Is Sweet and Sour Sauce Vegan? (Here’s Everything You Need To Know)

If you’re into Chinese cuisine, likely, you’re also into a sweet and sour sauce as it’s a staple ingredient, so you’ll find it being served in every Chinese restaurant. 

Is Sweet and Sour sauce vegan? Sweet and Sour sauce is suitable for vegans as no animal ingredients are used to make it. This goes for both the commercial and homemade recipes. 

In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about sweet and sour sauce. 

How is Sweet & Sour Sauce Made?

While the sweet and sour sauce takes up many forms in Chinese cuisine, in the United States it’s a simple mixture of sugar, vinegar, spices, fruit juice (typically pineapple juice), and ketchup, which is what gives the sauce its red hue and Western flavor. 

In China or other places in Asia, the sweet and sour sauce can take up many forms, but the traditional sweet and sour sauce was made by simply mixing honey or sugar with a sour liquid such as rice vinegar, soy sauce, and spices such as ginger and cloves.

Today the recipes are not much different than the traditional, and the sauce is used in so many ways, including as a base for a glaze, as an addition to a stir fry, or as a dipping sauce. 

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Is Sweet & Sour Sauce Vegan?

Fortunately, sweet & sour sauce is typically vegan, as it’s a mixture of sugar, vinegar, and spices, and there are usually no animal ingredients involved in its production.

However, some vegans will avoid consuming sweet & sour sauce because it contains sugar, which may or not be vegan depending on how it is processed. 

In North America, it’s common for sugar refineries to use bone char to process sugar, which is basically a black powder derived from carbonized cattle bones. The reason I say North America is because using bone char is prohibited in most European countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Therefore, if you’re purchasing sweet & sour sauce from a North American manufacturer, the sugar in the sauce may have been processed with bone char, thus making the sauce not vegan. 

That, however, is not always the case, and I believe it won’t be the case in the future, as alternatives like activated charcoal or ion-exchange resins are used to replace bone char. 

In the end, it will depend on the brand that you purchase, so if you have any concerns, you should definitely try to contact them to confirm whether their product is indeed vegan.

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Vegan Sweet & Sour Brands

For instance, Kikkoman, a brand that also makes sweet & sour sauce, uses sugar in their product, so there’s a chance their product might not be vegan because of bone char. 

However, you can easily find alternatives that don’t rely on sugar but instead contain high-fructose corn syrup, which is not processed with bone char.

Here are some of the brands we’ve found:

Kraft Sweet & Sour Sauce

kraft sweet and sour sauce

Kraft is not a brand that I would consider ethical and animal-friendly, but its sweet & sour sauce is 100% vegan, and it doesn’t contain cane sugar, which is often a controversial ingredient in the vegan community.

Here are the ingredients:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Pineapple Juice Concentrate
  • Modified Cornstarch
  • Salt
  • Soybean Oil
  • Dried Green Bell Peppers
  • Dried Red Bell Peppers
  • Spice
  • Oleoresin Paprika.

Plus, it’s not as heavy in additives as other sweet & sour sauces on the market, which is a plus. 

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Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet & Sour Sauce

sweet baby ray's sweet and sour sauce

It’s possible to find Sweet Baby Ray’s sweet & sour sauce in many grocery chains, or even big retailers like Walmart or Amazon, which is good news considering their sauce is vegan-friendly.

Here are the ingredients:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Distilled Vinegar
  • Apple Sauce (Apples, Water, Ascorbic Acid)
  • Modified Food Starch
  • Water, Salt
  • Pineapple Juice Concentrate
  • Lemon Juice Concentrate
  • Garlic*
  • Natural Flavor
  • Potassium Sorbate
  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Calcium Disodium EDTA
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Vegetable Oil (Soybean and/or Canola)
  • Spice
  • Paprika.

Unlike the previous sauce, this one seems to contain more additives, particularly preservatives that increase the product’s shelf life, which isn’t particularly healthy.

Then again, the sauce itself is not that healthy since sugar is the main ingredient in the product. 

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Making Sweet & Sour Sauce At Home

If you’re unable to find sweet & sour sauce or you want to make one that is healthier and maybe even more delicious, then making your very own at home is certainly an idea that will delight many people. 

sweet and sour vegan recipe
Image belongs to Simple Vegan Blog

For example, this homemade recipe by the Simple Vegan Blog is quite easy to make and it will only take you 10 minutes to conclude. It’s delicious, and it’s certainly healthier than store-bought alternatives.

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Yes, the sweet & sour sauce is typically vegan, as it’s made with plant-based ingredients, namely sugar, vinegar, spices, fruit juice (typically pineapple juice), and oftentimes ketchup.

However, some vegans will not consume it because the sugar in it might be processed with bone char, which is a property taken from cattle bones. This will depend on the brand, and the particular sugar refinery the brand sourced its sugar from. 

If you wish to avoid this, you can always opt for brands that use high fructose corn syrup and not cane sugar, which is usually the one that is processed with bone char. 

Alternatively, you can also choose to do your own sweet & sour sauce at home, which you can certainly make very delicious and healthy!

Sweet and Sour Sauce FAQs

Is Sweet and Sour Sauce Gluten-Free?

If you look carefully at the ingredients, sweet & sour sauce typically contains cornstarch, which is used to thicken the sauce. Even though corn is not a gluten-containing ingredient, most of the corn starch supply in the United States is contaminated with wheat flour, which means most brands of sweet and sour sauce are not gluten-free.

Also, some sweet and sour sauces contain soy sauce, which is not gluten-free, as the primary ingredient is wheat.

Does The Sweet and Sour Sauce Need To Be Refrigerated?

While it’s not necessary to refrigerate sweet & sour sauce, if you wish to extend its shelf life, then you might want to refrigerate it and keep it tightly covered at all times. A sweet & sour sauce that is refrigerated can last you up to one year, so it will last you longer than non-refrigerated sweet & sour sauce. 

Is Sweet and Sour Sauce Acidic? 

The sweet and sour sauce is often made with vinegar, which is an acidic ingredient, however, the sauce itself often has more of a sweet flavor, as the primary (or most used) ingredient is sugar. 

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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