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Last updated on April 17th, 2024 at 06:20 am

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Easy Szechuan Sauce Recipe [video]

Szechuan sauce is a Chinese sweet and savory sauce with a spicy kick to it. You can make it in just 15 minutes, and it is a great dipping sauce for all kinds of foods as well as a sauce for rice, noodles, and stir-fries. You only need about 15 minutes and very few basic ingredients to make it.

I love bold and spicy sauces and always have a few on hand in the fridge, this is my secret to delicious and effortless cooking. Having a good sauce on hand can take a meal from tasteless and bland to wow. This Sichuan sauce is by far one of my favorite ones. It is perfect to use in this authentic Szechuan Chicken recipe.

Authentic Szechuan Sauce Recipe

My recipe for Szechuan sauce is so easy to make and tastes way better than the store-bought version. With soy sauce, red chiles, vinegar, sugar, chili sauce, and some spices, this simple dressing or dipping sauce is so delicious on many dishes.

Traditionally, the sauce is made with Sichuan peppers, they can be hard to find so you can use red pepper flakes instead. Named after its place of origin, this spicy sauce was first made in Sichuan, China. I tasted it first at a family-owned Chinese restaurant in NYC when I got the Szechuan chicken and was blown away by how good it was.

With a perfect blend of bold and complex flavors, you can use this thick and rich sauce to make authentic Asian dishes or just dip some veggies or eggrolls in it. With this sauce, you can make all sorts of traditional Oriental meals for your family. It has a light tanginess to it and it makes the perfect stir-fry sauce for chicken, beef, pork, seafood, and veggies

Szechuan sauce was first introduced to the United States in 1998 when the Disney movie, Mulan, was first shown. McDonald’s started serving it with their chicken nuggets. You cannot get it at McDonald’s anymore, but with my recipe, you can make it yourself, at home anytime you want.

This homemade Szechuan Sauce recipe has always been my secret to a great and delicious meal. It has such a rich flavor, with a spicy and sweet note to it, that is perfect on pretty much any dish. I always have a jar of it ready in the fridge, and use it as needed.

This is probably one of the easiest recipes you can make. It requires a few simple ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen pantry. Also, making it at home is quite cheap, and you can mix and match the ingredients to your liking.

What you need to make easy szechuan sauce

The liquids

  • Soy sauce – I always use low-sodium soy sauce because the regular is too salty.
  • Chicken broth – Using organic, low-sodium broth adds flavor.
  • Red wine vinegar – For a sweet and tangy taste without the bitterness of regular vinegar.
  • Rice vinegar – Another sweet vinegar is made from rice that is fermented twice for extra tanginess.
  • Chili garlic sauce – Made with garlic, chili peppers, vinegar, and salt for a spicy and tangy taste.
  • Brown sugar – Adds a rich sweetness to your sauce.
  • Cornstarch – Needed to make the sauce thick so it clings to whatever you put it on.

Herbs and Spices:

  • Fresh minced ginger – Using fresh minced ginger instead of powder gives your sauce a peppery sweet flavor with an earthy warm lemony tang.
  • Minced garlic – Fresh garlic adds a fresher and bolder taste without the bitterness you get from garlic powder.
  • Red pepper flakes – Ground red pepper flakes are perfect for replacing the Sichuan peppers.

How to make Szechuan sauce?

Once you have all the ingredients measured and ready, then you are pretty much done and you can make the stir-fry sauce in just a few minutes!

  1. Make a slurry: First, you have to make a slurry by mixing the cornstarch with the broth.
  2. Add to saucepan: Next, simply add all the ingredients, except the slurry, to a saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Whisk and simmer: After that, whisk and simmer until well combined.
  4. Add the slurry: After cooking the stir-fry sauce for a few minutes, whisk the slurry into the mixture. Also, make sure to stir slowly and constantly, until it thickens. This will take 3-4 minutes.
  5. Serve: Once done, remove from heat and let it cool to serve as a dipping sauce or use it as a stir-fried sauce immediately.

Expert tip

Sichuan peppers are a type of peppercorn from Sichuan in China. They are well-known for their numbing effect. The spice has hydroxy-alpha sanshool in it, which makes your mouth tingle and become numb, unlike any other peppercorns.

The authentic Szechuan sauce is made with Sichuan peppers but since they are not easy to find in the United States, I use ground red pepper flakes in this recipe. It gives you a similar feeling, but it is hotter and has a kick.

If you can find Sichuan peppers where you are, go ahead and use them. Let me know in the comments how your sauce turned out with these instead of the red pepper flakes.

Recipe variations:

  • Gluten-free: This easy recipe can be made gluten-free by using tamari or amino acids instead of soy sauce.
  • Hoisin sauce: For some extra flavor, you can add a tablespoon of hoisin sauce to it.
  • Low-carb: In addition, make it low-carb by using a low-carb sweetener, like monk fruit sugar or Splenda.
  • Smoky flavor: Want to add a smoky flavor to it? Stir in 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke and use it instead of BBQ sauce on some ribs! You will love it!
  • Sweeter sauce: Those who like a sweeter sauce can add a bit of honey or maple syrup.
  • Vegan sauce: Use vegetable broth instead of chicken for a vegan Szechuan sauce.

How to serve:

  • The Szechuan sauce recipe is great to use in a stir fry. Try it in this Chicken and Broccoli recipe.
  • It is also great on noodles, use it for pad Thai, or these soba noodles.
  • Also, it pairs well with poultry, beef, pork, and even seafood.
  • In addition, you can use it with this crispy baked tofu or a veggie stir fry.
  • Alternatively, use it as a dipping sauce for chicken nuggets, fish sticks, spring rolls, or egg rolls.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Szechuan sauce?

Szechuan Sauce is a hot and spicy sauce that originated in Sichuan province in southwest China. It has a complex and bold combination of flavors, with a nice balance of spiciness and savory flavor to it.

It was first introduced in the United States briefly in 1998, to promote the Disney animated movie Mulan.

This sauce became hugely popular in the USA after it was introduced by McDonald’s. McDonald’s Szechuan sauce is usually served with chicken nuggets.

What are Sichuan peppercorns?

The Szechuan peppercorns are a type of peppercorn from the Sichuan Province. They are famous for their mouth-numbing effect.

This is a spice commonly used in Sichuan cuisine and it contains hydroxy-alpha sanshool so when consumed it produces a tingling, numbing effect that is not similar to the other peppercorns’ “hot” effect.

What does Szechuan sauce taste like?

The unique sweet and spicy flavor is blended with the tanginess of the two different types of vinegar. The red pepper flakes give it a healthy kick of spiciness and the soy sauce adds in some saltiness. Also, it is very deep and rich, with a thick texture, thanks to the cornstarch. The texture is thickened by the cornstarch slurry, so it sticks to whatever you put it on or dip in it.

Where can you find Szechuan sauce?

We prefer to make Szechuan sauce at home, since we can play with the ingredients and adjust the taste to our liking. We love our incredibly versatile recipe, the unique flavor of Szechuan peppercorns, and their numbing sensations.

However, if you are short on time, and do not have the necessary ingredients on hand, you could buy it online or at local Asian stores. 

How is this sauce different than McDonald’s Szechuan sauce?

The copycat version of McDonald’s Szechuan sauce calls for ginger paste instead of fresh ginger, rice vinegar instead of rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar, and ground Szechuan pepper instead of red pepper flakes.

The McDonald’s version also adds sesame oil, salt, coriander, black pepper, and lime juice. But it does not have chili garlic sauce or chicken broth.

To make the famous McDonald’s Szechuan sauce copycat version of it, you will need the following:

  • 1 cup plus (1/2 cup water for cornstarch mixture)
  • 1/2 cup regular soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/3 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/7 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Szechuan pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  1. In a pan, over medium heat, combine all the ingredients except cornstarch, vinegar, and lime juice.
  2. Heat the mixture for about 4-5 minutes and mix constantly. Next, when the Szechuan sauce begins to bubble, reduce the heat, and simmer for an additional 3 minutes, while constantly stirring. 
  3. After that, mix the cornstarch with the remaining 1/2 cup of water until dissolved. Pour the mixture into the pan, over low heat, while continuously mixing.
  4. Mix for about 2 more minutes and remove the pan from the heat. The mixture should become thicker by now. 
  5. Lastly, add the vinegar and lime juice over it, and properly mix to combine. 

How to store leftovers:

  • Store: Before storing the sauce, ensure that it has completely cooled. Then, transfer it to a lid-jar, and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Use whenever needed, and then refrigerate. 
  • Freeze: In addition, the Szechuan sauce is a great candidate for freezing. Simply add it to a freezer-safe Ziploc bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Thaw: Finally, when ready to thaw, place the bag under warm running water or leave it in the fridge overnight to thaw.
  • Reheat: Just add the mixture to a pan over medium heat and simmer it for a few minutes.

More Chinese sauce recipes:

Cooking tips:

  • If you are not a cornstarch fan, you can skip it. However, keep in mind, that it will have a thinner texture. Also, you will have to increase the sweetener amount and simmer the sauce longer.
  • While this dish calls for Sichuan peppercorns to mimic the original version, sometimes it is hard to get them. Therefore, use red pepper flakes instead. 
  • To double the portion, simply double the ingredients and whisk until well combined.
  • Please note, that this sauce is meant to be spicy. Therefore, if you want to make it less spicy, use less heat in the recipe. Adjust based on your tolerance level. Go with a small amount of crushed red pepper flakes, chili sauce, or Tabasco/Sriracha, and adjust accordingly.
  • Do not put your leftover sauce in the freezer until it is completely cool if it is in a glass jar. Otherwise, it may break.
  • Similarly, never heat a frozen jar of sauce in the microwave because it could burst. Let it thaw overnight first.

Szechuan Sauce

Szechuan Sauce is full of spicy, sweet, and savory flavors and is super easy to make at home in just 15 minutes. It is a great dipping sauce that can be also used on noodles or in stir-fry recipe.

Szechuan Sauce
  • Prep Time5 MIN
  • Cook Time10 MIN
  • Servings 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Asian chili garlic sauce or chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth veggie broth for vegetarian
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Instructions

  • Combine broth and cornstarch in a small bowl; stir until dissolved
    cornstarch and water in a bowl
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, add all ingredients except broth and cornstarch mix and bring to a light boil.
    szechuan sauce ingredients in a saucepan
  • Stir the cornstarch mixture until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool.

Nutrition Facts

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Comments

(21)
Machey

Machey

I made chicken genral tso`s from your recipe and it taste delicious the next one will szeczuan. Could you tell if the red wine vinegar can be skipped or substituted?


Catalina Castravet

Catalina Castravet

so happy that you liked the recipe! than you for the feedback!

Barbara H

Barbara H

Love this spicy sauce, thank you. It does get quite thick and then as mentioned, it gets even thicker once refrigerated, making it a bit difficult to “spread”. I’ll cut back on cornstarch by half as I’d prefer to drizzle it on…. Definitely a “must have” kitchen staple. All in all, delicious!

Sarah D

Sarah D

My family has struggled to find a good recipe for a potsticker dipping sauce. This was our favorite and even used it on top of our lettuce wraps. Yum, thanks for sharing!!

Carmen Sinclair

Carmen Sinclair

Oh my! This sauce is amazing (although I left out the sesame oil) My new favorite sauce


Catalina Castravet

Catalina Castravet

I am so happy you loved it!

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