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Need a Duck Sauce Substitute? Here are 6 Fabulous Options

When you need a duck sauce substitute, there are good options and not-so-good ones. Read on to get the scoop.

Is there duck in duck sauce?

First, let’s define what duck sauce is — because the name is misleading. Duck sauce is a sweet and tangy condiment commonly used in Chinese cuisine. It’s most commonly served with Peking duck or as a dipping sauce for crispy fried foods and appetizers like egg rolls, spring rolls, or dumplings. In recipes, chefs use duck sauce to glaze meat or to enhance the flavor of marinades.

Despite the name, duck sauce does not contain any duck. The thick, smooth, orange sauce is usually made from plums or apricots, vinegar, sugar, and spices like ginger or garlic.

Fried eggrolls on serving dish with duck sauce as dipping condiment.
Duck sauce is a popular condiment in Chinese cuisine, typically served with dishes such as Peking duck or egg rolls. Source: Envato.

The best duck sauce substitutes

Now, you’ve got a recipe that relies on duck sauce and you don’t have any and can’t find it anywhere. The first strategy may be to make your own duck sauce, but the ingredient list is tricky. Your second strategy is to use a good duck sauce substitute. See six of them below.

1. Plum sauce

Kikkoman Sauce Plum
  • Item Package Dimension: 6.807cm L x 8.102cm W x 22.402cm H
  • Country Of Origin: United States
  • Item Package Weight: 0.44 kg

Plum sauce is the most common substitute for duck sauce. It is a sweet and sour sauce made from plums, sugar, vinegar, and various spices. Many recipes use plum sauce the same way duck sauce is used — as a dipping condiment for spring rolls, fried dumplings, and roasted meats.

The ratio for substituting plum sauce for duck sauce is 1:1.

Pros of substituting plum sauce for duck sauce:

  • Plum sauce is easy to find.
  • It has a nice flavor — you can use it with other dishes. Try it in sticky chicken drumsticks.
  • Plum sauce is vegan.

Cons of substituting plum sauce for duck sauce:

  • Plum sauce is high in sugar.
  • You may need to add lemon juice to balance out the sweetness of plum sauce.

2. Hoisin sauce

Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce, hoisin, spicy, sweet sauce, 36.0 Ounce
  • This spicy sweet sauce is great as a dip and for cooking meat, vegetables or noodles.
  • Allergen information: soy

Hoisin sauce is another popular substitute for duck sauce in Chinese cuisine. Hoisin sauce is thick, sweet, and salty, with a hint of umami flavor. Normally, you’ll see hoisin sauce used a marinade for meats, a glaze for roasted vegetables, or a dipping sauce for spring rolls and noodles.  

Hoisin sauce is less fruity and more intensely savor than duck sauce. To balance the flavors, try diluting it with water, vinegar, or lemon juice. Mix 3 parts hoisin sauce with 1 part water and 1 part lemon juice. Taste and adjust. Once you get the flavor right, substitute that mixture 1:1 for duck sauce.

Pros of substituting hoisin sauce for duck sauce:

Cons of substituting hoisin sauce for duck sauce:

  • Hoisin sauce is high in sugar and sodium.

3. Sweet and sour sauce

Organic Asian Fusion Tangy Sweet & Sour Marinade & Dipping Sauce – USDA Organic, Non GMO Project Verified, Gluten Free, Kosher Parve, Made in USA, 15 Oz. (2 Pack)
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Sweet and sour sauce is a classic Chinese sauce made with sugar, vinegar, plus pineapple and/or orange juice. The name describes the flavor: sweet and tangy. Sweet and source sauce can complement many dishes, including meats, seafood, and vegetables.

Sweet and sour sauce can deliver the sweet and tangy elements of duck sauce, but it doesn’t have the same depth of flavor.

The ratio for substituting sweet and sour for duck sauce is 1:1.

The pros of substituting sweet and sour for duck sauce are:

  • Sweet and sour sauce is versatile. Use it to make sweet and sour fish or sweet and sour pork.
  • You can make your own sweet and sour sauce. Mix 1 cup of water, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¾ cup sugar, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup ketchup, and ½ teaspoon soy sauce. Bring to a boil and stir in an 8 oz. can of pineapple chunks with juice. Return to a boil and mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a cup of water to thicken the sauce.

The cons of substituting sweet and sour sauce for duck sauce are:

  • Sweet and sour sauce doesn’t have a rich, deep flavor. You may need to add more spices to your dish.

4. Apricot preserves

Apricot preserves can also be used as a substitute for duck sauce. They are sweet and fruity, and add a tangy twist to chicken, pork, or tofu. Apricot preserves are made from apricots, sugar, and pectin or lemon juice, and can be found in most grocery stores or online retailers. You can use the preserves in marinades, glazes, dressings, and dips, to deliver a natural sweetness without the need for extra sugar.

You need to prep your apricot preserves a bit to use them as a substitute. Mix 1 cup of apricot preserves with ¼ cup rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Then substitute that mixture 1:1 for duck sauce.

The pros of substituting apricot preserves for duck sauce are:

  • Apricot preserves are readily available at the grocery store.
  • Apricot preserves are versatile. Use them in sauces and marinades or spread them on toast. Try them in Manhattan meatballs.

The cons of substituting apricot preserves for duck sauce are:

  • Apricot preserves don’t have the sourness or umami flavor of duck sauce. You’ll need to add vinegar and soy sauce to enhance the flavors of your dish.

5. Teriyaki sauce

Original Teriyaki Sauce – Teriyaki Marinade, Glaze, Salad Dressing, and Dipping Sauce, No MSG, Kosher Certified 10.5 Fl Oz (Single)
  • Delicious flavor: Our original teriyaki sauce is a versatile condiment that can be used as a…
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Like duck sauce, teriyaki sauce has a sweet and savory flavor. It is thicker and more syrupy than duck sauce, however. Plus, teriyaki sauce can contain added ingredients like garlic and ginger.

Teriyaki sauce makes a nice dipping condiment for fried foods and can enhance the flavor of Asian marinades. You may need to add sugar, though, for dishes that demand the sweetness of duck sauce.

The substitution for using teriyaki sauce in lieu of duck sauce ratio is 1:1. However, because the two ingredients have different flavors, you may want to start with less teriyaki sauce, then adjust to taste.

The pros of substituting teriyaki sauce for duck sauce are:

  • Teriyaki sauce is readily available online and in grocery stores.
  • Teriyaki sauce is used in many recipes.

6. Barbecue sauce

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Now we’re thinking outside the box, right? Barbecue sauce isn’t an obvious substitute for duck sauce, but it does have a sweet, smoky flavor that can work well in many dishes.

The substitution ratio for barbecue sauce will depend on the recipe. Start by using half the recommended amount of duck sauce and then more add to taste.

The pros of substituting barbecue sauce for duck sauce are:

  • You probably have barbecue sauce on hand right now. If not, it’s easy to find.
  • Barbecue sauce is versatile. Try it in barbecue chicken pizza.

The cons of substitute barbecue sauce for duck sauce are:

  • Barbecue sauce can be loaded with sugar and preservatives.

Duck sauce substitutes to avoid

When you don’t have duck sauce, it can be tempting to grab another Asian sauce or condiment and toss it into your recipe instead. Believe me, I’m guilty of playing fast and loose with substitutions. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t.

Three ingredients that aren’t likely to be successful as duck sauce substitutes are ponzu sauce, fish sauce, and soy sauce.

Ponzu sauce

Ponzu sauce is a Japanese condiment made from soy sauce, citrus juice (usually yuzu), and vinegar. The result is a tangy, citrusy, and salty flavor profile. By comparison, duck sauce is sweeter and fruitier.

Fish sauce

Fish sauce is a pungent, salty, and savory condiment made from fermented fish. That’s not going to be a good substitute for sweet and plum-flavored duck sauce.

Soy sauce

Soy sauce is a salty, savory condiment made from fermented soybeans. It’s far less sweet than duck sauce and doesn’t have the fruity element.

Substituting for duck sauce

When you’re in the mood for Chinese cuisine or craving crispy fried appetizers, the sweet and tangy flavor of duck sauce is the perfect complement. But when you don’t have duck sauce and can’t find it, can you replicate that flavor with something else?

Yes, you can. Try plum sauce, hoisin sauce, sweet and sour sauce, apricot preserves, teriyaki sauce, or even barbecue sauce.

Just remember to substitute conservatively and adjust to taste. You’ll refine your own likes and dislikes and become a better chef in the process.

Last update on 2023-06-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API