This recipe shows how to make a tamarind paste substitute at home with just four common ingredients.
Tamarind paste is a product that is often called for in Thai cooking. It is also something that the average cook does not normally stock.
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What is tamarind paste?
The tamarind tree has fruit that grows in pods hanging from its branches. The tree is native to tropical Africa. The pods contain a tangy, sweet pulp that is used in many cuisines. Tamarind paste has a sticky date-like texture made from the fruit of these pods. It is sometimes used to make desserts and candy but generally used in savory dishes.
It is often used In Thai cooking, giving us the delicious flavor of the famous pad Thai noodles and many other fish and chicken dishes.
Tamarind paste is also a common ingredient in Indian and Mexican cuisines.
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Where to buy tamarind paste
Tamarind paste is found in the Asian department in some grocery stores, from an Asian grocer, or from Amazon.
Unfortunately, unless you live in a large city which has an international store nearby, you may not have success finding tamarind paste where you live.
If you can find tamarind pods, you can make your own tamarind paste at home by combining them with water, soaking the mixture and then straining it. This will take about an hour.
Tamarind paste substitutes
Tamarind paste has a sweet and sour taste combined in one mouthful. There are a few ways to get the flavor of tamarind paste at home.
All involve combining ingredients that will give you both tastes when used in a recipe. Some options are:
- Pomegranate molasses – this thick syrup has a sweet-sour flavor and is used in the same quantities as tamarind paste in your recipe.
- A combination of water, lemon juice, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar gives a similar flavor profile.
- Combining lime juice and brown sugar in equal amounts gives a tart, yet sweet taste. It doesn’t have the same flavor as tamarind paste, but is still a passable option.
- Rice wine vinegar and brown sugar in equal amounts can be substituted.
Making a tamarind paste substitute
Today, we’ll be using four common ingredients to make a substitute for tamarind paste that will give you the desired flavor at home.
The texture of the fruit mixture is similar to tamarind paste but with a bit less tartness. I prefer it over the options shown above because of the sticky texture.
Making this substitute will allow you to try some recipes that call for tamarind paste without having to purchase it.
Ingredients for tamarind paste substitute
To make the substitute you will need these equal amounts of these ingredients:
- Dried apricots
- Lemon juice
Most recipes just call for a tablespoon or so of tamarind paste. To make the paste substitute, just combine a teaspoon of each ingredient to make 1 1/2 tablespoons of the paste.
If you cook Thai food often and would like to make some for later, you can multiply the recipe. Just use equal amounts of each.
Add the combination of ingredients to a small bowl of water to allow them to soften for about 30 minutes.
Strain the liquid and then blend the fruit to use as a tamarind paste substitute. Use the substitute in the same amounts that your recipe calls for tamarind paste.
How does this tamarind paste substitute taste?
This tamarind paste substitute has a similar texture to the real deal and a taste that is both sweet and sour. However, you won’t get quite the same tartness that you would get using actual tamarind paste.
It can be challenging to find a good substitute for tamarind paste, since it has a unique flavor profile.
However, since the recipes that call for it also normally use many ingredients, this substitute will give you an alternative quickly at home when you don’t have the actual product.
So, the next time your recipe calls for tamarind paste, whip up this fruit substitute and start cooking!
Pin this tamarind paste substitute for later
Would you like a reminder of this substitute for tamarind paste? Just pin this photo to one of your cooking boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.
Admin note: This post first appeared on the blog in April of 2013, I have updated the post with more information, all new photos, a printable project card and other substitutes for tamarind paste.
- 1 tsp Dates
- 1 tsp Prunes
- 1 tsp Dried apricots
- 1 tsp Lemon juice
- Small bowl of water
- Combine everything a bowl of water and allow to soften for about 30 minutees.
- Strain the water and blend the mixture until smooth.
- This recipe makes 1 1/2 tablespoons of tamarind paste substitute.
If you need more just double or triple the amount of ingredients. Use equal amounts of each ingredient.
Serving Size:1 1/2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 25Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 11mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 0g
Nutritional information is approximate due to natural variation in ingredients and the cook-at-home nature of our meals.