Traditional Chinese Plum Sauce from Scratch

A homemade Chinese plum sauce recipe based on tips from my Chinese "aunties" . Plus video! -

Time for a trip to the archives. I originally posted this Chinese Plum Sauce Recipe four years ago. It’s surprised me by becoming my most popular post, so I decided it was time to give the post and photos a little bit of a facelift. It’s the same great recipe, just slightly adjusted to how I make it today, with new photos and stories. But my favorite part of this update, is the video below, How to Make Plum Sauce From Scratch.

Five years ago, my boss at the time had a plum tree right next to her house. In the summer, every time I’d leave for the day, I’d  see a tiny wisp of a woman on her knees, white hair peeking out from under a brightly colored sun hat. Each day she’d gather up fallen plums to try and prevent future trees from sprouting, and every time I walked be, she begged me to take as many plums as I wanted. Never one to turn down free fruit, I always assured her I’d take as much as I possibly could. Italian prune plums are pretty heavily producing trees, and I picked a good 20-25 pounds a week!

A homemade Chinese plum sauce recipe based on tips from my Chinese "aunties" . Plus video! -

The first week, we just ate them as is, and I used them for palate cleansers at our artisan steak tasting. When I began experimenting in the kitchen with them, plum sauce was first on my list.  In Hawaii, we didn’t have a potluck without some sort of Chinese plum sauce, whether it was a dip for egg rolls or fried potstickers, or a mixed into a cabbage salad.  Everyone had a different way to make it, but the basic flavors were usually the same.

By picking some really ripe plums, and some firmer ones, I get a mix of sweet and tart.  Sometimes my Chinese aunties included a little vinegar (rice vinegar, chinese black vinegar, or red wine vinegar) if the plums weren’t tart enough. There’s no need to add salt because of the soy sauce, and the ginger and garlic (and sometimes onion) really punch up the flavor.  Finally, a bit of chili sauce or red pepper flakes for spiciness.   I decided that I wanted to create my own plum sauce, playing around with the ingredient ratios.  I figured it couldn’t be too hard, I mean, these plums are so delicious they’d be tough to mess up!

A homemade Chinese plum sauce recipe based on tips from my Chinese "aunties" . Plus video! -

Some people like their plum sauce smooth, in which case an immersion blender or food processor is perfect.  Other people prefer a chunkier consistency, so you’d want to simply mash it with a wooden spoon while it simmers on the stove, or give it just a couple whirls with an immersion blender.   But keep in mind that it’s the peels that give it the beautiful magenta color (and add fiber!), so it will look very different if you peel your plums.

Feel free to play around with this recipe, I consider it a base and will add additional flavorings depending on the meal. For instance, I make a big batch then divide it into four portions that can be frozen. If we’re having it as a dipping sauce with potstickers, I’ll add sriracha to make it really spicy. If I’m pouring it over pork belly, I’ll add Chinese five spice powder. I also love adding curry powder and mixing it into stir fried shrimp and vegetables.

A homemade Chinese plum sauce recipe based on tips from my Chinese "aunties" . Plus video! -

You also have some leeway with the ingredients for plum sauce.  Try and keep a good balance of flavors so the sauce impacts every part of your tongue, but don’t let not having something keep you from making it.  If you don’t have fresh onion, garlic, or ginger, you can use powdered.  It will have a different taste and consistency, but can still have a good balance of flavors.  You can also add chopped prunes, apricots or other dried stone fruit which will thicken the sauce.  My recipe is based on the traditional Chinese plum sauce my aunties in Hawaii made, but don’t feel limited by it.

Now that we have a house with plum tree in the backyard, we are sometimes drowning in plums. But there is something so special about going to pick fruit in our own backyard, and turning it into something wonderful. Plum sauce has definitely become one of our favorite recipes, and I’m so glad it’s one of the favorites here on Eating Richly. Do you have any ideas to share on what to eat with plum sauce?

A homemade Chinese plum sauce recipe based on tips from my Chinese "aunties" . Plus video! -

Traditional Chinese Plum Sauce from Scratch

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yield: about 2 cups
Calories per serving: 31
Fat per serving: 0


  • 15-20
    small to medium plums
  • 6 cloves
    garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup
    red onion finely chopped
  • 1 TBS
    grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup
    soy sauce
  • 2 TBS
    sweet chili sauce

Cooking Directions

  1. Slice plums in half and discard pits. Cut each half into about 6 chunks.
  2. Mix plums in a saucepan with garlic, onion, ginger, soy sauce, and chili sauce.
  3. Heat on medium for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Blend well with an immersion blender and add water to thin if desired.
  5. Store in the freezer up to six months or the fridge up to two weeks.

Approximate cost/serving: My plums were free, so this cost me almost nothing.  If you buy plums it will be $2.50-$3 to make, but the sauce is enough dip for 20 servings, so we’ll call it 15 cents a serving.

Vegetarian/Gluten Free: The sauce is vegetarian and vegan, my soy sauce has wheat gluten.  Use a gluten free soy sauce or tamari to make this gluten free.

Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 11.19mg, Total Carbohydrate 7.46g, Dietary Fiber 0.67g, Sugars 3.63g, Protein 0.12g, WW Points Plus 1, WW Old Points 0


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25 Responses to “Traditional Chinese Plum Sauce from Scratch”

  1. danielle
    September 23, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    I think plum sauce is my favorite dipping sauce. I’ve never made it from scratch tho. Thanks for posting the recipe :)

  2. Kiran
    September 24, 2009 at 6:29 am #

    I always want to make oriental sauces at home, but apart from Thai sauces I have not made from scratch at home. I will try this out for sure and use for stir fries as a base sauce.

  3. Cristin
    September 24, 2009 at 9:07 am #

    We have plum trees all around us, perfectly ripe right now. Never thought of plum sauce. Great suggestion!

  4. Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food.
    September 24, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    Diana, this is gorgeous! What a beautiful plum and sauce. Look at that color!
    Your on my list for the next potluck party. I want this sauce and your Houpia pie!

  5. Alison @ Hospitality Haven
    February 19, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    This would also be a great link to my “Taste the World” meme starting today! We’re focusing on Chinese food, and this would fit well. :)

  6. Tamara
    August 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Thanks for this! We’ve got a ton of plums growing in our back alley… not the same as yours (they’re much smaller) but still, yummy enough to make something with!

    • diana
      August 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

      Oh good! Plums are also amazign for jam. One of my favorites.

  7. Carrie
    September 29, 2011 at 7:34 pm #


    I love this sauce. I made a big batch and canned it for use later in the year.

    • diana
      October 1, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

      Hi Carrie, so glad you loved it! T

      • diana
        October 18, 2011 at 8:43 am #

        Yes, I know about the copyright standards for recipes, thanks!

    • Jolene
      September 14, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

      Hi Carrie,
      Can you tell me the details of how you canned this? What size jar you used, how long (water bath?) and how many jars it made? I’m relatively new to canning but I would love to try this recipe!
      Thank you,

  8. judy
    October 2, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    I am going to make this today…have a 25 yr old plum tree… may I freeze the sauce for later use?

    • diana
      October 2, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

      Hi Judy, I have a plum tree as well, isn’t it wonderful! Made 50 jars of jam this year. I haven’t frozen the sauce but I think it should freeze and thaw just fine. If you try please let me know how it goes.

  9. Denyse
    January 29, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    You should read “Jam: a true story” by Margaret Mahy. It is a picture book about a family with a plethora of plums : )

  10. Chris
    September 16, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Considering the amount of plums I received today, I guess there is no choice, but try it. I might, though, substitute something for the chilli sauce and do it even more from scratch.

    • Diana
      September 17, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

      Great idea Chris. I bet you could use a chopped jalapeño or other chili for the heat. Would love to hear how it goes for you.

  11. Maggie J
    September 16, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    Just made this today and immediately made a veggie and shrimp stir fry. I normally don’t like shrimp at home, but this was delicious. Thank you for sharing!!

    • Diana
      September 17, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

      I’m so glad Maggie, that sounds like a wonderful stir fry. Thanks for letting me know!

  12. Valerie
    October 6, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Just made it with chopped fresh hot peppers (Hungarian long hots for heat and cherry peppers for flavor). Good. So glad to find this recipe.

    • Diana
      October 31, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

      Wonderful Valerie! I bet the fresh peppers were amazing in this sauce. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  13. Jenni
    August 22, 2014 at 12:24 am #

    How lovely to see your site pop up when I was looking for a plum sauce recipe this evening! We are drowning in plums, too. In addition to golden plum jam, I thought I’d try plum sauce but I’d like one that takes to canning. Do you ever make a large batch and preserve this? If so, are there any changes to the recipe? Thanks!

  14. Shirl
    September 24, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    My tree is loaded I always make wine but want to try something different.I am going to try and can some,will let you know how it turns out.Thanks for the recipe.


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