Chinese Sweet & Sour Sauce

Chinese Sweet & Sour Sauce
Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce Header

Homemade Red Chinese Sweet & Sour Sauce. The same one served at most Chinese Restaurants. Delicious Red Sweet and Sour Sauce with additional undertones served over Chinese Deep Fried Chicken Balls.

This makes a moderate batch that you can freeze to use at a later time. Just bring to boil and thicken with a Potato Starch Slurry.

I usually serve this up with the Chicken Balls, Chicken or Pork Fried Rice, Egg Rolls, Chicken Chop Suey, and Honey Garlic Ribs, sometimes with Gyoza Dumplings or any mix to create Combos. Check out my Asian Category for your picks and Combinations.

Restaurant Style Chinese Sweet & Sour Sauce

I reconstructed this to the best of my ability trying to remember what the ingredients were while working at one of my very first Jobs at a Chinese restaurant and picking up clues along the way. They had the best Red Sweet & Sour Sauce. I would eat this daily with Chicken Balls.

I asked one day what was in it and was surprised that Tomato Paste and Pumpkin Puree was used. Or was it one or the other, I can’t quite remember.

The Ingredients are combined and brought to a boil. Then simmered, strained and set aside. The Sauce is thickened and kept warm. Some places it’s kept cold and is thickened with Potato or Cornstarch at order time and served.

The longer the Sweet & Sour Sauce sits, the more flavor it will develop. Adjust the Sugar and Vinegar levels to suit your taste.

Freezing Sweet & Sour Sauce

Freeze the remaining Sweet and Sour Sauce without the Slurry added. When ready to use, place the desired amount of Sweet & Sour Sauce into a sauce pot and thicken with the Slurry to serve. 

Food Coloring

This Sauce doesn’t need Food coloring. It tastes exactly the same. Use Permicol Bright Red Powder to color the Sauce for the restaurant color, or other food coloring for a Red Sauce. I added two teaspoons of Club House Red Food Coloring, which is pretty weak. If you can go with Permicol Red food coloring or Desi Bright Red, which is pretty good.

Sweet and Sour Sauce without Food Coloring

Without Food Coloring

Sweet and Sour Sauce with Food Coloring

With Food Coloring

Desi Red Food Coloring

Desi Bright Red Food Coloring

This is the one I most often use and it is very effective. Add a small amount at a time. Until the desired color is achieved.

Thickening Sweet & Sour Sauce

Equal amounts of Potato Starch and Cold Water added to the sauce, a little at a time, while simmering to thicken to the desired consistency.

Once the Sauce is done simmering. Let it cool down for about 1 hour. Strain through a sieve and use with the Slurry to thicken into a Delicious Sweet & Sour Sauce.

Potato Starch Slurry

Starch Slurry

It’s about 1/2 Tbl of Potato Starch and Water used with 1 Cup of S&S Sauce. You can add more or less depending on how thick or thin you want it.

Chinese Sweet & Sour Sauce ingredients

The ingredients used are pretty standard across Chinese Restaurants, with slight deviations. I have inquired with other restaurants and found that some do in fact use ketchup, and these are usually not as good as the authentic version. I went out one day to visit a few Chinese Restaurants just to see what they used and compare the sauces.

Ketchup or Pineapple Juice is used in homemade versions. This does work, it’s just not as good as the original or authentic version in my opinion.

The Flavoring is almost always Garlic, Ginger, Cinnamon, Star Anise, Cloves with Orange. The Pumpkin puree, as well as the Tomato paste, assist in the overall flavoring and color. The 3 spices used are also included in Chinese 5 Spice. So you could just use Chinese 5 Spice as well, which contains the addition of Sichuan/Szechuan Peppercorn and Fennel Seeds.

Chinese S&S Sauce Simmering
Chinese S&S Sauce Simmering

There might be slight deviations or different levels of ingredients from this, but this is pretty much the standard. Feel free to experiment and adjust the levels for your taste.

Sweet & Sour Chicken Balls

While Chinese restaurants will coat small pieces of Chicken in a sweetened Pancake Batter. These are coated in a Deep Fry batter that cook up the Chicken Balls really Crispy with some serious Crunch. No small pieces of Chicken either. These are about 1 inch diced Chicken, battered and deep fried at 350 F – 375 F for about 5–8 minutes.

They stay pretty Crispy too considering that they get coated in this Sweet & Sour Sauce. These really are the Best and the only way I make Chinese Sweet & Sour Chicken Balls.

Deep Fried Chicken Balls

Deep Fried Crispy Chicken Balls

  • Diced Chicken Breast
  • Salt & White Pepper to Season
  • 1/2 C JAH Poly Flour Recipe 
  • 1/2 C Cornstarch
  • 1/2 C Cold Water – plus more if needed to get the correct consistency

Ladle on this Delicious Sweet & Sour Sauce over some Crispy Chicken Balls and enjoy Chinese Sweet & Sour Chicken with a side of Chinese Chicken Fried Rice. It’s just Bliss.

Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce Pin

Chinese Red Sweet & Sour Sauce

Red Chinese Sweet & Sour Sauce, commonly used in Chinese Restaurants. Simmered and strained with Red Food Coloring added. Thickened with Potato Starch to serve over some Crispy Chicken Balls.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Servings: 4 Cups


  • 1 Sauce Pot
  • 1 Sieve


  • 5 C Water
  • 2 C Sugar
  • 1 C White Vinegar
  • 1/2 C Tomato Paste
  • 1/4 C Neutral Oil
  • 1/4 C Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 Orange - Cut in Quarters
  • 2 inch Ginger - Sliced
  • 2 cloves Garlic - Crushed
  • 2 Star Anise
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/8 tsp Cinnamon and Ground Clove - each
  • as needed Permicol or other Red Food Coloring - Optional


  • 1/2 Tbl Potato Starch & Cold Water - per 1 Cup of the above chilled sauce


  • Combine Oil, Ginger, Garlic and sauté a few minutes over medium heat.
  • Add Pumpkin Puree and Tomato Paste and cook a few minutes.
    Add in remaining Ingredients, except the Red Food Coloring and Slurry (the Slurry will be used last to thicken the Sauce).
    Bring to boil. Reduce the heat to medium – medium low and let simmer partially covered for 45 minutes.
  • After 45 minutes. Shut the heat off and let it cool down an hour or so. Strain the Sauce, through a fine sieve. Add the Red Food Coloring and adjust the taste. Portion and freeze or use right away for Sweet & Sour Sauce.
  • To serve, heat up the desired amount of Sweet & Sour Sauce. Combine about 1/2 Tbl Potato Starch & Cold Water for each Cup of Sweet & Sour Sauce. Add to the Sauce while it is simmering to thicken. Remove from the heat and serve.


Freeze the remaining Sweet and Sour Sauce without the Slurry added. When ready to use, place the desired amount of Sweet & Sour Sauce into a sauce pot and thicken with the Slurry to serve. 
Serve this Sweet and Sour Sauce over some Deep Fried Crispy Chicken Balls and a side of Chicken Fried Rice!
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese
Keywords: Chinese Sweet & Sour Sauce, Red Sweet & Sour Sauce, Restaurant Sweet & Sour Sauce
Author: JAH
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