What Is Duck Sauce Made Of? A Complete Guide

Duck sauce is a popular condiment in Chinese-American cuisine, often served alongside fried dishes like egg rolls and wonton strips.

But have you ever wondered what exactly goes into this bright orange sauce with a sweet and sour flavor?

While there are different variations of duck sauce, the most common ingredients include plums, apricots, peaches, sugar, vinegar, and chili peppers.

However, if you’ve ever looked closely at the ingredients on a packet of duck sauce, you may have noticed lots of high fructose corn syrup and artificial additives.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what duck sauce is made of and how you can make your own at home with simple ingredients.

What Is Duck Sauce Made Of?

Duck sauce is typically made with a combination of fruits such as plums, apricots, pineapples, or peaches. These fruits give the sauce its sweet taste and bright orange color. Vinegar, sugar, and chili peppers are also added to the mix to create a complex and flavorful sauce.

However, it’s important to note that not all duck sauces are created equal. Many store-bought versions contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring, and preservatives. These additives can detract from the natural flavors of the sauce and may not be the healthiest option.

The Origins Of Duck Sauce In Chinese-American Cuisine

Duck sauce is an American invention that originated from Chinese immigrants who arrived in the United States in the early to mid-1900s. Although there is no specific recorded inventor or restaurant, the apricot, a stone fruit, is a clue to the sauce’s ties back to traditional Chinese cooking.

While Peking duck has been a staple in China for hundreds of years and usually comes with a sauce made from wheat flour and soybeans for dipping, soybeans are not native to the United States. Therefore, when Chinese immigrants established restaurants targeted to American palates, they created a sweeter, friendlier substitute using apricots (or in New England’s case, applesauce and molasses) and called it duck sauce.

The name “duck sauce” was created in the United States because this sauce was originally served with deep-fried pressed duck, which had no sauce of its own. Theories abound as to whether duck sauce was possibly plum or hoisin sauce, which was renamed “duck sauce” in the U.S. because the sauces were originally a Chinese accompaniment for duck. Some theories state that duck sauce was originally the sauce used for Peking Duck.

Interestingly, people on the West Coast call duck sauce “plum sauce” because duck sauce did not spread as widely there. This could be due to difficulty promoting the product on the other coast since companies such as W.Y Industries and Yi Pin Food Products which make duck sauce are based in New York and New Jersey.

The Common Ingredients In Duck Sauce

The most common ingredients in duck sauce include plums, apricots, and other fruits that give the sauce its signature sweet taste and orange color. Vinegar is also a key ingredient, providing a tangy acidity that balances out the sweetness of the fruit. Sugar is added to enhance the sweetness of the sauce, while chili peppers add a subtle heat and depth of flavor.

Some recipes may also include soy sauce for umami flavor and saltiness, as well as ginger and garlic for additional depth of flavor. However, the exact combination of ingredients can vary depending on the recipe and personal preference.

It’s important to note that making your own duck sauce at home can be a healthier and more flavorful option than buying store-bought versions. By using natural ingredients and avoiding additives like high fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring, you can create a delicious and wholesome condiment to enjoy with your favorite Chinese-American dishes.

The Controversy Surrounding High Fructose Corn Syrup And Artificial Additives

One of the most controversial additives found in many store-bought duck sauces is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is a sweetener that is commonly used in processed foods and beverages, and has been linked to numerous health concerns such as fatty liver, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Some studies have even suggested that HFCS may be more harmful than regular sugar due to its higher fructose content.

Additionally, many store-bought duck sauces contain artificial coloring and preservatives. These additives are used to enhance the appearance and shelf life of the product, but they can also have negative health effects. For example, some artificial colors have been linked to hyperactivity in children, while some preservatives have been linked to cancer and other health concerns.

Given these concerns, it’s important to read the labels carefully when purchasing duck sauce or any other processed food. Look for products that are made with natural ingredients and do not contain high fructose corn syrup or artificial additives. Alternatively, consider making your own duck sauce at home using fresh fruits and natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. This way, you can enjoy the delicious flavor of duck sauce without compromising your health.

How To Make Your Own Duck Sauce At Home With Simple Ingredients

Making your own duck sauce at home is a great way to ensure that you are using fresh and natural ingredients. With just a few simple ingredients, you can create a delicious and healthy version of this popular sauce.

Here’s what you’ll need:

– 3/4 cup all-natural apricot jam

– 4 tablespoons rice vinegar

– 1/2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce

– 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger

– 2 medium cloves fresh minced garlic

– 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

– 1/16 teaspoon cayenne powder (or to taste)


1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the apricot jam, rice vinegar, soy sauce, minced ginger, minced garlic, chili powder, and cayenne powder until well combined.

2. Place the mixture in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

3. Place a strainer over a bowl and pour the mixture through the strainer to achieve a smooth sauce. (You can skip this step if you like a chunkier sauce.)

4. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to several weeks.

By making your own duck sauce at home, you can control the quality and quantity of ingredients used. Plus, it’s a fun and easy way to add some variety to your meals!

Creative Ways To Use Duck Sauce In Your Cooking

Duck sauce is a versatile condiment that can be used in a variety of ways to add a sweet and tangy flavor to your dishes. Here are some creative ways to use duck sauce in your cooking:

1. As a marinade: Mix duck sauce with soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil to make a delicious marinade for meat such as flank steak, pork loin, or chicken breast.

2. As a dipping sauce: Duck sauce is commonly used as a dipping sauce for Chinese American dishes such as egg rolls, wontons, and spring rolls. It can also be used as a dipping sauce for chicken fingers or as a glaze for grilled pork tenderloin.

3. In stir-fries: Add duck sauce to stir-fries for a sweet and savory flavor. It pairs well with vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers.

4. As a condiment: Use duck sauce as a condiment for sandwiches or burgers. It adds a unique flavor that pairs well with meats such as turkey or chicken.

5. In salad dressings: Mix duck sauce with rice vinegar and olive oil to make a flavorful salad dressing. It pairs well with greens such as spinach or arugula.

6. In pasta dishes: Use duck sauce as a pasta sauce by mixing it with olive oil and garlic. It pairs well with noodles such as spaghetti or linguine.