Sweet and Sour Applesauce

I like making my own sauces and preserves. Flavours can be personalized, it keeps me connected to my past, and I have access to the resources as well as storage space so that I don’t need to make the same kind of preserve every season.

picture of home made preserves

A few of my home made preserves

In my files, there’s an old hand-copied recipe for sweet and sour sauce that my mom got from somewhere. Like many foods that I prepare a lot, I routinely modify it to suit my mood, sometimes so much that it’s unrecognizable as the same thing. In the past, I have used it as a guide for large batches of plum sauce which I then canned for gifts. Most recently, I wanted a sweet and sour sauce to go with a Chinese style pork dish I was making. I happened to have a half-used jar of applesauce in the fridge that I was worried was going to go mouldy, as well as a number of other bottles and jars of things that wanted using. So I selected a few and put this together. The guiding principle is to have one central flavour, complemented with something sweet, something acidic, something salty and if possible a warm spice. The particular combination below produces a medium dark brown sauce, and not too thick, so don’t expect a neon red gloppy sauce such as you might see in some restaurants.

Makes about one cup.


1/2 cup Applesauce (mine was an unsweetened home-made ginger applesauce)
2 tablespoons Elderflower cordial (frozen last summer)
1 tablespoon Redcurrent jelly (scraping the bottom of the jar)
1 teaspoon Dark orange marmalade
1/2 cup Boiling water
up to 1 tablespoon Dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons Cornstarch/arrowroot starch
1/2 Star anise (not crushed) (You could try using an inch of cinnamon stick, or a whole clove or two if you don’t have any star anise. This is your ‘warm’ spice.)


  1. Put applesauce, cordial, jelly and marmalade in small saucepan.
  2. Use boiling water to get last bits of flavour out of various empty jars and add to saucepan.
  3. Moisten cornstarch with soy sauce and add to saucepan.
  4. Stir to blend; add star anise (or other whole spice)–you may wish to use a tea ball to make retrieval easier, but some sauce will get stuck in the tea ball. (I don’t bother.)
  5. Heat on medium-high, whisking frequently.
  6. When boiling, whisk continuously until thickened.
  7. Remove from heat to cool for later use, or put aside on very low heat to keep warm until needed.The whole spice may be removed at this point, or allowed to continue adding its flavour to the sauce until serving.

Sauce may be stirred through stir-fried vegetables before serving, or placed in a small dish for self-service on the table.

If you feel like making a big batch, you can always pot it up into smaller jars in much the same way as other preserves.

I'm an American living in the UK, combining rural Mid-west ideas about food with a suburban coastal British reality. It's fun!

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Posted in Kitchen Economy, Leftovers, Recipes, Sauces
7 comments on “Sweet and Sour Applesauce
  1. […] thin sliced leftover belly pork reheated in the (very hot, dry) wok, steamed mixed rice, home-made sweet and sour applesauce. (The crackling is lovely and crisp in this […]


  2. Mom says:

    Original recipe was in a small Chinese recipe book (souvenir of our first trip to San Francisco), it is still my favorite!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Mom says:

    Our trip was in 1972!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. trkingmomoe says:

    What can I use for a substitute for Elderflower cordial? I am clueless. I like the idea of sweet and sour applesauce because I have lots of applesauce on hand and whole ginger.
    Thanks for the recipe. I am in Florida.


    • I was aiming for something fruity and sweet which would also add to the total volume, so you could use any fruit ‘syrup’ that would normally be mixed with water, club soda or some other clear fizzy drink. But you could use anything that’s very sweet and liquid (not too thick), such as imitation maple syrup, but reduce the amount by half. Maybe because you’re in Florida, you’d like to try some orange blossom honey for the sweet element. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!


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Sharing a lifetime of experience of kitchen challenges. Respecting food and making the most of what's available. Read more on my About page.
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March 2015
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