Sweet and Sour for All Your Meats and Veggies

Sweet sour chicken served in a bowl with rice and chopsticks
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The best sweet and sour sauce has a little bit of everything, sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness and savoriness, or umami. After you master the basic sweet and sour sauce, you'll want to serve it on everything, from chicken or beef stir-fries, to salmon and shrimp, to vegetables. The sauce will turn an ordinary weeknight dinner at the end of a busy day into a special occasion. This recipe makes enough sauce for a stir-fry serving four people.


Sweet and sour sauce is not just for Chinese inspired stir-fries. Germans use the sweet and sour concept for cooked cabbage, British chutney makes use of the same principle and Sicilian cuisine uses sour vinegar with sweet raisins in vegetable dishes. In addition to using sweet and sour sauce in stir-fries, use it as a dipping sauce for egg rolls and rice paper wraps or drizzle it over lettuce wraps filled with ground meat.

Total Time: 10 minutes | PrepTime: 5 minutes | Serves: 4


  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch


  1. In a small saucepan on medium heat, stir in the first five ingredients and heat it until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, add the cornstarch and about 1/4 cup of the sauce that you scoop out of the pot. Stir the mixture until the ingredients are blended.
  3. Add the cornstarch mixture back to the cooking pot, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook the sauce for about 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens and turns from cloudy to clear.
  4. Use the sauce immediately or cover and refrigerate it.


Use the sauce right after making it or cover it and refrigerate it for up to two weeks. You can also double, triple or quadruple the sauce recipe. To freeze the sauce, let it cool and pour it into freezer-grade, sealable plastic bags in 1- or 2-cup portions that will work for recipes. Well wrapped, the sauce will keep indefinitely as long as your freezer remains at 0F or below.

Use your imagination to change any of the ingredients in the basic sauce. Instead of water, add orange juice, pineapple juice or pomegranate juice. Instead of brown sugar, add a sweet and tangy jam such as orange marmalade, raspberry, apricot or peach.

Add other flavorful ingredients to make this basic recipe just right for your family's taste. Experiment with 2 teaspoons of minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon or more of red pepper flakes, or 2 teaspoons of Asian hot sauce. Pickled ginger or grated fresh ginger will also give the sauce a spicy kick.