I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of duck sauce substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured that I’ve got you covered.
The best substitutes for duck sauce are the homemade version, plum sauce, and sweet and sour sauce. Teriyaki sauce is also a solid option. Try Thai sweet chili or Mambo sauce if you’re craving a spicy kick. And if you want to try something new, whip up a cranberry dumpling dipping sauce.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I whipped up a batch of crab rangoons to try different duck sauce substitutes.
Duck sauce is a staple condiment in American Chinese restaurants. It has a bright orange color and boasts a sweet-sour, fruity flavor.
I was looking for a substitute that could deliver a similar flavor and that tasted great with my crab rangoons!
Here’s the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Homemade Duck Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Plum Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Sweet and Sour Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Thai Sweet and Chili Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Cranberry Dumpling Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Teriyaki Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Mambo Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
Common uses for duck sauce and the best substitutes
Here are some common use cases for duck sauce and the best substitutes for those situations:
- As a dipping sauce/condiment: Try making your own homemade version or use plum sauce, sweet and sour sauce, or cranberry dumpling sauce.
- For marinades and glazes: Sweet and sour sauce and teriyaki sauce make delicious marinades for meat or veggies.
- For stir-fries, rice, and noodle dishes: Try using the homemade version, plum sauce, or teriyaki sauce.
Homemade duck sauce
Whipping up a batch of homemade duck sauce is a breeze and means you can tweak the recipe to match your tastes.
You can go the classic route with this recipe from Simple Seasonal, which uses apricot jam as a base to deliver that sweet-tangy goodness.
Or switch things up with peach preserves or even orange marmalade (these are great substitutes for apricot jam).
Pro tip: allow time for the sauce to sauce rest for 30 minutes, so the flavors can meld blossom.
If you’re in the mood for a fresher take on duck sauce, why not incorporate fresh fruits into your sauce?
Check out the video tutorial below for a recipe that delivers a refreshing bite.
And for those craving a taste of New England, you can also experiment with a regional twist that combines applesauce and soy sauce for an easy yet satisfying flavor fusion.
How to substitute: Replace duck sauce in a 1:1 ratio with homemade duck sauce
Plum sauce and duck sauce are extremely similar and you can use them interchangeably.
Duck sauce was invented by a Chinese immigrant to the US who couldn’t find Asian plums, so made his own version of the sauce with Western fruits.
Plum sauce is slightly more tart, but not much. A quick drizzle of honey would fix that if it bothers you.
Psst… if you’re fortunate enough to have access to fresh plums and you like cooking you can also try making your own plum sauce.
How to substitute: Replace duck sauce in a 1:1 ratio with plum sauce.
Sweet and sour sauce
Sweet and sour sauce is another classic Chinese condiment, offering a more basic sweet and tangy flavor that can stand in for duck sauce.
Most recipes call for a blend of ketchup, sugar, and vinegar to achieve the desired flavor profile.
The sweet and sour was a hit in my taste test!
Psst… you can also just buy it from the store. But watch out for the sugar content, it can be very high!
How to substitute: Replace duck sauce in a 1:1 ratio with sweet and sour sauce.
Thai sweet chili sauce
If you’re in the mood to switch things up a bit, Thai sweet chili sauce is an excellent replacement for duck sauce. Especially if you find duck sauce too sweet.
The chilis in the sauce help balance out the sweetness.
And they give the sauce it’s signature vibrant orange color.
If you’re into Asian food chances are you already have some sweet chili sauce in your pantry too!
How to substitute: Replace duck sauce in a 1:1 ratio with Thai sweet chili sauce.
Cranberry dumpling dipping sauce
If you’re looking for a fruity alternative with a festive twist, this Cranberry dumpling dipping sauce.
Cranberry sauce on its own has the same sweet-tangy notes as duck sauce, but adding ingredients like ginger paste, vinegar, and light soy sauce brings an Asian flair.
This sauce was so good with my crab rangoons I wanted to keep eating them – but sadly I had more sauces to test!
How to substitute: Replace duck sauce in a 1:1 ratio with cranberry dumpling dipping sauce.
Teriyaki sauce isn’t exact flavor match for duck sauce, but its prominent sweet flavor makes it a worthy contender.
You can also add in a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to match that tanginess of plum sauce.
American-style teriyaki sauces tend to have a nice thick consistency like duck sauce. If your sauce seems thin you can thicken it with a cornstarch slurry.
How to substitute: Replace duck sauce in a 1:1 ratio with teriyaki sauce.
Mambo sauce is another enticing alternative to duck sauce.
This unique sauce combines pineapple juice, vinegar, and hot sauce.
It’s fruity, tangy, and spicy!
How to substitute: Replace duck sauce in a 1:1 ratio with Mambo sauce.
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions above are my top picks as duck sauce substitutes, but here are other options you can try if you have them on hand:
- Ponzu sauce – this dipping sauce is a lot more salty than duck sauce because it’s based on soy sauce. Its bright, citrusy notes are the perfect contrast for crispy egg rolls or potstickers.
- Chamoy – this may be a Mexican staple, but it actually has Asian roots! It’s another spicy option.
- Hoisin sauce – like ponzu sauce, Hoisin sauce is based on soy sauce so has salty undertones to it. But it’s still a sweet dipping sauce, which is essentially what duck sauce is!
- Amba sauce – amba sauce is made from pickled mangoes, which give this condiment a fruit base like duck sauce. You can find it in specialty grocery stores like Trader Joe’s.
Substitutes to avoid
I found a lot of different suggestions for duck sauce replacements – some a lot better than others!
Here are a few I don’t recommend using.
- Mango chutney – this has a more complex flavor profile than duck sauce and packs and can easily overpower delicate dishes. Psst… I also tried and tested some great mango chutney substitutes.
- Soy sauce – this is a staple in Asian cuisine, but soy sauce tastes nothing like duck sauce and has a very one-dimensional flavor. You’ll need to mix it with other condiments to transform it into a dipping sauce. Likewise, avoid fish sauce this definitely isn’t a good stand in for duck sauce.
- Oyster sauce – oyster sauce has a subtle sweetness to it, but not enough to be an alternative for duck sauce.
- Apple sauce and jams – if you’re using the duck sauce in cooking, these substitutes might be okay. But duck sauce is mainly used as a dipping sauce and apple sauce is way too sweet to replace it for that.
11 Best Duck Sauce Substitutes + 4 To Avoid
- ¾ cup apricot jam
- 4 tbsp rice vinegar
- ½ tsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 medium cloves garlic, freshly minced
- 1 tsp freshly minced ginger
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ⅛ tsp cayenne powder, to taste
- Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until everything is well combined.
- Cover and leave to rest inside your refrigerator for a few hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.