This easy homemade sweet and sour sauce is vegan, gluten-free, and can be whipped up in about 5 minutes. You'll never buy sweet and sour sauce again when you see how easy it is to make your own.
There's no need to go to the grocery store when you can make this homemade sweet and sour sauce in minutes with a few simple ingredients. Plus it's vegan, gluten-free, and easily made refined sugar-free too!
🧾 Ingredients and substitutions
- Apple cider vinegar - for the sourness and acidity. You can also use rice vinegar or white vinegar if you choose.
- Brown Sugar - for the sweet. You can sub for any type of sugar that you would like. White sugar, coconut sugar, agave nectar, and maple syrup also work well.
- Ketchup - for flavor and that nice red color. (You can swap this out for tomato paste, but your sauce will not be as sweet.)
- Soy Sauce - for flavor (Use Bragg's Liquid Aminos or Tamari for gluten-free.) You can use low-sodium soy sauce or light soy sauce, I don't recommend dark soy sauce, since it has a stronger flavor.
- Water or Fresh Pineapple Juice - If you have pineapple juice on hand, it tastes great in this sauce, but if not, water works well too.
- Garlic - for flavor. You can use fresh or garlic powder. You can also use some chopped green onions at the end of cooking for more flavor.
- Fresh Ginger - (optional) for extra flavor.
- Corn Starch - to thicken the sauce. You can use potato starch or arrowroot instead of corn starch if you want.
Note - for an extra red sweet and sour sauce you can add a drop of vegan red food coloring, but I don't think that it's necessary.
🥄 How to make sweet and sour sauce
Step 1 - Add apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, soy sauce, pineapple juice (or cold water), garlic, and cornstarch to a small saucepan.
Step 2 - Give it all a good stir until the cornstarch dissolves. (This way you don't have to make a separate cornstarch slurry.)
Step 3 - Turn on the heat to medium and stir frequently until it starts to boil. (At this point the sauce will thicken and be shiny.)
🥣 How to thicken sweet and sour sauce
When made with 1 tbsp of cornstarch, this sauce will be thick enough to stick to your food, but not so thick that it's gloppy when cool. If you want a thick sauce use 2 tbsp of cornstarch. If you want a thinner sauce use 1/2 tbsp of cornstarch.
Since it doesn't have preservatives in it, you will need to store it in the fridge, where it will keep well for about a week. You can freeze it if you want in an air-tight storage container for up to 3 months.
🔴 Why is sweet and sour sauce red?
The sweet and sour sauce that you get at a restaurant usually has added red food coloring. If you don't mind yours not being as red, the ketchup in the sauce will color it nicely. If you want yours to look like store-bought sweet and sour sauce, then add a few drops of red food dye.
🍽️ Serving suggestions
You can use this sauce to make any of your favorite sweet and sour dishes like sweet and sour tofu or use it as a dipping sauce for vegan chicken nuggets, tofu spring rolls, fried cauliflower, fried tofu, or vegan meatballs. Drizzle this tasty sauce over a vegetable stir fry or vegan shrimp for a mock sweet and sour shrimp.
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📋 Sweet and sour sauce recipe
Sweet and Sour Sauce
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or Tamari
- 1/4 cup water or pineapple juice
- 1 clove garlic minced (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger (optional)
- Add apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, soy sauce, cold water (or pineapple juice ), garlic, and cornstarch to a small saucepan.
- Give it all a good stir until the cornstarch dissolves.
- Turn on the heat to medium and stir frequently until it starts to boil. Allow it to boil for about 30 seconds. (At this point the sauce will thicken and be shiny.) Remove from heat and use as a sauce or dip.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Click the stars above or leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you!
Joy M says
Hi, can I keep this in the fridge and if so how long for please, thanks, I'm
Yes, store it in the fridge it will keep well for at least 5 days.
There is a somewhat strong vinegar flavor, but that may be due to me not having pineapple juice. Overall, it is very good!
Do you think I could substitute maple syrup for brown sugar?
Yes, definitely. Enjoy!
This is my go-to sweet and sour sauce. Delicious!
I'm so happy that you like it! 🙂
I really enjoyed this sauce. We made vegan chickpeas and the sauce which served over rice and a side of broccoli and peas absolutely loved it. I don’t agree it was too vinegar tasting as one comment placed. I felt it had perfect balance between sweet and sour and we didn’t have pineapple juice so even that sweet mellow flavor was not present and it was still fabulous! Thanks , always looking for good quick vegan dinners !
I'm so happy that you liked the sauce, Cindy! 🙂
My wife is allergic to pineapple, so I'm always looking for new recipes without it. This was perfect for us and the kids!
I'm so happy that the recipe worked well for you and your fammily! 🙂
Made this, today. My husband doesn’t like anything to vinegary. I added more pineapple juice. It is an excellent sauce! Thank you!
I'm so glad that the recipe worked well for you, Vanda.
My sauce turned out very sharp with vinegar taste. I went through the recipe over and over to make sure ingredients were right! Is there a way to balance it out with other ingredients! I like it other than vinegar too strong!
I'm not sure, I've never had anyone say that the vinegar flavor was too strong. It usually mellows out a lot as it cooks and the sweetness counteracts it as well. Maybe be sure that it comes to a slow boil.
Best sweet & sour sauce!! I added some Everything Bagel seasoning to it for the sesame seed flavor. Turned out great!
I'm so happy that you liked the recipe, Tracy! 🙂
Will i be able to use it for pulled pork in the crock pot
If that's what you want to do with it. It will work like any other sweet and sour sauce.
Cindy Smith says
I'm so happy that you liked it! 🙂
Tracey Cornell says
Made this tonight and it was a hit! So good.
I'm so happy that you liked it, Tracy!
This sweet & sour sauce is top notch. I will be continuing to use this recipe. Thank you😀
I'm so happy that you like the recipe, Judie! 🙂
Kimberly Wallace says
I seriously just made this and "WOWEE" that's good.
I'm so happy that you like it!
Made the sauce today, and it started off very tart. Only pineapple I had was crushed, and tossed in 3 very heaping soup spoons of the crushed pineapple. It’s hands down the best sweet and sour I have not only made, but eaten 😄! Hubby said it’s a good thing you made a lot or I would be licking the plates😂
I'm happy that you and your husband enjoyed the recipe! 🙂
I've tried this one and really enjoy it. It's proven to be very versatile
I'm happy that you like it, Cheryl! 🙂
Jan Bowersox says
Made this as a sauce for roasted cauliflower and carrots and it is delicious!!
I'm so happy that you like it, Jan! 🙂
Is there any other vinegar besides Apple Cider that will work?
Hi Erin, you can use just regular white vinegar too. Enjoy! 🙂
Just delicious. Easy to make and soooo good!
I'm so happy that you liked it! 🙂
I put this sauce over your fried cauliflower to make sweet and sour cauliflower and it was delicious! Some sweet and sour recipes that I've tried in the past have been too sweet, but this was perfect!
I'm so happy that you liked it, Lynn. I don't like it overly sweet either! 🙂