Tamarind is derived from a sticky, pod-like fruit that grows on a tamarind tree. When processed, it can be made into a sticky sour paste.
This pod fruit has been around since the 4th century. Although there have been traces of this fruit throughout history, tamarind was widely used in ancient Egypt and Greece.
Nowadays, the majority of the trees that produce this pod-like-shaped fruit grow in the East Indies and the Pacific Islands.
The trees found on the pacific island were planted and did not grow naturally, unlike the ones found in Asia and Africa. The trees thrive in tropical type climates.
Related: Does Tamarind Paste Go Bad?
How is Tamarind Used?
Tamarind is often used in a variety of recipes to give them a tart, sour flavor. It is traditionally used in desserts, candy, savory dishes, Mexican cuisine, Vietnamese, Caribbean, Indian, and Thailand.
Right out of the pod, tamarind is not quite ready to be thrown into a dish. There are several simple steps to take to get the tamarind prepared.
To make this paste, paste producers boil the pods and run them through a fine-mesh strainer, which produces the tamarind pulp.
Once the pulp is revealed, they then allow it to absorb the hot water, which therefore creates the paste.
Related: Tamarind Benefits For Skin And Hair
Does tamarind have any nutritional benefits?
This sour tart fruit has been known for its healing properties. It has also been linked to being an ingredient in a variety of medicines and used to make oils for woodworking.
As a medicine, it was linked to treating diarrhea, constipation, fevers, and malaria. Although no known research has been done on its current effectiveness in healing these ailments, many cultures still use it for a variety of health issues.
Some of its health benefits can be linked to its nutritional properties. Tamarind paste is full of vitamin B1, vitamin B3, and potassium. A half-cup of tamarind paste contains one hundred and forty-three calories and zero grams of fat.
It also includes three grams of fiber and thirty-four grams of sugar. Tamarind is also known for its high levels of magnesium which plays a role in many of our body’s functions, such as nerve function, protein synthesis, and muscle function.
It has plenty of other nutrients and minerals that support some of our bodily systems. It also has polyphenols which act like antioxidants. These antioxidants produced by tamarind make them a supporter for fighting off inflammation.
There is so much more to tamarind, which may be new and foreign to you.
Hopefully, these tips on using substitute ingredients, how to use them, and where to purchase tamarind will help you to start utilizing this unique fruit.
Related: What Is Tamarind Puree?
What can you substitute for tamarind paste?
Sometimes it can be challenging to find an alternative for tamarind paste, or maybe you ran out and didn’t have the time to get to the market.
What do you do when your favorite recipe calls for tamarind paste, and you have none on hand? No matter what the situation is, there is always an alternative or substitute that can be just behind your cupboard doors.
Of course, it may slightly differ in taste, and it may even have a slight texture variant, but the differential will be minimal.
The flavors are what you are trying to capture, and these six alternatives can help you stick to your recipe and not miss out on the tamarind flavor you need:
1. Vinegar and Date Sugar
One popular substitute can be a mix of simple ingredients found in most pantries. These ingredients are vinegar and date sugar.
Many people opt for this substitute recipe with apple cider vinegar as their base, which is more culinary appealing. It is made by combining a ratio of vinegar to date sugar to get the right amount of sweetness and acidity.
It is suggested to use high-quality vinegar to get a pure flavor closest to the tamarind essence. It is highly suggested to use date sugar for its alkalinity and it is less likely to spike glucose levels.
With the proper ratios, you should be able to create a “tamarind-like” paste. This option would be a great substitute to use in chicken and pad thai dishes.
2. Citrus, Wine, and Date Sugar
Another alternative is lime juice or white wine mixed with date sugar. Depending on your preference, you can choose to use citrus for a more citrusy flavor or white wine to get more of the acidity taste.
Similar to the first option, this one uses basic ingredients found in most kitchens. Since lime lacks sweetness on its own, it needs to have a little date sugar added to make the substitute just right.
Equal amounts of these ingredients mixed together will make the perfect mix and substitute for your recipe. The ratios do not change if you choose to use white wine.
This combination is a great overall mild version of tamarind paste that can be used in any dish that calls for tamarind paste.
Using date sugar will keep it alkaline approved and you can find most date sugar varieties at a local health market.
3. Worcestershire Mix
Some other options include using a Worcestershire mixture that includes water, lemon juice, date sugar, and tomato paste.
Another great recipe is a mix of several dried fruits like prunes, apricots, and dates mixed with lemon juice. It’s simple to add the fruit with the lemon juice to a bowl of water and allow it to soak for roughly twenty to thirty minutes just until the fruit is soft.
After straining the water, you can now blend the fruit to make the amount of paste you need for the recipe.
4. Amchur Powder
A great alternative is using amchur powder to create your “tamarind” paste. Amchur powder is also referred to as mango powder and has a spiced fruit-like flavored powder.
The powder is made from dried unripe green mangoes, which are ground down into a powder form. You can find it in most Indian or Asian markets.
To use this powder as a tamarind paste substitute, simply mix the powder with water to make a paste in the amount you need for the recipe.
5. Pomegranate Molasses
An odd but great option for a tamarind substitute is pomegranate molasses.
Although this may not be in everyone’s kitchen, it may be easier to find in your part of the world, or you may even have some on hand. Its thick, sweet syrupy consistency makes for a great alternative.
The product already contains the flavors you need, such as acidity, sourness and sweetness.
Can You Make Tamarind Paste at home?
You can always attempt to make your own if you are a more adventurous cook.
Of course, you will still need tamarind pods and a few other ingredients to create the authentic flavors. Since many cultures use tamarind paste or sauce, it is easier to find these days.
What does tamarind paste taste like?
Tamarind paste is a sweet and sour robust flavor that is often used in Asian, Indian, and middle eastern cuisine. It is slightly acidic, and you may have already experienced this flavor.
If you have ever had a pad thai dish, curry, chutney, peanut sauce, or masala, you have had tamarind.
Some candies are even made with tamarind paste, such as the tamarindo candies found in Mexican cultures. One of the key ingredients in Worcestershire sauce is tamarind.
Related: How To Make Tamarind Seed Powder
What is the difference between tamarind sauce and paste?
Both the sauce and paste are most often sold in jars. Tamarind sauce or otherwise known as a tamarind concentrate is a very potent version of the traditional tamarind paste. There is no difference in the flavor once the sauce is diluted.
To use the concentrate for every one teaspoon of tamarind concentrate or sauce, you need to dilute it with two teaspoons of water. Some simply use less of the sauce than what the recipe calls for in paste.
In terms of flavor, without diluting the sauce, it will be very sour with a citrus-like taste compared to the paste. Once diluted, the flavors are very similar, and some may say it has a caramel-like bitter taste.
It’s mostly about convenience. Since they are very similar, it depends on your preference whether you want to take the time to dilute or have a quicker cook time using the paste.
Some opt for a more fresh option of soaking the tamarind pulp since it gives it a fresher taste.
Related: Does Tamarind Paste Have Soy?
Where is tamarind paste in the supermarket?
Almost all markets will carry a variation of the paste or sauce. You are more likely to find it in an Asian grocery store where they will always have it in stock.
Another great place is online. Amazon, instacart, and the world market carry several types of this sauce or paste. Walmart is another realtor that has several brands.
Many markets will also carry the whole tamarind pods if you wish for a more homemade fresh recipe.
All the ingredients to make a simple paste or sauce can be found in any grocery store. No matter what you choose, there are always options for the dish you are preparing.
The vast popularity of dishes containing this tamarind paste as an ingredient makes it easier to find or substitute.
Most of the substitute options are easy to find and, as mentioned, might be in your kitchen waiting to be used on your next pad, Thai.