Tamarind paste is awesome! It is tangy with notes of sweet and sour, but most of all, it is addictive. Tamarind paste features in several recipes of Indian and Asian cuisine, though its popularity keeps growing. For most of us in the west, tamarind paste isn’t as easily available. So, we’ll have to consider tamarind paste substitutes for a few recipes.
The choice, of course, has to be something with the same touches of color, consistency, and taste. Considering the unique taste of tamarind paste, the latter is often the toughest feature and one where many substitutes have to compromise.
Yet, if the recipe demands it, we’ll have to give it a good try. If you’re fond of food that usually includes tamarind paste, I’ll suggest you stock up on some of this delicious food. It can double as a sauce and works as a dip too.
But if it comes down to substitutes, let’s see some of the top replacements available.
Top Tamarind Paste Substitutes That Are Worth A Shot
1. Pomegranate Molasses
Pomegranate Molasses makes for an excellent substitute and is one of the more readily available options. The molasses have a bittersweet and tangy flavor. Though not exact, this manages to cover the taste and flavor profile of tamarind pretty well.
One thing to note is that pomegranate molasses have a lower (thinner) consistency as compared to tamarind paste. This isn’t really a problem for most recipes and some might even benefit from the extra moisture.
In most cases, you can substitute tamarind paste with an equal amount of pomegranate molasses.
2. Amchur Powder (Amchoor)
Here’s another Indian delicacy that can do the trick. Amchur (also spelled Amchoor) powder comes from unripe green mangoes. Though a few other ingredients can be included in this, it is the green mangoes that give it a deliciously tangy taste.
Amchur powder is usually available as a dry condiment. To use it as a replacement, mix each spoon with equal parts of water and add it to the recipe. Amchur finds use in plenty of Indian recipes and is delicious by itself as well. Plus, it has a good shelf life when stored in a cool, dry place.
3. Mango Chutney
Who would’ve thought that so many mango products would be a vital alternative to tamarind? Mango chutney is another delicacy that can work as a tamarind paste replacement. Mango chutney has stronger sweet notes, with an unmistakable touch of sour and tangy.
The chutney has a consistency similar to that of tamarind paste and so it can work as a 1:1 substitute. Many chutneys can have additional ingredients like nuts or spices including cloves and black peppercorn. These usually aren’t a problem for many recipes, but look out for your personal preference and the recipe you’re using.
4. Choice Of Vinegar (Apple Cider, Rice, White Whine)
Vinegar is perhaps one of the most easily accessible substitutes for tamarind paste. It isn’t an ideal option, but it’s more on the line of ‘something is better than nothing’. The idea here is more to add that tart flavor and some acid to the recipe.
Use apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar for the replacement. Add some sugar so the replacement is a better match for the tamarind flavor. Of course, the vinegar sugar mix will have a consistency much lower than the tamarind paste.
Again, this isn’t an ideal choice, but something to consider if you’re in a bind.
5. Brown Sugar In Lime Juice
Here’s another of the few options that don’t require exotic ingredients. Using lime juice can have the same effect as a souring agent as tamarind paste. While it can handle the sourness and maybe the tang too, it doesn’t have the sweetness that tamarind brings to a recipe.
To get around that, mix it with some brown sugar. The sugar will add sweetness and also mellow the color of lime juice to a degree. The coloring will still be far from tamarind paste, but it won’t stand out as much.
This can work fairly well for some recipes that depend on tamarind for sweetness. That’s because you can simply add more sugar to reach the requirements. Similarly, reduce the sugar content for recipes that aren’t so particular about sweetness. In such cases, the sourness of lime can be pretty useful.
6. Lemon Juice With Dried (Dehydrated) Fruits
Lemon juice is pretty well known as a souring agent and you could use it the same way as lime juice. However, if consistency is important, lemon juice offers a better range. A good method is to use dried (dehydrated) fruits like apricots, dates, raisins, and prunes.
Soften up your choice of fruits by soaking them in water. After a few minutes, run them through a blender until you get a paste-like consistency. Mix this paste with equal parts of lemon juice and you’ve got a decent replacement at hand.
The fruits provide that nice fruity sweetness and texture. The lemons bring the sourness. It’s still missing the tart touch, but I guess we can’t have everything!
7. Worcestershire Sauce
Tamarind is an important ingredient for Worcestershire sauce. It gives the sauce its sweet and tangy touch and also contributes to the color. So, if you’re in a quick need for a replacement, use the sauce to cover for tamarind!
There are a couple of things to note when using Worcestershire sauce as a replacement. It’s not vegan (most brands add some fish like fermented anchovies). Secondly, it packs some heat – the sauce is more on the side of hot and spicy than tamarinds sweet and sour. If your recipe can take this change, Worcestershire sauce will work.
8. Marmalade (Citrus)
Citrus Marmalade can be a good choice for a replacement here. Citrus here is more about the origin of the fruit than a specific marmalade type. Lemon, tangerine, orange marmalade or similar can all work.
Using marmalade allows a texture and consistency very similar to tamarind paste. The citrus will also bring that sweet and tangy flavor we so love, along with the sweetness. It lacks the color and the depth of flavor, but makes for a decent substitution.
9. Tamarind Pulp
Using tamarind pulp is a good way to get your hands on tamarind paste very quickly. If you have tamarind pulp, soak it in warm water. Usually, 2 tablespoons of pulp need half a cup of water. It will take some time, so allow it to soak till the paste is soft.
At this point, use your hands to rub the pulp. Also, feel for seeds, and if you encounter any, remove them. Tamarind seeds are fairly large, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Once the seeds are out and the paste has acceptable consistency, strain it out to remove excess water.
Your DIY tamarind paste is ready!
Kokum is another fruit from India that can work as an excellent replacement for tamarind. However, this option is rare and even difficult to find at many places in India. To use kokum, soak it in warm water. As it gets soft, slowly crush it by hand to form the paste and remove the seeds. Strain the mixture if necessary to remove excess water.
Using kokum provides the same depth of flavor as tamarind. However, this is a far more exotic and expensive ingredient.
11. Kachri Powder
Kachri powder is another exotic option from India. It is a fruit grown in parts of India’s arid regions. The fruit looks something like miniature watermelons and is related to cucumbers. It is a protein-rich food but doesn’t survive transport over longer distances. So, the dried and powdered fruit is the one usually employed for many recipes.
It has a tangy taste with notes of tartness, which make it a great substitute. However, the powder loses its flavor very quickly once the packing is opened and in a few days you’ll find it being simply tart.
This is an interesting option but a rarity that is tough to find in most parts of the world.
FAQs And More On Tamarind Paste And Its Substitutes
What Is Tamarind Paste?
Tamarind paste comes from the fruit of the tamarind tree. The hardwood tree produces fruit that includes several seeds in a large brown pod (think something like a pea pod). The seeds are large and covered in a fleshy coating, which in turn is covered by the pod.
This fleshy coating is tamarind. The reddish-brown fruit (tamarind) can be soaked in water for a while to soften it a bit. The soft, seedless part becomes the tamarind paste.
Is There A Difference Between Tamarind Paste And Tamarind Puree?
Tamarind puree and paste are pretty much the same thing. The notable difference between the two is that puree has more liquid content and is therefore thinner. If you’re substituting tamarind puree for the paste, make sure the recipe has a way to deal with the excess water. Also, you’ll need to add more of the puree to get the same flavor as with the tamarind paste.
A similar logic applies to tamarind concentrate, though in the opposite direction. It has less liquid and possesses a stronger flavor as compared to the paste. If you’re using tamarind concentrate, dilute it with two parts of water to get the same taste as tamarind paste.
Should I Keep Tamarind Paste In The Fridge?
Yes, storing tamarind paste in a refrigerator is advisable. This keeps the flavor intact and enables the paste to last longer. Store it in an airtight container for best results. It’s also possible to freeze the paste using ice cube trays or place it in a freezer using a freezer bag. It can last 3-4 weeks in a refrigerator or 3-4 months in a freezer.
Picking The Right Substitute And Food Option
Tamarind offers an excellent combination of sweet, sour, and tart flavors. The depth of flavor isn’t easy to reproduce, which is why many tamarind paste substitutes have trouble hitting the sweet spot. However, there are a few options, like those listed on our food blog, which can be decent options should you need a quick substitute for your recipe.