Duck sauce is a popular condiment more familiar to residents on the east coast of the United States than to anyone else in the world. If you live elsewhere and are craving the sweet duck sauce flavor, your easiest and fastest way to get it will be one of the alternatives. Here are some of the best duck sauce substitutes:
Your best bet: Make your own duck sauce
Many of the recipes for duck sauce are ultra-simple, some requiring only a couple of ingredients. They all have sweet and sour flavor profiles and should have the same kind of viscous consistency. Most versions contain apricot jam or preserves, combined with chopped fruit or other sweet ingredients.
Because the flavor profile is simply sweet with a hint of acidity and saltiness, you can make duck sauce with almost any fruit jam. You can use your homemade duck sauce as a braising sauce or as a dipping sauce for deep-fried foods. Some recipes will include plum sauce as one of the main ingredients while others won’t.
A decent second choice: Sweet and sour sauce
The Chinese- American sweet and sour sauce most familiar to people in the United States and other parts of the West is formulated with American/Western ingredients to cater to Western taste preferences. Most of the ingredients are easy to find and relatively affordable if you want to make it yourself.
While the red sweet and sour sauce from Chinese-American restaurants is mostly an American invention, it was preceded by traditional Chinese sauces with the sweet and sour flavor profile. These versions may have additional flavor notes from spices like ginger and garlic. The traditional Chinese sauces are often not as sweet or as thick as the American ones.
The noticeable differences between most commercial and homemade sweet and sour sauce and duck sauce will be that a duck sauce recipe typically has more fruity ingredients like apricots and apples. As a result, most sweet and sour sauce won’t have as complex a flavor profile. This may be an advantage if you want your dish to have a simpler sweetness.
In a pinch: Plum sauce
Duck sauce and plum sauce are related products so much so that some sources claim they are the same thing. They are not. Plum sauce is a traditional Chinese ingredient made with plums as the name suggests. It has a very similar flavor profile to that of duck sauce, and it seems safe to say that the Chinese-American makers of duck sauce were trying to create a similar product to Chinese plum sauce.
That said, plum sauce is made with plums as the main ingredient whereas duck sauce includes a mix of fruits that may include plums but not necessarily.
Teriyaki sauce has a similarly sweet and acidic flavor profile, you can use it to replace duck sauce in some recipes. Versions that include pineapple juice or some other fruit juice will be a closer match for sweet and sour sauce.
Guaiwei sauce is a condiment from Szechuan cuisine that is known for its extreme complexity. The word guaiwei translates to strange or foreign. The name comes from the fact that it contains most flavors, which it gets from its very long list of ingredients. Salty, sweet and sour are among the flavors. As with all versions of sweet and sour sauce, sugar, and vinegar are among the main ingredients in guaiwei sauce.