Learn About Tamarind

Author: Chef Sydney

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What is Tamarind?

Tamarind is a reddish-brown pod-like legume that comes from the tamarind tree native to tropical Africa.  While tamarind is a legume, people often refer to tamarind as a fruit.  The pulp from the inside of the pod is what is widely used in foods after it is turned into a paste, but tamarind can also be eaten raw.  

What Does Tamarind Taste Like?

Tamarind is a strong-flavored fruit, with a tangy taste. It can be a little sweet and a little sour, but not as sour as citrus fruits like lemons. Tamarind that has not fully ripened will taste more sour and tart. Ripened tamarind will taste sweeter, but still tangy. Because tamarind is commonly used as a flavoring agent in dishes, the flavor of tamarind can be influenced by other ingredients. If sugar is added to the dish, tamarind is not as tangy or sour.

Learn About Tamarind
Tamarind on a black background

How Do You Eat Tamarind?

Tamarind can be eaten raw or cooked.  To use tamarind, crack the brown outer shell and remove the veins from the pulp.  The seeds are hard and are not usually consumed.  Tamarind is widely used in Worcestershire sauce and chutneys or other tangy sauces.  It is also a key ingredient in the makings of pad thai, some kinds of stir-fry, and some chicken curries.  Sweet-and-sour sauces use tamarind as an ingredient.  Some people enjoy their tamarind in desserts such as tamarind balls or candy.  Because of its ability to break down meat, tamarind is a common marinade ingredient.

How to Prepare Raw Tamarind

  1. Crack the exterior shell around the fruit and remove pieces.
  2. Remove the veins around the fruit.
  3. Remove the fruit from the seeds.

Where Can You Buy Tamarind?

Look for fresh tamarind in the produce section of Asian food stores or well-stocked grocery stores.  Jarred tamarind paste can be found in the international food aisle of grocery stores, international grocery stores, Asian food stores, and Indian food stores.

How Do You Store Tamarind?

Store tamarind still in the pod in a cool, dark place.  Fresh tamarind out of the pod should be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator and may last for several months.  Jarred tamarind should be stored in a cool, dark place with the lid secured tightly.  Tamarind paste may be stored in the refrigerator.

Fun Facts About Tamarind

Some skincare products use oil made from tamarind.  Tamarind is used in some countries to treat certain ailments and medical issues.  Tamarind is sometimes used to polish brass and copper.

Did You Know?

The wood from tamarind trees is used to make furniture.

Recipes Using Tamarind

Sweet Tamarind Balls

Create an easy two ingredient desserts. Mix brown sugar and tamarind pulp and let the mixture rest for 10-12 hours. Stir in more brown sugar and roll into balls. Place on a baking sheet and cover until the balls set.

Easy Tamarind Marinade

Use this marinade recipe for chicken next time you want to jazz up your dinner. Mix soy sauce, ginger, tamarind paste, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes in a large plastic bag. Place chicken in the bag, seal it, and store the bag in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Tamarind Dipping Sauce

Dip your food in a tangy sauce. Combine chopped garlic, tamarind paste, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar, and diced red onions in a bowl. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Tamarind Candy

Heat tamarind paste, water, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until ingredients dissolve. The mixture will be thick. Spread over a baking sheet in an even layer and refrigerate until the candy sets. Remove the candy from the fridge and roll into balls or slice into small bars.

Tamarind Rice

Create a delicious side dish to your next meal. Simmer tamarind paste, turmeric, red pepper flakes, red onions, and salt until a thick sauce forms. Stir sauce into cooked rice and serve.

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