Good Cooks Learn Cooking Basics – Great Cooks Then Master Sauces 

Make these basic sauces from your own pantry. Most of them have only 3 or 4 common Asian ingredients. You need only stock a few inexpensive components to inspire great stir fries

This is the second in a two-part series on home stir frying. Refer to Brave New Stir Fry for prepping and cooking instructions.

It’s the sauce that illuminates stir fry dishes. Change out a sauce and create a different dish. One night creamy peanut sauce…another night sweet-sour. Or cook the protein portion with teriyaki sauce and the vegetables with plum sauce and then combine into one main course dish.

After watching at least fifty stir fry cooking shows on TV in the early 80’s [Wok with Yan] I began to see the common structure within stir frying. The veggies are cooked and removed, then the protein is cooked and the veggies are added back into the pan and the sauce is added, and then the thickener. In a thirty minute show the chef made three dishes, day-in and day-out. After about 80 shows it dawned on me that I can do this! Hopefully you will be inspired sooner…

Here are the sauce recipes to inspire you to a fast and easy stir fry dish or meal.

These recipes are adaptations made fresh with good ingredients. Shop for quality pantry items and watch how much you can save over the bottled varieties found in supermarkets.

From the pantry below you can make most of these sauces!

Sauce Index

  • Everyday Sauce
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • White Sauce (Moo Goo Gai Pan)
  • Plum Sauce
  • Roseate Sauce
  • Jade Sauce
  • Sweet-Sour Sauce
  • Peanut Sauce
  • Eurasian Sauce
  • Ponzu – Olive Oil Sauce
  • Remoulade
  • Dipping Sauce [For Breads]

Pantry stock

  • soy sauce or tamari sauce (gluten free)
  • rice vinegar
  • ume plum vinegar
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sake wine or dry sherry or dry vermouth
  • mirin wine (find in Asian markets)
  • arrowroot powder, or corn starch, tapioca powder, potato starch
  • plum jam or other tart jams
  • ginger root
  • garlic
  • hoisin sauce
  • peanut butter
  • white miso (or yellow “sweet” miso)
  • hot sauce or chili flakes
  • ponzu sauce [Japanese Soy Sauce & Citrus]


I separate the sauce from the thickener to make this a two-step finalé. This is so the sauce can easily penetrate the ingredients BEFORE the thickener sets. You can skip this and add both at the same time if desired.

EVERYDAY SAUCE   This is a standard stir fry sauce, dependable and balanced. Make a large batch. This can be stored in your pantry.

  • soy sauce, 2 TBS
  • dry sherry, 2 TBS or sake, or dry vermouth
  • water, 4 TBS

THICKENER:   arrowroot powder, 1 tsp, dissolved in 4 TBS water

TERIYAKI SAUCE  “Teri” means shiny, and “yaki” means boiled or broiled in this famous mahogany colored sauce. If you want to make an authentic sauce you will need to shop for these ingredients.  

Tofu Teriyaki
Tofu Teriyaki
  • sake, 2 TBS, or dry sherry or dry vermouth
  • mirin,* 2 TBS
  • soy sauce, 2 TBS
  • sugar, 1 tsp [optional]
  • arrowroot powder, 1 tsp

*mirin is a sweet wine found in Asian markets. To approximate without mirin double the sake and add 1 extra tsp. of sugar.

TOFU TERIYAKI – This sauce is used to glaze protein after it has been slightly undercooked and then finished in the sauce as it simmers away reducing to a thickened glaze.

  1. One package firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch thick slabs and pressed lightly in toweling.
  2. In a non-stick or seasoned skillet, add neutral oil (peanut) and sauté tofu in single layer; leave in place for 2-3 minutes to develop a light golden texture. Then flip and repeat.
  3. Add in the teriyaki sauce and continually turn the tofu as the sauce thickens until thickened into a glaze (see photo above).
  4. Serve topped with sliced scallions, and/or toasted sesame seeds
  5. Optionally, cut tofu into 1/2 inch cubes and repeat above. Then use in a stir fry of vegetables.

Repeat this teriyaki sauce for any protein—chicken, pork, fish, mushrooms— that has been cooked until almost done. Add the teriyaki sauce to the skillet and toss the protein until sauce is thickened.

Moo Goo Gai Pan

WHITE SAUCE (MOO GOO GAI PAN) This is the basic sauce found in Moo Goo Gai Pan, and other dishes that call for a clear, light sauce. But we do not produce a white colored sauce, because we use a good quality dark soy sauce, instead of the mass market light soy sauce. It’s great on shrimp, scallops, or soyfoods dishes. The sauce loves the company of several vegetables, several colors, and several textures.

  • light miso, 1 TBS (or yellow or sweet)
  • water, 4 TBS
  • soy sauce, 2 TBS
  • sake, 2 TBS or dry sherry or dry vermouth
  • maple syrup, 1 TBS

THICKENER: arrowroot powder, 1 tsp dissolved in 4 TBS water

PLUM SAUCE  or JAM SAUCE  This is a classic sauce with a mild balance of sweet and sour, not as sharp as a honey and cider vinegar base. Exchange jams as you please 

Plum Sauce

  • plum jam, 3 TBS
  • rice vinegar, 3 TBS
  • soy sauce, 3 TBS

THICKENER: arrowroot powder, 1 tsp, dissolved in 4 TBS water

ROSEATE SAUCE My own version of an umami bomb; this raw sauce is good for seasoning cooked beans, or as a sauce for steamed veggies

Roseate Sauce Infuses Black Beans Farrago

Blenderize and refrigerate

  • ume plum vinegar – 2 TBS
  • sweet onion – 3 TBS, Vidalia or leeks, chopped
  • pepper – 1/8 tsp
  • neutral oil – 1/4 cup
  • tomato paste – 2 tsp
  • Worcestershire – 1 tsp
  • liquid smoke – 1/2 tsp [mesquite]
Steamed Broccoli with Jade Sauce

JADE SAUCE: This is a sister sauce to roseate and yields an exotic green “jade” sauce

  • ume ume plum vinegar – 1/4 cup
  • vegetable oil – 1/4 cup, (bland), not olive
  • scallions – 2 cups, (1 bunch), chopped

SWEET & SOUR SAUCE  This is classic made with healthier based ingredients

  • apple juice, 1/4 cup
  • honey, 2 TBS or sugar
  • apple cider vinegar, 2 TBS
  • sea salt, 1 tsp

THICKENER: arrowroot powder, 1 tsp, dissolved in 4 TBS water

PEANUT SAUCE  Hoisin is China’s “catsup” that quickly melds with peanut butter to make this near-instant creamy sauce.

  • hoisin sauce, 1/4 cup
  • peanut butter, 1/4 cup
  • water, 1/4 cup

Bring hot sauce and wedges of lime to the table

This is a naturally thickened sauce. Top the stir fry with chopped scallion tops, and chopped peanuts.

EURASIAN SAUCE   I created this sauce that is part European, Middle Eastern, and Asian—a union of spice, sweet, sour, and salt rolling around your palate.

  • soy sauce, 4 TBS
  • balsamic vinegar, 4 TBS
  • cumin powder, 1 tsp
  • gingerroot, 2 tsp
  • garlic, 1 tsp, minced

THICKENER: arrowroot powder, 1 tsp, dissolved in 4 TBS water

PONZU-OLIVE OIL SAUCE  This is not an ordinary stir fry sauce, but if you love perfection, finish any simple stir fry with this deep, mysterious 3-ingredient sauce

  • ponzu – 2 TBS
  • olive oil – 2 TBS
  • mayonnaise – 1/2 tsp

Pour into a small jar and seal, then shake vigorously to make into a smooth sauce

Spoon onto cooked fish, avocado slices, gosh! just about anything

It doesn’t hurt to top with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds to gild the lily!

REMOULADE SAUCE: This is similar to a tartar sauce, creamy, spicy and served with crab cakes, French fries; it’s addictive

With Old Bay seasoning and Air Fried, Butterflied Chicken Drumsticks
  • mayonnaise – 1 1/4 cups
  • mustard – 1/4 cup
  • sweet paprika – 1 TBS
  • Cajun seasoning – 1 tsp, or to taste [or Old Bay, chili blend, etc.]
  • horseradish – 2 tsp
  • pickle juice – 1 tsp
  • hot sauce – 1 tsp
  • garlic – 1 large, minced and smashed

QUICKY REMOULADE: mayo, mustard, chili spice blend, garlic powder, apple cider vinegar

Chorizo Sausage and Red Beans with Kale and Toast Spears Buttered with Remoulade

DIPPING SAUCE FOR CRUSTY BREAD Got raves for this quick fix:

Serve in shallow bowls with slices of crusty bread

  • olive oil – 4 TBS
  • zatar spice blend [za’atar] – 2 tsp
  • ponzu sauce – 1 TBS

2 thoughts on “Sauces

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