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!
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!
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.
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?
- 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
- Slice plums in half and discard pits. Cut each half into about 6 chunks.
- Mix plums in a saucepan with garlic, onion, ginger, soy sauce, and chili sauce.
- Heat on medium for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Blend well with an immersion blender and add water to thin if desired.
- 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.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 11Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 176mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g
Nutrition information is an estimate only.