same as Hoisin?

Plum sauce is quite different from hoisin sauce, but both have become associated with roasted duck, particularly Peking duck. Hoisin is a thick, dark, sweet, and salty sauce made with fermented soybean paste, garlic, sesame, and other spices.

Plum Sauce Recipe

A salty-sour-sweet condiment made from just three ingredients.

Prep time 2 minutes

Cook time 37 minutes to 50 minutes

Makes 1 cup

Nutritional Info


  • 1 cup


  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup

    umeboshi paste (pickled plum purée), or 6 umeboshi plums (Japanese pickled plums)

  • 2 tablespoons

    rice vinegar


  1. Place 1 cup water, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup umeboshi paste (or 6 pickled plums), and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, whisking the mixture to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid thickens and reduces to about 1 cup, 35 to 45 minutes.

  2. If using whole plums, remove and discard them. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and let cool.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Plum sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 months.