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Sweet and Sour Prawns: An Easy Homemade Fakeaway

Sweet and sour prawns are a classic Chinese takeaway-inspired dish featuring succulent shrimp cooked in a tangy and sweet sauce with veggies.

This delicious, light but satisfying meal will go from your freezer to your plate in well under 30 minutes but don’t worry, I’ll not tell anyone if you don’t!

Sweet and sour prawns stir-fry served with rice, spring onions and sesame seeds.

Chinese Takeaway Style Sweet and Sour Shrimp

This recipe is cooked in a British Chinese takeaway style. It features frozen (defrosted) prawns cooked in a tart and sweet sauce made from vinegar, sugar, ketchup, and soy sauce.

The combination of sweet and sour flavours is often seen as a hallmark of Cantonese cuisine. It adds depth and complexity to the delicate flavour of the prawns.

My sauce is one that is a spin on the sauce that I also use in my dishes like crispy sweet and sour pork balls and sweet and sour salmon to sweet and sour chicken balls, sweet and sour pork tenderloin and sweet and sour pork chops.

Its bright and colourful appearance makes it a favourite among diners of all ages.

In this recipe, I show you how to make this popular takeaway dish in the comfort of your own home, using frozen prawns, colourful veggies, and a few simple ingredients to create a dish that is both delicious and satisfying.

Cooking your takeaway treat at home saves loads of money and avoids some of the “less desirable” shortcuts that some takeaways take to keep costs down.

And these takeaway prawns definitely deliver on time too, this is ready in well under half an hour.

If you’re a demon with planning you can have this on the table in around 15 minutes.

Close-up overhead sweet and sour prawns stir-fry served with rice and spring onions.

Frequently Asked Questions.

What size prawns should you use?

I use frozen head off shell off prawns that are labelled as being jumbo or large prawns. That would be a size 16-25, (number per kilo).

Why do I need to defrost the prawns before using?

The most important reason for this is to reduce the amount of liquid that we are adding to the sauce.

This means we get a silky smooth and tasty sauce.

Do I have to use MSG?

No, but it does make a significant difference to the recipe.

Do I have to use Chinkiang vinegar?

No, you could sub in any rice vinegar, but Chinkiang vinegar does have a broader and more complex flavour.

Can I use different vegetables?

Yes, of course, knock yourself out!

But if you are using root vegetables you will need to cook them a little first.

Both carrots and celery make good additions. I cut them into a julienne and then stir fry for 1-2 minutes before continuing as per my instructions.

Ingredients like green beans or shredded leek also work well. They should be added at the end like the courgette.

Close-up sweet and sour prawns stir-fry served with spring onions and sesame seeds.

Serving Suggestions.

Rice is the obvious side dish to pair with this sweet and sour prawn recipe.

I usually opt for simply boiled rice. But if you want to break out another wok or pan then egg fried rice is particularly good with this.

Sweet and sour noodles also make a nice side and keep the sweet and sour vibe going!

If I were to be the sort of person that worried what others think then I might consider my next suggestion as a “guilty secret”, but I am not!

I love these prawns with salty crispy fried potatoes, it just works wonderfully.

Sticking with the whole salty vibe as a contrast to the sweet and sour, stir-fried soy sauce noodles would also work a treat!

Overhead sweet and sour prawns stir-fry served with rice and spring onions.

Equipment Used

I only recommend specific brands of equipment if I think they make a material difference to a recipe. If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below the recipe.

  • Stovetop.
  • Wok, I use a large carbon steel wok.
  • Prep bowls and spoons.
  • Chopping board.
  • Kitchen knife.
  • Sieve or colander if you want to quickly defrost your prawns.
  • Stirring and serving spoons.
  • Weighing scales and or measuring cups and or spoons.
Chinese takeaway style sweet and sour prawns with plain rice and spring onions.
Yield: 2 Servings

Quick and Easy Sweet and Sour Prawns Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

This sweet and sour prawns recipe is gloriously simple and really quick to make, and so much cheaper than your favourite takeaway!


For the Sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Chinkiang Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Light Brown Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Tomato Ketchup
  • 4 Tbsp Pineapple Juice (The juice from tinned pineapples in juice is fine)
  • 1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
  • Pinch of MSG (Optional)
  • 2 Tbsp Water
  • 1 Tbsp Cornflour

For the Prawns:

  • 275-300g (9-10oz) Large Prawns without shells
  • 75g (½ Cup) Red Onion
  • 1 Small Red Pepper
  • 125g (1 Cup) Courgette (Zucchini)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 100g (½ Cup) Tinned Pineapple Chunks
  • 2 Tbsp Cooking Oil


  1. Top and tail the red onion, then cut it into 4 wedges lengthways. Peel the onion, discard the very centre and cut the remaining wedges in half widthways to create 2-2.5cm squares.
  2. Cut the red pepper into squares the same size as the red onion.
  3. Peel the garlic cloves and slice them as finely as you can.
  4. Make sure that the pineapple is roughly the same size as the other vegetables.
  1. Cut the courgette into chunks the same size as the pepper and onion.
  2. Place all of the ingredients for the sauce apart from the cornflour and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Mix the cornflour with the water and give it a stir, then pour it into the sauce and stir until it thickens (around 2 minutes) and keep warm whilst we stir fry the veggies and prawns.
  4. If you are using frozen prawns defrost them by placing them in a sieve and running them under cold water for 5 minutes.
  5. Heat the wok over a high heat and when it begins to "shimmer" add the oil.
  6. Throw in the onion and red pepper then stir fry for 90 seconds.
  7. Add the garlic and stir fry for another 30 seconds.
  8. Add the courgette and pineapple chunks and stir fry for another minute.
  9. Toss in the prawns and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
  10. Add the sauce to the prawns and vegetables, and cook for another minute or two until the sauce has thickened and the prawns are cooked through.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 487Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 264mgSodium: 3056mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 3gSugar: 27gProtein: 33g

Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

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