This flavorful, lightly spicy plum sauce recipe makes Chinese dishes like moo shu pancakes and stir fries sing and works wonderful as a condiment on meats, too. It's super easy to make, tastes amazing, and makes great gifts when canned.
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In addition to Addictive Tomato Chutney, this canned plum sauce is one of the must-have condiments to have on hand throughout the year. It adds a wonderful flavor to vegetable stir fries and baked or grilled chicken and pork.
One of my favorite ways to use it is with an easy type of moo shu chicken or pork, that uses flour tortillas for the Chinese pancakes.
Easy Moo Shu Chicken (or Pork) Dinner Idea with Plum Sauce
Simply stir-fry cabbage, broccoli, and carrots with some thinly sliced chicken or pork, and add a sauce made of soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic and ginger at the end of stir-frying.
Serve the stir fry with the warmed tortillas and this plum sauce. Layer the stir fry on a tortilla, drizzle with the plum sauce and roll up. Dinner done!
The flavor of this is SO good - I think its way better than the store bought stuff.
And it's really easy to make - it's a good beginner canning recipe because you simply cook all the ingredients together, blend to smooth and then add to jars to can.
It's also a lot cheaper than the small little bottles in stores, especially if you grow plums or can find them for free.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Here's what you'll need to make this recipe:
- Plums - any kind though Italian is preferred (see note).
- Onion - any kind will work, regular, sweet, or red onions.
- Brown sugar - adds a depth of flavor from the molasses, though you can use all cane sugar.
- Cane sugar - brings the sweet and helps to thicken the sauce.
- Dry mustard - helps bring that Chinese mustard flavor to the sauce.
- Ground ginger - essential for this Asian condiment.
- Salt - use a canning salt or a pure, no additive fine sea salt.
- Garlic cloves - fresh is best here, but like with all canning recipes, do no increase the amount of fresh garlic (if you'd like more garlic flavor, add a bit of garlic powder).
- Red pepper flakes - this gives the sauce it's spice and you can adjust up or down (or omit completely if you need).
- Ground cinnamon - a touch of cinnamon balances the flavor of the fruit and spices here though you can reduce it if you'd like.
- Apple cider vinegar - used for it's milder flavor, rice vinegar would be a nice substitute and you can use white vinegar if needed.
Plum Note: I like to use Italian plums for 2 reasons:
- They are drier so take less time to thicken.
- They grow in abundance around here, so I can usually find them for free (and if you have access to Italian plums, they make the BEST dried plums ever!)
But I have made this with regular plums and other than being a lighter color and taking a bit longer to cook, it was just as good. Your sauce will be the color of whatever type plum you use - Italian are dark, so this sauce is, too.
How to Make Spicy Plum Sauce
Detailed quantities and instructions are included in the full recipe box below, but here are a few extra tips to help with each step:
Step 1: Chop the Plums. You can hand chop the plums like shown above, but after discovering how easy the food processor made canning tomato chutney and my favorite salsa, I now use the processor for this recipe, too. To Process: Simply cut the plums in half, remove the pit, and throw them in the food processor to chop.
Step 2: Cook. Finely chop the onions (or use the processor) and add them to a large heavy-bottomed pot along with all the other ingredients, including the chopped plums. Cook for about an hour on low, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick to the bottom. This plum sauce literally takes minutes to prepare - the rest is just stirring and canning.
Tip: after many years using a couple of cheap, not great food processors, this is the best price-best quality food processor I use and recommend now.
Step 3: Blend. After the hour of cooking, use an immersion/hand-held blender to make a smooth sauce, incorporating the skins and onions. Just process for a minute until desired consistency.
Step 4: Thicken. Let the plum sauce cook, uncovered, until it's thick and syrupy - usually about another 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the type of plum you used and how juicy they were.
Pro Tip: The sauce really wants to stick to the bottom as it thickens, so plan on hanging around the kitchen so you're available to stir every now and then.
Step 5: Prepare lids, jars, and canner while sauce cooks (here is a list of the essential canning tools I use and love).
Read my easy step-by-step canning tutorial here or check out this video tutorial if you're new to canning (both updated with current safety information):
Step 6: Fill half-pint jars. Transfer plum sauce to a clean, warm, half-pint canning jar, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rim, attach lids and transfer to rack in canner. Fill remaining jars one at a time.
Step 7: Process jars. Lower rack of jars and bring canner water to a boil and process for 20. Turn off heat, uncover, and let sit for 5 minutes before transferring jars to a towel lined surface. Cool, label and store for 18 months.
- I recommend only stainless steel utensils and canning funnel when dealing with boiling hot food items - this list contains all the canning supplies I use.
- I now use a stainless steel canner with a glass lid and smooth bottom that I recommend to everyone! It can be used on smooth-top ranges and monitoring the boil through the glass is easier and safer, plus you can fit more jars into each batch.
How to Use Plum Sauce
Here are a few ideas to use your homemade plum sauce:
- The moo shu pancake dinner idea from above.
- Drizzle on stir fry with noodles or on grilled vegetables.
- Use as a condiment for baked or grilled chicken or pork.
- Add to slow cooker with boneless chicken or pork shoulder for an Asian flavored pulled chicken or pork meal.
- Top a cracker with cream cheese and a dollop of plum sauce for a yummy appetizer.
Yes, this sauce can be frozen in any size freezer-safe container you have. Be sure to leave at least an inch of headspace, though, to allow for expansion.
Process the smaller jars the same amount as the half-pint jars.
You can reduce sugar safely in canned items, it's the vinegar in this that you don't want to mess with. The sugar does help with the color and texture, so be aware of that and start by reducing just a bit to see at first.
More Easy Condiments
- Easy Addictive Tomato Chutney Recipe (Regular & Lower Sugar Options)
- Home Canned Pizza Sauce from frozen or fresh tomatoes
- Spicy Rhubarb Chutney to Can or Freeze
Spicy Plum Sauce Recipe for Canning
- 4 pounds plums washed, cut in half and pitted (or amount needed to equal 8 cups of food-processed chopped plums)
- 3/4 cup chopped onion about 1 medium
- 1½ cups brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 1 tablespoons dry ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 cloves garlic minced, about 2 teaspoons
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes or to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- Chop plums in a food processor and transfer to a large heavy-bottomed pot (it should equal 8 cups chopped plums). Chop onions in processor and add them to the plums.
- Combine the remaining ingredients with plums and onions, bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Cook until thickened, about an hour.
- For a smooth sauce, puree with an immersion blender right in the pot (optional if you'd like a chunkier sauce, though it helps speed the cooking time) and continue cooking for another hour, or until the sauce reaches the desired thickness.
- Ladle sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Attach lids and rings. Process 20 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Turn off heat, remove lid and let jars sit in canner to cool for 5 minutes. Remove to a cloth to cool completely.
- Test lids, label jars, store and use within a year to 18 months.
This recipe was originally published in 2011 and has been updated in 2017 and 2023.
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