While it seems counterintuitive, duck sauce does not contain any duck, nor any other meat ingredient. Duck Sauce, also known as Orange Sauce, is typically a vegan condiment, sweet and sour tasting in nature, and can indeed be eaten if you are on a plant-based diet. This classically orange-colored and translucent sauce, that has the consistency of thin jelly, is a standard add-on to just about any Chinese-American take-out meal, and is generally provided in single-serving packets.
When dining in at a Chinese restaurant, duck sauce is often brought to your table in a tall squeeze bottle or in a small dipping dish. However, for those making Chinese or other Asian dishes at home, duck sauce can be purchased in larger quantities at the grocery store, or it can also be easily made in your own kitchen. The bottom line is, you have options. And that is good news!
What Is Duck Sauce Made Of?
Rather simply, duck sauce is made up of combination of fruit and vinegar, which delivers a sauce that tastes both sweet and sour at the same time. The most common duck sauce ingredients are the flesh and juice of pineapple, peaches, apricots, oranges, or plums, along with sugar, vinegar or wine, and just a touch of chili pepper and salt. As the ingredients are blended, and sometimes simmered together on the stove, the sauce develops into a syrup-like consistency, and has a beautiful, orangey glow to it.
The rules are fairly loose as to which ingredients you use for any given duck sauce, so long as there is a nice balance of sweet and sour taste, along with a fruity, astringent vapor that strikes your olfactory senses as divine.
What is Duck Sauce Used For?
Duck sauce is an almost revered, staple condiment in the world of Chinese-American cuisine. The touchstone of what makes most Asian cuisines taste so good is how flavors complement and contrast each other.
Duck sauce is most often served with fried foods that are salty and rich. Think egg rolls, wontons, spring rolls, stir-fried noodles, the crispy, succulent skin of prepared duck, and so on. The salty, savory flavors of the food, dressed with the sweet-and-sourness of the sauce makes for an explosion of flavor in your mouth that is just plain hard to beat. It’s so good. Period.
Is Duck Sauce Healthy? (Gluten Free / Keto Friendly)
Since the ingredients that are truly needed to make a classic and delicious duck sauce are vegan, it can be a rather healthy condiment. Afterall, fruit with its higher levels of vitamin C, and several other nutrients, is good for you. But, it’s always a smart idea to read the ingredient label of any duck or orange sauce that you purchase.
Quite often, commercial products contain ingredients like additives, fillers, artificial colorings, and preservatives which are added to enhance flavor, or extend shelf-life. And usually, those are the very ingredients you either do not want in your diet, or that drive up your intake of unwanted calories or carbohydrates.
If you are on a gluten-free diet, make sure your duck sauce does not contain any wheat or wheat-derivatives such as maltodextrin, either of which are sometimes added for thickening and a consistent texture.
And for those of you who are following a keto-friendly diet, you’ll want to pay attention to the different forms of sugar that may be used, like corn syrup, so that you are not ingesting extra carbohydrates. If you are following a strict Keto diet, you’ll probably want to limit your use of duck sauce anyway, but at the very least, it would be best to make your own, replacing any sugar with more acceptable sugar alternatives like monk fruit sweetener, allulose, or stevia.
Are There Substitutes for Duck Sauce?
If you don’t have the time to make or purchase your own duck sauce, and the Chinese take-out restaurant forgot to put those special packets of sweet-n-sour yumminess in your bag, you can generally find a decent substitute in your fridge or pantry.
Some orange marmalade will certainly work, but a jar of Indian chutney will do the trick as well, especially if you happen to have some honey or agave syrup to sweeten it up a bit. Since duck sauce is syrupy enough for dipping, remember to add a little hot water, or rice vinegar, to your marmalade or chutney to thin it out.
What Is The Difference Between Duck Sauce And Plum Sauce?
It’s important to note that sometimes there can be a bit of confusion with regard to duck sauce and plum sauce. Yes, they are different, and yet there are similarities, too.
Both sauces can be served as a condiment to most fried and savory Asian delights, but plum sauce is generally made with pickled plums, is less sweet, and often contains more intensely flavored ingredients like ginger and garlic.
Plum sauce is almost exclusively served with what is known as Peking Duck, a hallmark Chinese dish, whereas duck sauce goes with just about everything else.
Both duck sauce and plum sauce can be purchased, ready-made, but you can also make either one at home. However, since duck sauce is a bit more user-friendly for its versatility, and loosely measured ingredients, that’s the one you may want to master.
How To Make Homemade Duck Sauce
Since so many of us are becoming more and more health-conscious, and aware of the ingredients that we should or should not be eating, it’s a great idea to make your own homemade duck sauce. It’s really quite easy, and by doing so, not only will you know exactly what’s in it, but you can tweak it to match your personal preferences. Here is a basic duck sauce recipe, that once you make it, you can add a little more of this, or a little more of that, to create the dipping sauce of your dreams!
5-minute Homemade Duck Sauce
¼ cup Apricot Jam (or Orange Marmalade)
2 tablespoons very hot water
1 teaspoon Soy Sauce (or Tamari)
½ teaspoon Granulated Sugar (or Honey, or Mond Fruit Sweetener)
2 tablespoons Rice Vinegar
+ a few red pepper flakes (optional)
Place the jam in a small bowl and set aside. In another small bowl use a fork to mix the very hot water with the soy sauce and sugar. When the sugar is dissolved, add in the vinegar and pepper flakes. Slowly pour the liquid mixture into the jam and blend well. Serve duck sauce at room temperature. Sauce can be stored in refrigerator for 2 weeks. Enjoy!