Simple Szechuan Duck Breast in Plum Sauce

Duck has such an affinity with plum sauce and this recipe uses the cold pan method to cook a rosy pink duck breast before being served with a homemade plum sauce!

Portrait image of a sliced duck breast being covered in plum sauce from a ladle

Szechuan Duck Breast.

If you spend any time digging around my site you will discover that I have a thing for duck.

I think it is a beautiful meat, it has so much flavour and versatility, it is also sadly underrated.

My whole roast duck recipe has featured as my Christmas Day meal on many occasions. I make a duck ragu for pasta and I use the confit legs to make fancy duck bonbons, I even have a duck stir fry and duck curry.

Oh yeah, burgers, I make duck burgers too.

Yes, I am obsessed!

But the way eat it the most often is some form of simply pan-cooked duck breast.

This version uses Szechuan peppercorns and a bit of Chinese five-spice.

Couple that with my homemade plum sauce and you have a fancy meal that is far more simple than those you serve it to will believe!

Portrait image of homemade Chinese plum sauce being decanted into storage jars

Substituting for Store Bought Plum Sauce.

This recipe calls for my unthickened plum sauce. It is a simple recipe that makes around 500ml of sauce.

You can use store-bought plum sauce if you like, however much of it is far too sweet for my tastes.

It is also often thickened which makes it gloopy, great for a dipping sauce, less so for a gravy type of sauce.

If you want to use a dipping style sauce, transfer it to a small pan and add 75-100ml of chicken stock.

Heat and taste for seasoning, adding a little lemon juice to balance the sweetness if it is all too sweet.

Portrait image of a rosy pink duck breast with a plum sauce

Buying and Cooking Duck Breast.

First of all, all of my recipes for duck breast use farmed duck. Wild duck is great but requires a little more experience and understanding to buy.

Farmed duck is a great product, it is consistent and tastes wonderful. Look for breasts that are around 175-225g in size with a nice thick layer of fat under the skin.

Then you want to bring it up to temperature before cooking, this is important!

The next step is to score the meat, you want to work in a crosshatch pattern about 1cm apart.

You can see the for this and cooking the duck breast in my Duck a l’Orange video above. the flavours are different but the technique is identical.

Season the breast and then into a cold pan… Yes, a COLD pan and turn on the heat, you want a medium to low temperature and let it sit for 12-15 minutes.

Do not touch do not mess with it for at least 7 or 8 minutes, then all you want to do is drain off the fat. Of course, you keep it for roast potatoes!

Finally, flip and cook for the last 5 minutes.

Most importantly buy a meat thermometer, they do not cost much and will make you a better cook!

Stick the probe of the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and remove 3-4 degrees below the target temperature.

The duck will continue to cook on whilst it rests.

Cook your duck how you like it, I ain’t gonna tell you what is right or wrong, your dinner is yours to enjoy!

  • Rare:  57°C
  • Medium:  62°C
  • Well Done:  67°C

If you are cooking on to well done I would transfer to an oven at 180°C or 350°F after flipping the duck to finish cooking. It will take another 10-12 minutes.

Szechuan Duck Breast in Plum Sauce

Szechuan Duck Breast in Plum Sauce

Yield: 2 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

This rosy pink duck breast recipe with a plum sauce is a play on a classic combination that is stupidly quick and easy to cook and is always a bit of a crowd pleaser.


  • 2 Duck Breasts
  • 125 g Onion
  • 1/2 Tbsp Szechuan Pepper Corns
  • 1/2 Tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • 1/4 Tsp Coarse Sea Salt
  • 6 Black Peppercorns
  • 150 ml Plum Sauce (see below for my homemade recipe)


  1. Cut a cross-hatch pattern into the skin of the duck breast. This should be at 1cm intervals and be careful not to cut through to the flesh.
  2. Crush the Szechuan peppercorns, sea salt and black pepper in a spice grinder or in a pestle and mortar.
  3. Rub this into the duck breast paying special attention to the skin side rubbing it into the slashes.
  4. Place the duck skin-side down into a cold pan and then turn on the heat to medium to low.
  5. Allow the duck to sit for 12-15 minutes, draining off the fat after 7-8.
  6. Whilst the duck is cooking peel the onion and cut off the top and the roughest part of the root.
  7. Then cut the onion into 8 wedges.
  8. After the duck has had 10-12 minutes flip the duck and allow to cook for a further 5 minutes or so.
  9. Remove the duck from the pan and tent under foil and rest for 5-6 minutes.
  10. Drain most of the fat from the duck pan and return to a high heat.
  11. Add the onion wedges to the hot pan and sear for 90 seconds on each side.
  12. Pour over the plum sauce and allow to bubble for a minute or two.
  13. Slice the duck and add any resting juices into the sauce and stir.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 756Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 326mgSodium: 1016mgCarbohydrates: 63gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 63g
Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.
Chinese Plum Sauce Recipe

Chinese Plum Sauce Recipe

Yield: Loads
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

At the right time of year plums are both cheap and plentiful, I love to make this simple Chinese style plum sauce and keep it around all year.


  • 750 g Plums
  • 250 ml Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1.5 Tsp Chili flakes
  • 1 Stick Cinnamon
  • 3 Star Anise
  • 1 Tbsp Szechuan Pepper Corns
  • 6 Garlic Cloves
  • 75 g Ginger
  • 35 ml Dark Soy Sauce
  • 35 ml Light Soy Sauce
  • 50 ml Mirin
  • 100 g Honey
  • 75 g Light Brown Sugar


  1. Heat the plums and red wine vinegar in a pan and bring to a boil.
  2. Whilst this is coming to the boil, roughly hack apart the ginger and crush the garlic cloves with the heel of your hand.
  3. Add all of the remaining ingredients and stir until the sugar and honey have dissolved.
  4. Reduce the heat and simmer for 90 minutes
  5. Alternatively, you can just throw everything into a slow cooker and cook on low for at least 6 hours, stir once as soon as it gets hot to distrubute all of the ingredients.
  6. Pass the cooked plums first through a rough sieve to get rid of the solids and then through a fine sieve to refine.
  7. You should now have approximately 750ml litres of plum sauce.
  8. If you have cooked this in a slow cooker you will need to reduce the sauce by half before bottling.


The calorific value for this recipe refers to the full amount that the recipe.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1360Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 4712mgCarbohydrates: 318gFiber: 19gSugar: 258gProtein: 19g
Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

60 thoughts on this Recipe:

  1. I am making this today. My sauce is now simmering and I have put my spic rub onto my duck breasts. My son always has duck in plum sauce from the Chinese take away, but it usually comes in a pineaaple sauce. I am hoping he likes this as he is really fussy. I will let you know.

  2. I have tried before to cook duck and each and every time was a disaster. I am hoping next time will redeem myself following your recipe! Loving the plum sauce addition

    • I hope you nail it this time, cooking the breast on it’s own is a little easier than a whole duck, the main thing to do is avoid over cooking as it can become tough very quickly.

    • Thanks Florentina, the plum sauce is one of our favourite preserves, a really versatile treat that gets lots of outings over winter.

  3. o.m.g. savior!! I cannot find any good Szechuan in my new neighborhood in New York. I miss this style of Chinese food. Definietly trying this one, Brian!!

  4. thanks for this primer, Brian. It may be just the nudge that I need to summon the courage to try this duck preparation; one of Scott’s favorite dishes!

    • Cheers Dan, duck does seem intimidating but it really is very easy to cook with so long as you do not over cook, if that happens I find it gives your jaw too much of a work out… I hope Scott enjoys as much as we did!

  5. Wow, that looks delicious. I have only had duck in a restaurant and never thought of trying it myself. You make it look easy.

    • Thanks Melanie, it really is very simple, duck does not really take a lot more work than chicken although if it is overdone it can be pretty hard going on the gnashers 🙂

  6. This looks awesome! I order duck when I go out a lot, but have never made my own. Your delicious looking photos have inspired me to give it a go! I’m saving this recipe for later!

  7. WOW! I’m drooling over this juicy duck breast! Duck is so flavorful, especially with that crispy skin. The homemade plum sauce sounds so good too! Gotta try this soon! By the way, your photos are stunning!

    • Thank you very much, duck really is a wonderful meat that is woefully underused, I am just as guilty of that as anyone and I really do mean to use it more often.

  8. I saw the plum sauce recipe the other day but had no idea what I would do with it. Love the look of this dish!

  9. Wowzers! Your duck looks mouthwatering awesome! My husband loves duck and I am starting to like it… just looking at your photos makes me love it! And your plum sauce…yum!

    • Thank Cassandrea, duck does seem to be somewhat of an acquired taste not sure why as it is fairly mild in flavour unless it is wild but it is certainly not served very often so think it is a bit of an unknown… Enjoy the plum sauce 😀

  10. I did miss that plum sauce recipe ;), but you made me curious to try, so saved that one! I love duck, but I never cooked/roasted it myself. I’m gonna try it, but first I got to find a decent meat thermometer.

    • Thanks Niels, meat thermometers are pretty much all the same, a digital one does help with instant readings and they are pretty cheap but I find them invaluable.

  11. I’ve only had duck a few times and have never cooked it, but it sure is good and your recipe looks amazing!!! Maybe I need to break out o my comfort zone and give it a try.

    • Thanks Renee, cooking with the breasts only is a really great introduction to cooking with duck as it is a really quick and tactile way of cooking and you can see and feel what is happening, a whole bird is a little more challenging. I hope you give it a go as it is a great piece of meat to break up the usual fare 🙂

  12. Gorgeous! As a small child we had duck every Christmas, it was not like this! This sounds and look so very appetizing. I have to try this for a date night in with my husband. This meal is made for music and soft lighting. 🙂

    • Hope you Enjoy Tina. When I was very young we used to have Goose at Christmas but that quickly migrated to Turkey but as there is only myself and my wife we often do a whole duck as it is a reasonable size and the duck legs after are great in a salad 🙂

  13. You know, I’ve never been a huge duck fan, but this recipe is making me re-think my stance on the fatty bird. I love crispy skin and szechaun. Making your own plum sauce sounds far more appetizing than getting it out of a plastic packet in the take-out bag. Oh boy, I could also think of a ton of things to do with the rendered duck fat!

    • Thanks Leslie don’t get me started on duck fat, oh the roast potatoes 😉 The plum sauce is a real keeper and I always have jars of the stuff knocking around for everything from cheese sandwiches to grilled pork chops.

  14. Brian, this dish looks absolutely stunning – not to mentioned cravable and mouth-watering. I’m sitting at my desk at work. It’s 10:40am, and I’m now starving for duck. Good Lord, it looks phenomenal! Your recipes and photos are such an inspiration to newbies like me. Cheers!

    • Thank you so much Byron, I’m a newbie too, I only started in April and Food Styling is my nightmare at the moment and I never seem to be happy so your comments are gratefully recieved 🙂 I’m with you on the craving inappropriate foods in the morning though, I do a little bit of food surfing in the morning before breakfast and often find myself hankering after something that is definitely not appropriate at 7am 😮

    • It definitely should not scare you but I can understand as it is a piece of meat that can turn pretty inedible and tough as old boots if it is over cooked, but get it right and it is delightful 🙂

  15. I ate this once a long time ago, and now I know I have to have it again, thanks for the recipe, it looks amazing.

    • ha ha I’ll trade you plenty of duck for some of your delicious lamb and mutton which is a real headache to find here in Hungary 😉


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