Sweet and Sour Sauce: Everything that It Offers

Parul Dube

June 30, 2022

The sweet and sour sauce is a generic term that encompasses many sauces, mainly including various flavours, fruits, vegetables and exciting additives that give sauces a mix of sweet and sour tastes. The Chinese made the sauce, considering how one can benefit from flavouring substances such as sauces. These sauces became famous because of their convenience of use. Its history goes back to China, and we can safely credit the Chinese entirely for discovering the sweet and sour sauce. The Tang Dynasty of the Chinese province was the first to serve it. However, the sauce they called sweet and sour sauce differs from today’s sweet and sour sauce. 

The sweet and sour sauce of earlier times, of the Tang Dynasty, was lighter in flavour and texture than the modern-day sweet and sour sauce. The Chinese use this sweet and sour sauce as a dipping sauce rather than a cooking sauce such as soy sauce. It is used as a cuisine dish in many countries and decorating foods and dressing salads. 

Each country has its unique name for the cuisine and style of making it. For example, Filipino cuisine mixes cornstarch with water, salt, sugar, and tangy ingredients such as tomato ketchup. Many sauces, such as duck sauce, general Tso sauce, and sweet chilli sauce, are available in the market. However, each of them differs from the other slightly. For example, Duck sauce is different from sweet and sour sauce because it has a fruitier flavour. People commonly use it as dips for noodles, egg rolls, and other fried foods. On the other hand, sweet chilli sauce is spicier than sweet and sour sauce and general Tso sauce as it has less sodium content than the sweet and sour sauce. 

Varieties of the Sweet and Sour Sauce

There are many varieties of sweet and sour sauces available in the market. Many brands market these sweet and sour sauces.  For most, food has always been a top-notch priority. However, with the convenience it offers as a spreadable sauce added with the health benefits, it took no time to become popular in most markets. This sweet and sour sauce also changed the perspective of many people in terms of a sauce’s nutritional and calorific value. People who believe that fast food and health are oxymorons are incorrect because this sauce has the goodness of pineapple and apple cider vinegar. Also, if you make it at home, you can regulate the quantity of sugar and salt and make it healthier.  


The sweet and sour sauces come in quite a few varieties, such as gluten-free and sugar-free. This flexibility of choice makes it a better alternative than other sauces. They are made of green onions, garlic, ginger, ketchup, soya sauce, and sugar and are from unconventional food plants (UFP). It is a plant-based product, thus enhancing sound human health. 

Research has shown that till now, humans have produced 14 sauce prototypes in laboratories, out of which only two prototypes are available for use because of their stability. These obtained good sensory acceptance because of increased benefits and enhanced properties such as antioxidants and antimicrobials, thus increasing their shelf life. Who thought that flavoured sauces would come with inbuilt antioxidant properties? It all became possible only due to continuous research and studies. Its identity and quality characteristics are similar to ketchup, only with increased potential properties. The sweet and sour sauce is also famous as a flavouring agent and adds aroma to foods and beverages. 

With all the background info, let’s dive deeper into the world of sweet and sour sauce with some sweet knowledge to diminish sour experiences.

Nutritional Information of Sauce

As per USDA, 100g of the sauce contains:

  • Water: 78.6g
  • Energy: 79 kcal
  • Protein: 1.84g
  • Total lipid: 0.58g
  • Carbohydrates: 16.7g
  • Fibre 0.4g
  • Calcium: 16mg
  • Iron: 0.67mg
  • Magnesium: 13mg
  • Phosphorus: 30mg
  • Potassium: 193mg
  • Sodium: 347mg
  • Zinc: 0.18mg
  • Copper: 0.1mg

From this point of view, as a flavouring substance, we do not expect much from a sauce. But the sweet and sour sauce provides so many health benefits, thus making it unique. Some other healthy properties are as follows:


Antioxidants prevent or minimise cell damage from free radicals. It protects the body in the presence of oxidative stress. However, experts are still looking out for the beneficial effects of antioxidants. Some studies support the fact that antioxidants do not help in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Moreover, when consumed in excess, these antioxidants increase the chances of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and cataracts.

Researchers suggested that consuming large amounts of antioxidant-rich foods might help protect against several diseases. Because of these results, there has been a lot of research on antioxidant supplements. However, rigorous trials of antioxidant supplements in large numbers of people have found that high doses of antioxidant supplements do not prevent diseases.


Antimicrobial is the property of sweet and sour sauces developed in research laboratories. It contains phenolic compounds that contribute to its antimicrobial property.

This property is a milestone for the commercial use of sauces. Sauces made at home do not retain their viability for more than 3-4 months. However, an industry-made sweet and sour sauce maintains its viability for more than a year. Hence, the antimicrobial property increased shelf life by almost four times.

Health Benefits of Sweet and Sour Sauce

The Sweet and Sour Sauce has several health benefits. Its phytochemical composition enables it to become an unconventional choice when we talk about health benefits. It also has high antioxidant properties that benefit our bodies.

Promotes Bone Health

It contains calcium and phosphorus in adequate amounts. Calcium and phosphorus promote bone health. Zinc prevents osteoporosis and thus becomes essential in females after menopause as decreased estrogen increases the chances of bone fractures due to osteoporosis.

Boosts Immunity

The presence of nutrients aid in the production of white blood cells, which help fight diseases. These seeds also boost the level of Zinc, benefiting those with zinc deficiency. Antioxidants such as folate and manganese neutralise free radicals, protecting organs from damage by free radicals, thereby increasing immunity.

Rich Source of Vitamin B

Vitamin B complex is a water-soluble vitamin that regulates cell functions and boosts metabolism. These vitamins work together to prevent Beri Beri, Pellagra, Cheilosis, fissured mouth, and many other vitamin B deficiency diseases. Folate also acts as an antioxidant and protects the body from free radicals.

Prevents Iron Deficiency

Iron is an essential micronutrient as it acts as an enzyme activator and inhibitor. Thus, it can regulate molecules by the body according to its needs. It is also a source of Vitamin C, which enhances iron absorption from the diet. Furthermore, iron is the main component in synthesising haemoglobin, which carries oxygen inside the body. It is also essential for the maturation of RBCs. These factors indicate how vital iron is for the body.

Adherence to Diet Plan

Since these sauces are flavorful substances, they can help one stick to their diet plan by adding flavours to the routine green vegetables and salads. Studies show that taste is a significant barrier to dietary adherence. These sauces overcome this problem and make food more exciting to eat, thus helping one adhere to a diet plan.

How to Prepare Sweet and Sour Sauce?

Preparing sweet and sour sauce at home is as simple as it gets. With very few ingredients and a total preparation time of 10- 15 minutes, you will have made a healthy and tasty sauce for your meals.


Preparation Time: 5 mins

Cooking Time: 5mins

Total Time: 10 mins

Servings: 2


  • Mid-sized garlic cloves chopped: 3 to 4
  • Minced Ginger: 1 tsp
  • Green onion chopped: 1 tsp
  • Brown sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Apple cider or Rice  vinegar: ½ tbsp
  • Ketchup: 2 tbsp
  • Soy sauce: 1 tbsp
  • Pineapple juice: 2 tbsp
  • Garlic powder: ¼ tsp
  • Cornstarch: 1 tbsp
  • Vegetable oil: 1 tbsp
  • Sea salt: as per taste


  1. Add ginger, garlic and green onion to the pan. Mildly stir fry with vegetable oil. Let the aroma emit. Add apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, soy sauce, pineapple juice, garlic, and cornstarch to a small saucepan.
  2. Give it all a good stir until the corn starch dissolves. If the consistency is incorrect, you may add 2 to 3 tbsp water. 
  3. Please turn on the heat to medium and frequently stir until it starts to boil. (At this point, the sauce will thicken and be shiny).

Food Storage and Safety

Knowing how to prepare the food is as important as storing it well. To a large extent, the storage time for sweet and sour sauce depends on its storage conditions. The sauce needs to be refrigerated as long as one plans to use it. Making sure that the container is airtight and undamaged is of prime importance. This way, you can store the sauce for up to 2 weeks. If it is to be stored directly after cooking, let it cool to room temperature first. It won’t spoil if you store it at room temperature for about 2-3 hours. Then, freeze the sauce and seal it in an airtight container. You can keep it in the freezer for up to about three months.

The storage time of different sauces depends on the raw materials used for their making. However, studies show that all sauces generally share some similar attributes regarding their storage. The sweet and sour sauce bottles available in the market contain a “best when used by,” “Best before,” and “best by- <date>” written on them. This date is the manufacturer’s estimation of how long the sauce will be at its best quality. You can use it beyond this date, provided the storage is appropriate, and you store the sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Finally, and most importantly, regularly check for any signs of spoilage. Its colour, texture, or flavour may change. If it develops a different or an off colour or texture or moulds or fungi appears, please do not use it.

Adverse Effects

It is a new product in the food market. Hence there is not much research regarding the side effects of this sauce. It was introduced in the market as convenience food with added benefits of fruits. Compared with other sauces, it provides health benefits. However, it may elicit allergic reactions in many people. Red dye, a famous commercial sauce, can cause side effects when used in excess. However, when used in moderation, these sauces are just delightful. The side effects include a broad spectrum of migraines and mental disorders.


There is an endless variety of sauces and other food accompaniments available in the market today. There is some offering for every palate. However, these are not nutritious, and one should only consume them in moderation. The more items you make at home, the more aware you will be of the ingredients’ quality and shelf life. It will make your sauce healthier, too, since there will be no additives, chemicals, or preservatives. The Chinese sauce discussed above is a good choice for all cuisines and takes no time when prepared at home. Its various health benefits and that fun tangy flavour will become popular in any household.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q 1. What is Chinese sweet and sour sauce made of? 

A. Chinese sweet and sour sauce is made with green onions, ginger, garlic, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar according to taste. It is one of the most popular sauces found in many Chinese restaurants.

Q 2. What is the difference between sweet chilli sauce and sweet and sour sauce?

A. Sweet chilli sauce is used with tofu and other seafood and chicken. Sweet Chilli Sauce contains red chilli, which the latter doesn’t. The former is slightly spicier, while the latter is sweet and tangy.

Q 3. Is sweet and sour sauce made from ketchup?

A. There are many varieties of sweet and sour sauces. Generally, ketchup is a common ingredient in sweet and sour sauces. However, it is not a necessary ingredient. Cherry juices can replace it.

Q 4. What Chinese food has no gluten? 

A. There is a range of gluten-free Chinese foods, including meat, tofu, white rice, seafood, etc. In addition, Chinese sweet and sour sauce, a popular sauce, is also gluten-free.

Q 5. Does General Tso sauce have gluten? 

A. No, general Tso sauce is also gluten-free. Traditionally available, Tso sauce has no gluten and 20% less sodium, making it a healthy choice among sauces.

Q 6. Is sweet and sour sauce Duck Sauce? 

A. No, sweet and sour sauce and duck sauce are not the same, though they have some similarities. Duck sauce is offered in American Chinese restaurants more frequently. It is a condiment with a sweet and sour flavour and an orange-ish appearance. 

Q 7. Is orange sauce the same as sweet and sour?

A. No, orange sauce and sweet and sour sauce are not similar, though they are from similar ingredients. The orange sauce comes with a tangy sweetness because of the presence of orange in its ingredient. Sweet and sour sauce lacks orange in its ingredient, thus providing it with a simple sweetness.

Q 8. Can I use sweet and sour sauce instead of sweet chilli sauce? 

A. Yes, you can use sweet and sour sauce instead of the sweet chilli sauce because there is not much difference between sweet chilli and sweet and sour sauce. Both are incredibly simple to make. The only difference between sweet chilli sauce and sweet and sour sauce is that sweet chilli sauce is sweet, sour, and spicy. So only the spiciness goes missing when using sweet and sour sauce instead of sweet chilli sauce.

Q 9. What can I use instead of pineapple in sweet and sour?

A. You can use vinegar instead of pineapple in the sweet and sour sauce because vinegar offers the same sourness but without sweetness. You can manage the sweetness by adding additional sugar to the sweet and sour sauce.

A. Soy sauce is the most popular Chinese sauce as it is used very commonly and frequently in Chinese cooking.

About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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