Home Articles What Is Tamarind? (+ Uses & More)

What Is Tamarind? (+ Uses & More)

Tamarind is popular in Indian cuisine, but what is tamarind, exactly?

If you think you’ve never had tamarind before, think again! It’s a main ingredients in Worcestershire sauce.

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You can find unique tamarind flavors in cuisines worldwide, from Mexico to India.

What Is Tamarind? (+ Uses & More) featuring A Bowl of Ripe Tamarinds on a Wooden Table

Adding tamarind to homemade curry or chutney is an easy way to deliver authentic flavors.

And tamarind’s flavor adds something extra thanks to its complex flavor profile.

So, let’s take a deeper look at what tamarind is. And all the ways to infuse your Indian and Mexican cuisine with bold flavor.

What Is Tamarind?

Tamarind, a tropical fruit, is native to Asia and Northern Africa.

Looks can deceive when looking at the humble tamarind. Seriously, the outside of raw tamarind does NOT appear appetizing.

The shell is a musty shade of brown and looks like a giant, lumpy bean. 

But thank goodness someone was brave enough to try this fruit. Because the flavor is out of this world! #dontjudgeabookbyitscover

If you assumed the tamarind is related to legumes (peas and lentils), you would be correct!

But what makes tamarind different from other legumes is its overwhelming sweetness.

Tamarind boasts such a unique flavor that makes fantastic sweet and savory dishes.

Ripe Tamarinds with Leaves on a Wooden Table

What Does Tamarind Taste Like?

The flavors of tamarind toe the line between sweet and citrusy. Tamarind is sweet, like a date, with a hint of citrus and a few savory notes.

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However, tamarind is less citrusy than a lemon, so it won’t pucker your mouth!

Many describe the sweetness of the tamarind as similar to caramelly molasses. In fact, when cooks don’t have tamarind, they often substitute equal parts molasses.

The complex flavors of the exotic tamarind make a fantastic cooking ingredient. Its unique taste works well in many dishes.

Different Forms of Tamarind

Tamarind comes in many forms when shopping at the grocery store. Here are a few ways to get tamarind for your next meal.

  • Pods. You can buy raw tamarind with the pods still intact. Raw tamarind provides pure tamarind flavor but requires a little extra work.
    • You must remove the pulp from the pod casing when using whole pods.
  • Concentrate. Tamarind concentrate offers intense tamarind flavors. Tamarind concentrate has a more liquid texture than paste.
    • It works best in curries and sauces.
  • Frozen pulp. Frozen pulp works best in drinks and cocktails.
    • The flavor of frozen pulp is mild. But you can dilute it without losing its patented sweetness.
  • Paste. Tamarind paste works excellently in almost any dish. The paste delivers bold tamarind flavors that are incredibly potent.
    • It’s made by boiling the fruit and then straining any extra fibers.
  • Pressed blocks. When making candy, you want pressed blocks. Add water, let them soak, and tear away pieces for your recipe.
  • Sweetened syrup. An easy way to use tamarind in cocktails is with sweetened syrup. It delivers extra sweet tamarind flavors for sweetened drinks and cocktails.
A Glass of Tamarind Juice and Ripe Tamarinds on a Wooden Table

Tamarind Uses

Tamarind is a fabulous cooking ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes.

Savory

Tamarind can add a sour taste to many dishes. It is often used in recipes for soups, dips, curries, and stir-fries.

  • This exotic legume adds something extra to authentic Indian cuisine, like curries or chutney. When used in curry, tamarind contributes a delightful balance of tartness, sweetness, and tanginess.
  • It also is featured in Pad Thai… delicious!  
  • Tamarind is used as a meat tenderizer. Therefore, it is a primary ingredient in Worcestershire sauce. 
  • Roasted tamarind seeds are a popular snack in the Caribbean

Sweet

Tamarind is used in several sweet treats popular in Central America and the Caribbean. Sugar is used to highlight its natural sweetness and to balance its tartness. 

  • One of the most popular ways to use tamarind is in Agua de Tamarindo. This is a classic Mexican drink.
    • In English, it translates translates to tamarind water. Agua de Tamarindo pairs three simple ingredients: fresh tamarind, water, and sugar. It’s very refreshing.
    • Think of agua de tamarindo as Mexican lemonade!
  • You can find candy made from tamarind in stores all over the world
  • Tamarind balls are a much-loved treat in the Caribbean. They’re made with fresh tamarind and sugar, then rolled into balls. Sometimes, they even add rum! 
A Jar of Tamarind Paste and A Platter of Ripe Tamarinds

How to Buy Tamarind

Tamarind is an exotic fruit, so you might have trouble finding it at your local grocery store. But that’s what the internet is for! A quick Google search will yield plenty of options.

If your supermarket has a large Mexican or Indian aisle, you may be in luck. You can buy tamarind powder, pressed blocks, or as a paste in the baking aisle.

Your best bet is heading to an Indian, Middle Eastern, or Mexican market. These markets often sell tamarind raw or in concrete, frozen pulp, pressed blocks, and paste.

Tracking down tamarind may be challenging, but well worth the hunt!

What Is Tamarind?

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INSANELYGOOD

Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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