Have you ever done takeout, just to dip everything in duck sauce? You’re not alone.
Some even say that this lip-smackingly sweet and sour, umami condiment is addictive. But one thing is for sure; duck sauce is part of the ultimate takeout experience. (*)
Somehow, store-bought versions are nowhere near as satisfying as small packets that come with takeout. Still, when there’s no duck sauce nearby, you must come up with viable alternatives.
To help you out, we have a comprehensive list of duck sauce substitutes for every occasion and meal. And if that’s not enough, we will help you make them just as addictive.
- 1. Oyster Sauce
- 2. Hoisin Sauce
- 3. Soy Sauce
- 4. Date Syrup
- 5. Fish Sauce
- 6. Sweet Ponzu Sauce
- 7. Molasses
- 8. Char Siu
- 9. Wine Demi-Glace
- 10. Sriracha
- 11. Teriyaki Sauce
- 12. Apple Sauce
- 13. Chutneys
- 14. Sweet and Sour Sauce
- 15. Honey and Ginger Sauce
Let’s dive in.
What Can You Use To Replace Duck Sauce?
Duck sauce is hardly an ancient traditional Chinese recipe. It’s more like a brainchild of American-Chinese fusion gastronomy.
Still, it’s delicious. But when duck sauce comes to mind, people think about two condiments. One is the traditional orange-apricot, slightly spicy jelly. The other is a fiery, fruity, plum soy sauce.
Both are sweet and savory, with the perfect balance in-between. Let’s find some even better alternatives to duck sauce!
1. Oyster Sauce
Oyster sauce has a similar, thick and rich flavor profile to duck sauce. However, the overall taste left on your palate differs wildly.
Therefore, your should only swap duck sauce with oyster sauce in seafood or beef dishes. More so, this condiment needs bold, spicy ingredients all around.
Aside from the distinct flavor, it is far less sweet. So to better mimic duck sauce, try buying sweet oyster sauce and combining it with honey, orange zest, and ginger.
Furthermore, it’s great for stir-frying beef, pad-thai, and heavy seafood dishes.
2. Hoisin Sauce
As opposed to oyster sauce, Hoisin has more sweetness and a spectacular glaze. It also matches the duck sauce flavor much better.
You’ve probably seen Hoisin on Peking ducks, shining bright like a diamond, just like food stock photos.
Despite being less sweet, it makes an excellent duck sauce replacement. You can also thicken them slightly to make a dipping sauce.
When thickening, add some potato starch to make a dipping similar to a duck sauce. Mix them boldly with beef, chicken, or any vegetables, as well as dumplings and spring rolls.
In a nutshell, use it as a go-to sauce for anything, especially Asian dishes.
The next one is less surprising, but oh-so-versatile.
Learn more: The Ultimate Hoisin Sauce Replacement List (2022’s Updated)
3. Soy Sauce
However boring it sounds, soy sauce, especially sweet ones, makes a great duck sauce alternative.
Sweet soy sauce is amped up with rice wine and sugar. It goes well with rice dishes and can be used to elevate any mild chicken, fish, or shrimp dish.
Despite their similar flavors, sweet soy is more watery than duck sauce. However, you can thicken it with arrowroot powder or cornstarch, and use it to spruce up richer sauces with tarty fruits.
After the obvious choices, the next substitute is truly for the connoisseurs.
4. Date Syrup
Dates are going strong in vegan and vegetarian cuisine. However, it is not a go-to duck sauce alternative. So, how do you pull it off?
It takes some mixing and shimmering, but it just might become your new favorite replacement for takeout duck sauce packets.
Sticky fruits, a few ingredients, and 30 minutes are all you need. Date pastes, whether dried or fresh or ready-made, are all suitable.
Dust your saucepan, and toss some smashed dates, soy sauce, rice vinegar, water, orange peels, ginger, salt, and arrowroot powder together. Shimmer for half an hour, and you’re good to go!
Now that you have a dip or marinade, good with veggies, pasta, or rice, you could forget about those duck sauces for good.
The next one is a wild card. You either love it or hate it.
5. Fish Sauce
We have a love or hate relationship with fish sauce. It can stink up the whole place but add some of the best depth of flavor to some dishes.
So how do we get around this?
Simply go for the best quality you can buy.
They not only smell but taste better than their cheaper counterparts, with a less fishy undertone. But how do they make a replacement?
Shimmer one tablespoon of fish sauce with some tarty pineapples, chilies, brown sugar, lime zest, and Chinese black vinegar.
This funky dip will put any duck sauce to shame!
6. Sweet Ponzu Sauce
Which of these sauces is the closest to the real thing? Well, Sweet Ponzu Sauce comes very close.
It has all of the sweet, dark, acidic, and tangy characteristics that you miss in duck sauce. The only difference is that it’s less of a jam and more like soy sauce in texture.
It can be used as a backup for any meal you prepare. It is less cloying and more delicate and refreshing.
The resemblance to duck sauce will be uncanny if you add some grapefruit or orange juice and thicken it.
If you’re still looking for your favorite substitute, keep on reading.
Learn more: What’s The Best Ponzu Sauce Alternative?
Technically, molasses only serves as a base for the sauce. However, it can complement even the most elegant courses.
This pomegranate-molasses variety is like an elevated duck sauce while remaining true to the original taste profile.
To recreate this duck sauce alternative, reduce the pomegranate juice. Add in star anise, cinnamon, coriander seeds, ginger, soy sauce, white vinegar, honey, cayenne pepper, and some salt.
If you can’t stand this fruit, try tangerines or oranges instead. Whatever you prefer, a few spoonfuls of this intense sauce will impress even the most jaded food critics.
Learn more: What’s the Best Pomegranate Molasses Substitute?
8. Char Siu
Let’s try something completely different after the distinct fruit–bomb of the molasses sauce. This one lacks any fruity tone.
A mouthful of Char Siu tastes like a spicy, meaty barbecue with sweet and tangy undertones. Overall, it’s far from duck sauce in its original form.
However, with some cooking skills, fresh orange or tangerine peels, and rice vinegar, it can be transformed into a fantastic duck sauce alternative.
After making it, how do you pair it best?
Get all the veggies; cauliflowers, broccoli, green beans, or roasted carrots, and toss them in this twisted, duck-sauce-copycat Char Siu.
9. Wine Demi-Glace
Don’t be intimidated by demi-glace. It’s simply a fancier version of the plain old sauce.
Another one for the culinary geeks!
Start with either port wine, a fruity white wine, or a fancy Chinese rose wine. Add white wine vinegar, duck or veal stock, soy sauce, ginger, and tamarind zest after the alcohol has evaporated.
Berries and cherries are also delicious additions to try. By shimmering until smooth and shiny, you will get a wine demi-glace.
This fun, fruity, tangy sauce tastes a lot like traditional duck sauce.
How can we possibly top this? With some good old Sriracha with a wicked twist.
This twisted duck sauce alternative Sriracha is unlike anything else. Sticky, spicy, with a balanced deep flavor.
We would even say it’s much better than a plain old duck sauce.
Take a good amount of Sriracha and mix it with a tbsp of fish sauce, brown sugar, lime zest, hot chili flakes, honey, rice vinegar, sesame oil, minced garlic, soy sauce, and some mashed pineapples.
This can be your go-to marinade or dipping for egg rolls, wontons, and many more.
It’s a ripe-hot, heavy sauce fit to substitute even the best duck sauce.
11. Teriyaki Sauce
Wildly popular, Teriyaki sauce has similar acidity but much less fruitiness than duck sauces.
This cross-cultural condiment needs some upping with pineapple juice, honey, ginger, garlic, and orange peels to match the duck sauce flavor profile.
Teriyaki can withstand a lot of alterations, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Use it to glisten on red meats, BBQs, wontons, egg rolls, and hearty meals.
What if you’re looking for something a little lighter? We also have an excellent substitute for you!
12. Apple Sauce
Use applesauce as a substitute for lighter dishes. Despite its fluffiness, this homemade sauce is full of aroma and flavor.
It is more subtle and refined, perfect for white meats and fish. After all, not everyone loves the heat and spices.
Because apple contains a lot of pectins, you won’t need as many thickening agents. However, be generous with citrus zest, cinnamon, star anise, ginger, and honey.
Thicken the sauce over low heat with some white rice vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic powder.
This combination is uncannily similar to traditional duck sauce. But to twist it, add some chili flakes as well.
Aside from the obvious chicken and spring rolls, pork pairs wonderfully with this apple sauce.
Somewhat similar in lightness to apple sauce, chutney is an obvious choice to replace the traditional duck sauce.
It has it all: sweetness, tanginess, acidity, and a savory undertone. It is also optional to add heat. Chutney shouldn’t be just any plain, boring jam with a fancy name.
To create a perfect duck sauce impression, use apricot, peach, or mango as a main ingredient, and chili or peppers.
For chunky chutneys, use a food processor for a smoother texture. Some dry sherry and rice vinegar can make them even better.
Chutneys can be your primary duck sauce alternative for lamb, heavy beef, or fried dishes.
But what about a universal sauce that goes with everything? We saved the best substitutes for last.
14. Sweet and Sour Sauce
Although the sweet and sour sauce is not the same as duck sauce, their taste and texture are strikingly similar.
Both are sweet, sticky, and thick, with ginger and garlic notes and light chilies. The only distinction is that duck sauce is more complex and fruity in flavor.
Add some fruits and acids to the sweet and sour sauce to achieve a similar punchy flavor. Rice wine vinegar and apricots are ideal for this.
This consistency is suitable for dipping and marinating, as well as making richly flavored stews. A little soy sauce or broth can give your barbecues and hamburgers a darker flavor.
Don’t start cooking yet, because we’ve saved the best for last.
Learn more: What’s The Best Sweet Chili Sauce Replacement?
15. Honey and Ginger Sauce
The honey and ginger combo can be more than just a warming winter tea.
With this flavor combination and a few more additions, you can make the ultimate replacement.
Whatever the dish, this delicious, refreshing, savory, and tangy sauce is indistinguishable from the real duck sauce and frankly, much better.
Mix some honey, ginger, pineapple sauce, sesame oil, Chinese black vinegar, garlic, five-spice, salt, pepper, rice wine, soy sauce, orange peels, and chili powder.
With water or cornstarch, you can set the thickness to your liking. It needs a few minutes of heating in a saucepan until it bubbles.
Drizzle on salads, meats, or noodles. Use it as a spread, marinade, or finishing sauce.
This is the best one so far for substituting duck sauce in any meal.
Bonus: Easy Homemade Duck Sauce Recipe
Get recipe: thewoksoflife.com
Even the best duck sauce replacements can turn out terrible with a bad thickening technique. However, we know it’s hard to figure out the best thickening agents for sticky sauces.
For die-hard Asian cuisine fans, the YouTube channel Chinese Cooking Demystified can provide authentic recipe and ingredient advice. (*)
According to them, the traditional way to thicken sauces include potato or tapioca starch, or arrowroot powder. At the same time, corn starch is primarily used for its low cost rather than its quality.
Overall, the sauces and spices are the soul of Asian cuisine. Be generous with them. Also, keep a few key ingredients on hand for your next late-night snack.