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?
TRADITIONAL CHINESE PLUM SAUCE FROM SCRATCH
- 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.
49 thoughts on “Traditional Chinese Plum Sauce from Scratch”
I think plum sauce is my favorite dipping sauce. I’ve never made it from scratch tho. Thanks for posting the recipe 🙂
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.
We have plum trees all around us, perfectly ripe right now. Never thought of plum sauce. Great suggestion!
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!
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. 🙂 http://alison.blogsome.com/2010/02/18/taste-the-world-intro/
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!
Oh good! Plums are also amazign for jam. One of my favorites.
I love this sauce. I made a big batch and canned it for use later in the year.
Hi Carrie, so glad you loved it! T
Yes, I know about the copyright standards for recipes, thanks!
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!
I am going to make this today…have a 25 yr old plum tree… may I freeze the sauce for later use?
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.
You should read “Jam: a true story” by Margaret Mahy. It is a picture book about a family with a plethora of plums : )
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.
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.
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!!
I’m so glad Maggie, that sounds like a wonderful stir fry. Thanks for letting me know!
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.
Wonderful Valerie! I bet the fresh peppers were amazing in this sauce. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
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!
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.
This is an excellent recipe. I don’t see SUGAR here. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. With your recipes, you are helping more of us live healthier and saving more.
Must be a mistake. I tasted before I processed and it was not good. Added 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 3 Tlb. Honey and generous 1/2 cup br sugar. Seems ok now. Wish people would actually try recipes before writing a review.
Hi Dana, I’m sorry you didn’t like this sauce. It is not like the jarred plum sauces in the store (which are often made from pumpkin!) and not supposed to be super sweet. I could see how it would be a surprise if you prefer the really sweet sauces.
I make ASIAN RECIPES when friends from Maylasia. visit I, am making Hot sticky finger Plum pork ribs,with your Chinese plum sause in my marinade.I tried it ,ribs taste great.thanks.
OOPS…BEEF RIBS FOR my MAYLASIA friends
Hi Peter, so sorry I’m just now replying. We got way behind on comments with our new baby! I’m really glad to hear the sauce was great on the ribs. Thanks for letting me know 🙂
I am sure, I remember one of the ingredients in plum sauce, was pureed pumpkin, but I’m not finding it in any of these recipes, it was a few years ago, but I remember it, because to me, it seemed like such an unusual & unique ingredient. Do you have a plum sauce recipe, with pumpkin puree, or could you make one up, please & thank you. ☺
Hi Fiona, thanks for writing! Pumpkin is used as a filler in a lot of storebought plum sauce because it is so much cheaper than plums. I don’t have a recipe for plum sauce that uses pumpkin because we have an abundance of plums in our yard!
What a wonderful opening video. Only had two plums, so I scaled it way down. added a pinch of anise, a little lemon juice, a drop of saki, a few Thai lemon basil, and a dozen or so dried black beans, plus a tablespoon of Tree Frog Hot Sauce. Simmering now. Half of this will be a marinade for baked chicken thighs.
Thank you Neil. Your adjustments sound wonderful!
Thank you for the recipe! I’ve been wanting to look up one for so long and finally did. I use plum sauce in my sushi instead of wasabi, since I have a very limited spice-heat tolerance. It’s been frustrating the daylights out of me that I can’t find a store-bought one that doesn’t have any junk ingredients in it. I’ve had to put my sushi-making on hold for a while (it’s pretty rare anyways) just because of that, though being a vegetarian sushi, pretty much all the other ingredients (green leaf lettuce, avocados, cucumber, and cream cheese, and of course short-grain rice) are usually more easily found. I’m so going to have to try this recipe once plums come back into season (which should be soon). 😀 I might even be able to can a few small batches, or, like you said freeze some, though little things like that tend to get lost in our freezer. Oh well, I’ll figure it out. 😀 Thanks again.
You are so welcome Deb! Glad to help 🙂
Very nice video with storyline tha.ks for telling
I found this very sharp???
This is the first year in ten that our plum tree has produced enough that I can do something with them. Because of a serious lack of time I had to cut them up and freeze them and now can’t figure out how to measure to get the correct amount for the plum sauce recipe!! Someone please help!! 🙂 (I have 2×4 litre pails)
May be a silly question, but do you peel the plums or leave the skin on?
Not silly at all! I leave the skin on because it all gets blended up. Plus it gives them that lovely purple color!
In case anyone asks about differences in color or consistency, I thought I’d point out that the plums you used aren’t plums; they’re PRUNES. People think prunes are just dried plums but it isn’t so! 🙂 They’re their own fruit, and as you mentioned you just ate them for the first several days, you know how delicious they are fresh.
I’ll be forwarding this recipe on to my Parent’s-In-Law . They’re prune farmers and I’m sure they’d love a new way to use their prunes!
How wonderful! I so appreciate you commenting. I knew they were called Italian Prune Plums, but I didn’t realize that prunes and plums are actually different fruits. They truly are a wonderful fruit!
Allow this recipe, or any other hot mixture to cool before you put it in the blender. Otherwise the results could be explosive.
Nice! I can’t wait to try it.
This made with half apple and balsamic red vi negar. For pork noodle stirfry with sugar snap pinapple and a little brocolli
Can I use diced stem ginger in sugar syrup if I have no fresh ginger
Made your plum sauce and loved it. I used it as a dip for roasted Pork-belly and steamed Bok Choy .Had some left so made some steam dumpling