Sweet and Sour Shrimp

This easy Sweet and Sour Shrimp recipe is a restaurant-quality, gluten-free Chinese dish that’s ready in 20-minutes, “better-than-takeout” and no wok required!

All-natural ingredients, it doesn’t include preservatives, has no MSG and requires no flour or breading on the shrimp or in the sauce.

A quick shrimp stir-fry with vegetables and rice is perfect for a quick and filling weeknight dinner.

Ordering Chinese Sweet and Sour Shrimp take-out is an easy, but often costly option. This homemade version is cost-efficient and more flavorful than your favorite Chinese restaurant.

There’s no need to wait for the Chinese New Year to make this delicious shrimp dish! It’s ideal for busy weeknights! A “one-dish-dinner” that is preservative-free and delicious! Serve this with a side of Wonton soup and call it dinner!

Why you’ll love this recipe

This easy Chinese Sweet and Sour Shrimp recipe is a go-to quick dinner at our house! I love it because you can switch out the shrimp for chicken if you don’t like seafood!

To make things go even quicker, use a microwavable basmati rice and you’ll have dinner on the table in less than 15-minutes!

  • Affordable: A restaurant order for two could easily cost $25 or more, but this homemade restaurant-quality version feeds 4 people for much less!
  • Quick & easy: ready in 20 minutes total time- Tasty shrimp, stir-fried with bell peppers and water chestnuts, then tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce, served over a fluffy bed of rice.
  • Gluten-free – no flour or breading on the shrimp! 
  • When you’re craving an Asian-inspired dish, this is definitely a “go-to” meal! I usually add a little soy sauce or have some Hoisin sauce on the side to ramp up that umami flavor you get in a Chinese restaurant!

Shrimp doesn’t take long to cook-maybe 5-8 minutes and the onions, bell peppers and water chestnuts saute to just the right texture in a few minutes!

Ingredients

They say “the secret’s in the sauce” and this is delicious and flavorful with shrimp, chicken or pork.

Sweet and Sour Sauce ingredients

The easy and all-natural sweet and sour sauce recipe comes together with simple ingredients and is ready in about 5 minutes!

  • Rice vinegar
  • Soy sauce, or tamari sauce (which is gluten-free)
  • Maple syrup
  • Light brown sugar
  • Ketchup
  • Pineapple juice – optional
  • If you want to add a little “heat” to your recipe, sprinkle in some red chile pepper flakes to the sauce mixture

Whisk together sauce ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and set aside

Stir-Fry Ingredients

These are the ingredients I use for this quick recipe, but you’re welcome to put your own spin on it. Consider adding chopped bok choy, bamboo shoots or a few broccoli florets.

  • Shrimp – peeled and deveined
  • Red bell pepper – chopped
  • Green bell pepper – chopped
  • Water chestnuts-optional; chopped or sliced
  • Sesame oil- 
  • Green onions – for garnish (optional)
  • Sesame seeds – for garnish (optional)
  • Salt and black pepper – to taste
  • Prepared Basmati rice is recommended, but you can use Jasmine rice or plain white or brown rice

Ingredients for thickening sweet and sour sauce (optional)

  • Water
  • Cornstarch

How to make restaurant-quality Sweet and Sour Shrimp

This is an overview. For exact measurements and method, see Recipe Card below.

  • Mix sauce ingredients together in a mixing bowl and set aside
  • Chop vegetables and set aside
  • Peel and devein shrimp; set aside
  • In a medium saucepan on low heat, add sweet and sour sauce; bring to boil, then turn to simmer
  • Next, heat a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat; add sesame oil; saute bell peppers and water chestnuts for 3 minutes
  • Add shrimp to skillet and cook another 3-4 minutes until shrimp are pink
  • Pour the warm sweet and sour sauce into the skillet and combine well; cook until sauce begins to thicken
  • At this point, if you want a thicker sweet and sour sauce, add a cornstarch slurry  (1/3 cup of water with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch combined until smooth); add this mixture to the skillet and cook 2-4 minutes on high heat until sauce is thick; taste for salt and pepper
  • Plate prepared rice, add shrimp and sauce on top of rice and garnish with chopped green onions, sesame seeds and/or chopped pineapple

Recipe FAQ

Is sweet and sour shrimp gluten-free?

Yes. The shrimp are not breaded in any flour or wheat products and the sauce contains no wheat or gluten. Note that traditional soy sauce does contain gluten, so if you’re want a completely gluten-free sweet and sour shrimp recipe, you’ll want to use Tamari sauce instead of Soy sauce.

Can I use frozen shrimp?

Fresh or frozen shrimp works in this sweet and sour recipe! If you use frozen, be sure to peel, devein and thaw first.

What size shrimp do I use?

Shrimp size is determined by the number of shrimp per pound. You may see numbers like 16/20 or 20/24 on the package–this means there are about 16-20 shrimp per pound in the package.

Shrimp in the 16/20 category work great in this recipe because the shrimp are large enough (about two bites per shrimp), yet they still cook quickly (in about 3 minutes.)

You can use larger shrimp or prawns, just keep in mind they will take a bit longer to cook.

Salad, or canned shrimp are not recommended because they cook too fast and have a tendency to be “rubbery” in texture.

Do I need a wok ?

A wok is nice, but this can be made without a wok. I use a large non-stick skillet. Woks are generally used for high heat dishes, with heat levels around 400ºF.  Since this shrimp stir-fry does not require such a high heat, so any non-stick skillet works great.

The best rice for sweet and sour shrimp

Both Basmati and Jasmine rice taste delicious in this recipe. Basmati rice has a nice nutty flavor where Jasmine has a more floral flavor. Plain white or brown rice works equally well, too.

A note about food allergies

Some folks have allergic reactions to pineapple. If that’s the case, simply make this without pineapple! You can increase the amount of brown sugar or substitute pineapple juice with orange juice.

Soy Sauce contains MSG (monosodium glutamate) which some people are allergic. If this is the case, use a high-quality Tamari sauce instead. It’s usually right next to the soy sauce in the grocery store.

Make ahead

Make in advance if you’re busy! Make the easy sweet and sour sauce, refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 3 days. When ready to serve, heat the sauce on the stovetop, add in the shrimp and serve over prepared rice.

Variations

If shrimp isn’t your thing, you can substitute with diced chicken or cubed pork. Cut the meat into bite size pieces and brown it in a non-stick skillet with a little sesame oil on medium high heat.

Once the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (or the pork reaches 145°F), remove the meat from the pan and transfer to a plate. 

Resume the recipe by sauteeing the vegetables; add the warm sauce to the skillet, then add the cooked meat back to the sauce mixture; allow to simmer for a few minutes before serving.

Storage and reheating

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 3 months.

Reheat on the stovetop. The sauce may thicken upon storage and you may need to add a little water.

Sweet and sour shrimp in black bowl.

Serve this Chinese Sweet and Sour Shrimp recipe with a few garnishes of chopped scallions (green onions) and toasted sesame seeds! And don’t forget the fortune cookie!

If you make this recipe, please scroll down and leave a comment and rating! I love to hear from you!

Sweet and sour shrimp in black bowl.

Sweet and Sour Shrimp

Restaurant-quality, gluten-free Chinese dish that's ready in 20-minutes! Quick, easy and healthier than take-out, which often include preservatives and MSG.
5 from 3 votes
Print Text Recipe Rate
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American, Asian, Chinese
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4
Author: Anecia Hero

Ingredients 

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce ,use tamari sauce for gluten-free
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • ½ cup light brown sugar , packed
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • cup canned pineapple juice see recipe notes below; (optional)

Slurry Ingredients (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • cup water

Stir Fry Ingredients

  • 1 pound shrimp , peeled and deveined
  • 3 cups prepared rice Basmati, Jasmine, White or Brown
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 can chopped or sliced water chestnuts
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • chopped green onions for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish
  • salt and pepper , to taste

Instructions 

  • Peel, rinse and devein shrimp; set aside
    1 pound shrimp
  • Chop vegetables; set aside
    1 cup chopped red bell pepper, 1 can chopped or sliced water chestnuts, 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • Prepare rice according to directions
    3 cups prepared rice

Sweet and Sour Sauce Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan, add all sauce ingredients, bring to boil; turn heat to simmer and set aside
    ½ cup rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, ½ cup light brown sugar, 3 tablespoons ketchup, ⅔ cup canned pineapple juice

Stir Fry Instructions

  • Add sesame oil to a large, non-stick skillet on medium high heat
    ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • Add bell peppers and water chestnuts; cook for 3 minutes
    1 cup chopped green bell pepper, 1 can chopped or sliced water chestnuts
  • Next, add shrimp to skillet; cook 3 minutes until shrimp begin to turn pink
    1 pound shrimp
  • Pour sauce into skillet; combine well
  • If you want a thicker sauce, add cornstarch slurry into skillet. How to make a slurry: combine water and cornstarch in a measuring cup; mix together until the mixture is smooth; add 1/2 of the slurry to the sauce; cook on medium-high heat until sauce begins to thicken.
    If you want it even thicker, add the rest of the slurry; taste for salt and pepper
    2 tablespoons cornstarch, ⅓ cup water, salt and pepper
  • Plate rice, then add shrimp and sauce; garnish with green onions and sesame seeds
    3 cups prepared rice, chopped green onions, sesame seeds, salt and pepper

Notes

  • Do NOT use fresh pineapple juice; use canned. Fresh pineapple contains the enzyme Bromelain, which keeps the sauce from thickening after you’ve added the cornstarch slurry.
  • Feel free to add other vegetables to the recipe:
bamboo shoots
bok choy
mushrooms
bean sprouts
Prepared Rice
Rice expands when cooked; generally speaking, one cup of dry rice yields 2 1/2 – 3 cups of cooked rice.
Keep this in mind if you’re cooking for a crowd.
Par-boiled, or instant rice increases 2 times when cooked.
 

Nutrition Estimate

Serving: 1cupCalories: 465kcalCarbohydrates: 89gProtein: 20gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0.3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.4gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 143mgSodium: 1020mgPotassium: 528mgFiber: 5gSugar: 41gVitamin A: 1568IUVitamin C: 83mgCalcium: 119mgIron: 4mg
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