Ever found yourself elbow-deep in a recipe only to realize you’re out of tamarind?
No worries, there are plenty of great tamarind paste substitutes to save your dish!
With its tangy, sweet, and sour charm, tamarind can seem hard to replace. However, a variety of popular kitchen ingredients can come pretty close.
Whipping up Thai, Indian, or Mexican dishes? These handy swaps will ensure you never miss that special tamarind touch.
So dive in and discover the magic of these easy-to-use tamarind alternatives!
What Is Tamarind Paste?
As the name suggests, tamarind paste comes from the tamarind fruit.
This fruit comes from the tamarind tree. It is pod-shaped with a large seed inside. And the juicy, yummy, pulpy stuff inside?
That’s what you cook!
Tamarind paste is handy for making curries, soups, and sauces. Plus, it is a hit in desserts too!
Its flavor is tangy and potent- reminiscent of dates with a citrusy twist. It adds a fantastic depth and zing to dishes.
Popular in Asian cuisine, it balances sweetness with a sour kick. The effect tastes somewhere between lemon juice and apple cider vinegar.
How It’s Made
The journey to creating tamarind paste is no easy task.
It involves extracting the sticky pulp from the pods. Then, boiling it down and straining out the seeds and fibers.
The result? A concentrated paste, bursting with flavor, ready to elevate your dishes.
Keep in mind, though, tamarind paste carries quite a punch. Its intensity means you only need a small amount to make a huge impact.
Start with just a dab, then adjust according to your palate. In the world of tamarind paste, a little goes a long way!
How is Tamarind Paste Used?
Tamarind paste is the star player in many Thai dishes, including the much-loved Pad Thai.
But it is not just Thai food that enjoys its company. This delicious ingredient is a hot favorite in dishes across the globe.
It is a must-have in Indian curry. And you will often find it in Vietnamese, Caribbean, and Mexican meals, too.
Why all this international acclaim?
- Tamarind paste’s natural acidity makes it an excellent meat tenderizer in marinades.
- Its sticky consistency is perfect for creating glossy, mouthwatering glazes for meats and veggies alike.
- You can use it in soups, sauces, and dressings.
- You can even find it in some sweet treats.
Substitutes for Tamarind Paste
A good tamarind paste substitute has two elements: sourness and sweetness.
The sourness is for taste and acidity. Sweetness is there to balance out the sour. So, you get a flavor that is just right.
With that in mind, check out these fabulous tamarind paste substitutes:
1. Lime Juice & Brown Sugar
You can whip up this easy substitute with humble limes and brown sugar.
Sure, it’s not as fancy as tamarind paste. But it will give you that crucial sweet and sour taste your dish needs.
Plus, the combo is thick enough to mimic tamarind paste. And it will even look like tamarind paste!
Simple and sweet!
Substitution Ratio: Replace tamarind paste in a 1:1 ratio with equal parts of lime juice and brown sugar.
- 1/2 tablespoon lime juice + 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar = 1 tablespoon tamarind paste.
2. Lemon Juice & Brown Sugar
No limes around? No worries! A lemon will do the trick.
It will give you the same sweet-sour magic as the lime mix.
Do exactly what you did with the lime juice and brown sugar. But use lemon juice this time. Use this mix as a straight swap for tamarind paste.
One quick tip: if your substitute has sugar, ensure the sugar dissolves completely. You do not want a gritty dressing, especially in a cold dish.
So, stir until smooth, and you’re good to go!
Substitution Ratio: Replace tamarind paste in a 1:1 ratio with equal parts of lemon juice and brown sugar.
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice + 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar = 1 tablespoon tamarind paste.
3. Pomegranate Syrup
You probably won’t have pomegranate syrup if you don’t have tamarind paste.
But you might have pomegranate juice!
Pomegranate syrup is just pomegranate juice mixed with some acid, then cooked into a syrup.
Luckily, you can make it at home. You only need pomegranate juice, lemon juice, and sugar.
Here’s what you do:
Throw the following into a saucepan:
- 2 cups of pomegranate juice
- 1/4 cup of lemon juice
- 1/4 cup of white sugar
- Stir everything together over medium heat.
- Then, turn down the heat and let it simmer until the liquid cuts down to half. It should be syrupy.
This syrup has the same thickness as tamarind paste. And it tastes pretty close to tamarind paste. It’s sweet and sour and delicious!
You can swap homemade or store-bought pomegranate syrup 1:1 for tamarind paste. Easy peasy!
Substitution Ratio: Replace tamarind paste with an equal amount of pomegranate syrup.
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup = 1 tablespoon tamarind paste.
4. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce is a magical mix of anchovies, vinegar, molasses, garlic, onion, and other spices.
All these buddies hang out in a barrel and ferment for several months (even years).
Sure, the ingredients of Worcestershire sauce differ from tamarind paste. Still, they have similar tastes- savory, tangy, and somewhat sweet.
Just a little Worcestershire sauce will do the job for recipes that need tamarind paste. It’s a simple even swap.
Substitution Ratio: Replace tamarind paste with an equal amount of Worcestershire sauce.
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce = 1 tablespoon tamarind paste.
5. Rice Vinegar
Rice vinegar is a big deal in Asian food.
It’s got a tangy and sweet vibe- pretty close to tamarind paste. Plus, you can use rice vinegar in many similar dishes.
You can do a straight 1:1 swap with rice vinegar for tamarind paste.
The main difference between these two is their thickness. Rice vinegar is liquid, so it won’t give you that rich thickness of tamarind paste.
If your recipe needs tamarind paste, the thinness of rice vinegar won’t mess it up. Just don’t add too much and turn your meal into soup!
Substitution Ratio: Replace tamarind paste with an equal amount of rice vinegar.
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar = 1 tablespoon tamarind paste.
6. Amchur Powder
Amchur (also spelled “Amchoor“) powder is a spice made from dried and ground, unripe mangoes. It has a sour and fruity taste that is delectable.
The name literally means mango (aam) powder (chur) in Hindi.
Its tart, subtle-sweet, and fruity flavor gives a zingy punch to your dishes.
This tangy kick makes Amchur powder a beloved ingredient in many Indian recipes. And it is a super swap for tamarind paste.
Like tamarind, it can jazz up your dishes with a zippy tang. The best part? You can use it just like tamarind paste. Swap it in a 1:1 ratio.
Substitution Ratio: Replace tamarind paste with an equal amount of Amchur powder.
- 1 tablespoon Amchur powder = 1 tablespoon tamarind paste.
7. Mango Chutney
Have some mango chutney on hand?
This vinegar-based gem is a fabulous swap for tamarind paste.
It has an acidic base and a mix of flavors for depth. Plus, its thickness is like tamarind paste.
And it is super easy to use!
Just scoop it straight from the jar to replace tamarind paste 1:1. It doesn’t get easier than that.
Substitution Ratio: Replace tamarind paste with an equal amount of mango chutney.
- 1 tablespoon mango chutney pomegranate syrup = 1 tablespoon tamarind paste.
You make marmalade with oranges, specifically bitter oranges. Mixed with sugar, it is a ready-to-go mix of citrus and sweetener.
Now, marmalade is a great stand-in for tamarind paste. It has the same sweet, sticky, and tart nature as tamarind.
But watch out. It can be too sweet. Plus, it will add a slight orangey flavor to your dish.
I would only use this swap in recipes that work well with orange. Some Asian chicken dishes come to mind. Or desserts.
If it tastes too sweet, add a squeeze of lemon or lime. Easy peasy!
Substitution Ratio: Replace tamarind paste with an equal amount of marmalade.
- 1 tablespoon marmalade = 1 tablespoon tamarind paste.
- Add lemon or lime juice, as needed.
9. Fruit Syrups
Fruit syrups are another sweet tamarind paste substitute.
They share the sweetness and stickiness of tamarind paste. However, they lack a savory or tangy base.
Small amounts of fruit syrups work wonders in desserts and other sweet recipes.
You can always balance the sweetness with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. And keep in mind: the fruit flavors will shine through in your dish.
Substitution Ratio: Replace tamarind paste in a 2:1 ratio with fruit syrups.
- 1/2 tablespoon fruit syrup = 1 tablespoon tamarind paste.
- Adjust to taste. Use citrus juice as needed.
10. Dried Tamarind Pulp
If dried tamrind is the only thing you can find, fear not! I have a trick to turn it into a homemade substitute for tamarind paste.
- Soak your dried tamarind in water.
- After soaking, fish out any seeds lurking in there.
- Keep the pulp.
- Mix water with the pulp until it turns into a paste-like consistency.
And voila, you have homemade tamarind paste!
You can use it as a straight swap for store-bought tamarind paste.
Substitution Ratio: Replace tamarind paste with an equal amount of dried tamarind pulp paste.
- 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp paste = 1 tablespoon tamarind paste.
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