Asian Essentials: Not-so-classic Sweet-Sour Sauce

Andy Anderson !


This is the second or third sweet-sour sauce that I have posted. It is easy/peasy to throw together (you probably have most the ingredients hiding away in your pantry), and it tastes awesome.

And the good news is that if you follow the recipe, it is vegan, and gluten free.

So, you ready… Let’s get into the kitchen.


★★★★★ 1 vote

5 Min
10 Min
Stove Top




  • 1/4 c
    ketchup, homemade, if possible
  • 1/4 c
    filtered water
  • 1 clove
    garlic, finely minced
  • 3 Tbsp
    pure, natural maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp
    rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp
    tamari, or liquid aminos

  • 1 tsp
    potato starch
  • 2 Tbsp
    cold water

  • 1 tsp
    dehydrated onions, ground to a powder

How to Make Asian Essentials: Not-so-classic Sweet-Sour Sauce


  2. Rice Vinegar
    Rice vinegar is just what it sounds like: Vinegar made from fermented rice. Be careful not to buy seasoned rice vinegar, which can contain a lot of things you do not want, like salt and corn syrup.
  3. Is Ketchup Vegan?
    No matter how strict of a vegan you are, ketchup can fit in your diet. For vegans that eat refined white and brown sugar, all ketchups are fair game. For vegans that do not consume refined sugars, look for organic ketchups or those made with alternative sweeteners.
    Heinz makes several versions of ketchup that fit the bill.
  4. Why Tamari or Liquid Aminos, and not Soy Sauce?
    There are several reasons… To me, soy sauce it too strong, and too salty for my tastes; whereas tamari and liquid aminos have a gentler taste. Another important consideration is that soy sauce in not gluten free, and the others are.

    When push comes to shove, tamari and liquid aminos are basically the same thing; just packaged under different names. However, I have seen some lesser brands of tamari that do use some wheat, so always check your labels.
    If you want a recommendation, I like San-J, Organic, Gluten-Free Tamari, and Bragg Liquid Aminos. Of the two, I prefer Bragg, for its flavor, and quality control. You can find the former in most grocers, and latter in most health-food shops.
  5. Crushed Dehydrated Onions… Really???
    Yes really…
    You might have noticed that I use this item in many of my recipes. I consider it my secret ingredient for generating umami, or what is sometimes called the fifth taste (besides sweet, sour, salt, and bitter). Some claim that it is just a made-up word, and that the taste of umami does not exist… I beg to differ. As a matter of fact, it has been in the dictionary since 1979, and so it must exist :-)
    Umami has been described as having a mild but lasting aftertaste associated with stimulating the throat, the roof, and the back of the mouth. It is not considered desirable as a standalone flavor but adds complexity when paired with other tastes. It has a pleasant savory taste and has been described as brothy or meaty. Although I list it as an “optional” item, I consider it a perfect complement to this recipe.
    However, if you do not have any, do not substitute onion powder, or onion salt… just leave it out.
  6. The Slurry with the Fringe on Top
    The slurry, a mix of starch and liquid, is designed to give the sauce a bit of body. However, I am not looking for a gloopy mess, so we are not going to use much.
    If potato starch is not your game, you can substitute cornstarch, or arrowroot powder, but do not use flour.
  7. Check it out… The names of pure maple syrup are getting a facelift:

    New Name: Grade A: Golden Color & Delicate Taste
    Formerly: Fancy
    This syrup, made in colder climates, is the first syrup of the season to be tapped, so it's the lightest in color and the most delicate in flavor. Drizzle it over pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, and yogurt. Mmmmm.

    New Name: Grade A: Amber Color & Rich Flavor
    Formerly: Grade A: Medium Amber or Grade A: Dark Amber
    A bit darker in color, this grade is made mid-season, and has a smooth, more rounded flavor. Good for glazing salmon.

    New Name: Grade A: Dark Color & Robust Flavor
    Formerly: Grade A: Dark Amber or Grade B
    One step up in flavor, this grade has a stronger and deeper flavor. Good for making BBQ sauce or as a glaze for grilled meat. Some folks like using it in their coffee.

    New Name: Grade A: Very Dark & Strong Flavor
    Formerly: Grade C
    The most robust and maple-packed syrup of the lot. It is the last to be tapped in the maple season and commonly sold to factories and candy producers to make things like maple candy. A great substitute for molasses.

    For this recipe, assuming you have a choice, I would recommend the first or second. The third and fourth options are a bit too strong and will overpower the sauce.
  8. Gather your ingredients (mise en place).
  9. Add all of the “sauce” ingredients to a saucepan over medium heat.
  10. Chef’s Note: If you are using the dehydrated onions, add them now.
  11. Bring up to a low simmer and stir for about 5 minutes.
  12. Whisk the starch and water together until the starch dissolves.
  13. Add the slurry to the sauce.
  14. Stir over a low simmer until the sauce thickens, about 3 – 4 minutes.
  16. Store in a non-reactive jar in the fridge, and drizzle over a stir fry, veggies, or a noodle bowl. Enjoy.
  17. Keep the faith, and keep cooking.

Printable Recipe Card

About Asian Essentials: Not-so-classic Sweet-Sour Sauce

Course/Dish: Other Sauces
Main Ingredient: Rice/Grains
Regional Style: Asian
Other Tag: Quick & Easy

Show 11 Comments & Reviews

How To Make Homemade Mayonnaise

How to Make Homemade Mayonnaise

Kitchen Crew @JustaPinch

You’ll be surprised to find out mayonnaise is quick and easy to make at home. A handful of ingredients, probably already in the pantry, whip up the most delicious, silky...

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Kitchen Crew @JustaPinch

Easy homemade caramel sauce that is perfect for topping treats and dipping! Click here for the Homemade Caramel Sauce recipe!

20 Tasty Hot Dog Recipes

20 Tasty Hot Dog Recipes

Kitchen Crew @JustaPinch

Hot diggity dog! Here are 20 tasty hot dog recipes.