Plum Sauce is commonly used for dipping, glazing pork, basting meat, and stir frying, plum sauce provides color and texture that can bring life to duck, moo shu, dumplings, noodles, and more.
Running out of plum sauce may not be a reason to feel blue since there are other vibrant substitutes that you can choose from:
- Hoisin sauce
- Duck sauce
- Garlic teriyaki sauce
- Sweet and sour sauce
- Ponzu Sauce
- Soy sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Char Siu Sauce
- XO Sauce
Learn more about these 16 alternatives for plum sauce
16 Best Substitute For Plum Sauce
Plum sauce has a uniquely crafted flavor that is sweet, sour, and tart. This burst of flavor is from a combination of plums, vinegar, sugar, and chili.
Plum sauce has a subtler flavor than the traditional sweet and sour sauce, and its viscosity rivals that of a jam. Some of the best substitute for plum sauce in terms of taste includes hoisin sauce or making your own plum sauce at home.
Hoisin sauce is not a stranger to Asian dishes. Its characteristic dark brown color, thick consistency, and sweet and salty flavor make it a favorite condiment for duck and pho. Hoisin sauce can be a close substitute for plum sauce for all these reasons.
The flavor and aroma of hoisin sauce come from a unique blend of soybeans, garlic, fennel, vinegar, and sugar. While plum sauce is sweet and sour, hoisin is more complex and tart. It has that umami kick that brings a different dimension to meats and soups.
Still, plum sauce and hoisin sauce share a similar profile that can be used as a dipping sauce and condiment for Asian dishes.
Many call duck sauce the Chinese-American version of plum sauce. That is an accurate description of duck sauce since it contains the same ingredients as plum sauce, including plums, of course.
Duck sauce bears a different color (orange) with a characteristic sweet and sour taste. It isn’t colored plum since duck sauce may contain American fruits like apples and apricots. Hence, duck sauce may taste a bit sweeter than its original counterpart.
As a condiment, it is used for deep-fried dumplings and roasted meats. The taste still bears a close resemblance to plum sauce (especially if you sample them with your eyes closed). Duck sauce is the usual condiment handed out as packets in Chinese restaurant takeout. You may need to look more patiently if searching for duck sauce in groceries.
Garlic Teriyaki Sauce
Garlic teriyaki sauce is a popular meat sauce, marinade, and dip from Japan. It is used more as a cooking sauce, but who’s to say it can’t be a condiment?
Garlic teriyaki sauce has quite an ingredient list that includes soy sauce, sake, garlic, ginger, and sugar. It is like a sweetened version of the soy sauce but with a punch from the sake and ginger that can elevate the flavor of meats and seafood.
As a replacement for plum sauce, teriyaki sauce is a good candidate when used as a marinade or glaze. The color is almost the same with a flavor that has a saltier balance. While you can’t drizzle it for aesthetic plating, you can still use it as a dipping sauce.
Sweet and Sour Sauce
Sweet and sour sauce is another popular go-to condiment for almost anything that needs a dip. The sauce balances sweet (sugar) and sour (rice vinegar) and is an all-purpose dipping sauce, marinade, and stir-fry ingredient.
The (almost) thick consistency and umami balance make sweet and sour sauce a worthy replacement for plum sauce. The taste may not be 100% plum sauce, but what it lacks in complexity, it makes up in availability in American supermarkets.
Ponzu sauce (Japanese Citrus dipping sauce) is a delightful Japanese sauce with a citrus hint. It’s a slight deviation from the sweet and viscous plum sauce. It does, however, deliver a citrus element to the straightforward sweet and sour.
Ponzu sauce delivers a unique replacement for plum sauce for dumplings, noodles, seafood, and meats—if you’re okay with the diminished sweetness. Its versatile flavor and thin consistency also make it useful as a salad dressing and shabu-shabu condiment.
Soy sauce is a favorite and universal condiment for Asian homes since it goes well with sushi, noodles, and anything fried and crispy. Widely used as a cooking and dipping sauce, soy sauce presents a watery texture that makes it easy to mix and season dishes.
Soy sauce is predominantly salty with a touch of sweetness. It’s what they call umami—that flavor that adds more depth to your sauce. On that note, soy sauce can be used for anything or everything savory. Soy sauce can also be a plum sauce replacement for dishes requiring that dose of umami minus the plum sweetness.
There are also different types of soy sauce available in groceries, depending on your culinary requirements. The darker soy sauce will have a deeper and slightly sweeter taste compared to its light version.
Oyster sauce is another famous Asian sauce that is known for stir-fried foods. Oyster sauce can be applied to veggies, meat, and noodles. Its thicker formula makes it a flavorful dipping sauce and marinade for grilled meat.
Oyster sauce highlights the umami flavor with a hint of sweetness. It is made from oyster juice, sugar, salt, and cornstarch to give enough viscosity for a rich stir-fry. Its dark brown hue and texture are slightly similar to plum sauce, thus making oyster sauce a tasty substitute.
Char Siu Sauce
Char siu sauce is also called Chinese barbecue sauce and is the perfect partner for roast pork. If you try to imagine glazed pork and its divinely rich sauce—that’s char siu sauce for you.
Char siu sauce would be a compatible flavor substitute for plum sauce since it’s a mixture of sweet, salty, and spicy. Hoisin sauce, sherry, soy sauce, honey, and the Chinese five-spice powder make up the distinct flavor of Char siu sauce.
Char siu may not have the same jammy texture as plum sauce, but it would still be a delicious sauce and marinade in place of it—especially for pork.
XO sauce sounds like hugs and kisses but actually means extra-old. This royalty sauce came from Hong Kong in the 80s (hence old) and is coined the “Caviar of the Orient.” While the sauce is not as spreadable as plum sauce, its thick and chunky texture can bring intensity to any dish.
XO sauce gets its majestic name from its fine ingredients like dried seafood (shrimps, fish, and scallops), ham, chili, garlic, and onions. The seafood flavoring elevates this into a rich condiment that can be used for meat, tofu, fish, and vegetables.
As a substitute for plum sauce, XO sauce delivers more depth and flavor as a seasoning and dipping sauce.
Garlic and Prunes
When replacing plum sauce, you’re not pressed to find a ready-made sauce. You can explore combinations to achieve that plum sauce flavor. That’s exactly what you can do with garlic and prunes.
It may seem like an unlikely combo, but garlic can provide that spice and seasoning, while prune can offer sweetness and texture. After all, a prune is just a dried plum.
Boil the prunes to achieve that thick texture, and mix in the garlic, sherry, and soy sauce. The resulting sauce can mimic the form and flavor of plum sauce—including its color too.
Sha Cha Sauce
Sha Cha sauce is usually marketed as “Chinese barbecue sauce” in its packaging, but its flavor is beyond barbecue. It’s an umami fest that is laced with dried baby shrimp, brill fish, shallots, garlic, and soybean oil. This intense concoction can lend its explosive flavor to soups, meats, and dips.
Did you know that Sha Cha sauce also has origins in the Southeast Asian satay sauce? Satay sauce highlights the peanut flavor more, but the Taiwan-based Sha Cha supplemented this with dried seafood instead.
Sha Cha sauce can replace plum sauce for its combination of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors that can be a delightful addition to soup base, dips, and sauces.
Garlic with Miso and Raisins
Miso paste is another Japanese ingredient that brings so much texture potential that can replicate plum sauce. Miso paste is fermented soybean with a smooth savory flavor and has that gummy texture waiting to be diluted.
Raisins look and taste like tiny dried plums, so they’ve got the sweetness level covered. Combining the softened raisins (soaked in water beforehand), miso paste, red pepper, mustard, sesame oil, and garlic will produce that tangy and sweet blend close to plum sauce. This spicy-sweet sauce would go so well with meats—the way plum sauce would.
Black Beans and Plums
Black beans may seem like an unlikely choice for plum sauce. When combined with plums, the black bean sauce yields that most sought creamy blend.
The mixture is simple: soften plums, and brown sugar in water. Add the black beans, soy sauce, and spices to liven up the sweet and thick blend.
What you get is a pasty and purple sauce that can replace plum sauce with a high protein content from the black beans.
Plum Jam with Ginger
Another combination that you can explore is plum jam and ginger. If you have plum jam lying around, you can whip up a sauce substitute that bursts with zesty flavor.
What should comprise this appetizing sauce? Mix plum jam, teriyaki sauce, ginger, garlic, and ground red pepper. From the ingredient list alone, you can already tell this concoction will resemble plum sauce in terms of rich flavor, jammy texture, and color. It’s also easy to make!
Caramelized Onion Chutney
Caramelized onion chutney is a plum sauce alternative that you can create without using a plum (or fruit) ingredient. It is also healthy and crazy good. The combination of sweet, spicy with a hint of tartness makes this a flavorful sauce or condiment for meats and vegetable dishes.
Caramelizing onions also creates a sticky consistency that you can almost spread. The dark brown color comes from red onions, vinegar, brown sugar, and spices—a burst of bold flavors.
Make Your Own Plum Sauce
The other numbers already highlighted plum sauce alternatives that you can prepare at home. Those are alternatives that replicate the flavor profile of plum sauce.
Now, let’s try to make our own plum sauce using ingredients easily accessible at home.
- Mix and heat 15 sliced plums in a pan with soy sauce, onion, garlic, ginger, and chili sauce.
- Stir occasionally for 20 minutes. If you want a thinner consistency, you can blend the mixture with water.
- Store the plum sauce in the fridge or freezer. This sauce also has a longer shelf life.
The homemade version is adjustable depending on your taste preference—so feel free to adjust the seasonings and spices.