The best sweet and sour sauce is not thickened with starch

Have you ever wondered why, when you take leftover sweet and sour pork from the fridge, the sauce is all lumpy and has the appearance of too-soft gelatin? It’s because of the starch added to the sweet and sour sauce. Good quality sweet and sour sauce should stay syrupy even after refrigeration albeit thicker than when hot or at room temperature. And it should be clear — never cloudy.

The truth is, I used to think that adding starch to sweet and sour sauce was the proper way to thicken it. But it really isn’t.

Recipe: Basic sweet and sour sauce


  • 1 c. of vinegar plus water (I use equal amounts; adjust the ratio according to your taste)
  • 1 to 1 and 1/2 c. of white sugar (again, use the amount that suits your preference)
  • 1 tsp. of minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. of grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. of paprika or 1 tbsp. of tomato paste
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste


  1. Dump the sugar into a thick-bottomed pan.
  2. Pour in the liquid.
  3. Boil over high heat, uncovered, until the sugar dissolves.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Lower the heat to medium and continue boiling, uncovered and without stirring (stirring causes crystallization, for some reason), until the mixture is almost syrupy. Ten to twelve minutes. DO NOT wait for it to turn too thick as the sauce will thicken some more as it cools.
  6. Cool the sweet and sour sauce. Transfer to a jar or a bottle and keep in the fridge. It’ll stay good for weeks.
  7. sweet-sour-sauce3
  8. Or pour directly over your stir-fried pork (or chicken or fish) and vegetables.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 1

You might also want to check out my sweet chili sauce.

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