Tamarind paste is often used in cooking Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indian dishes. It is known for its distinct sweet and sour flavor with a hint of citrus.
Popular dishes beef Rendang, crab curry, and Pad Thai are not complete without tamarind paste. It is typically used in hot and spicy curry since its sour flavor provides a balance.
It happens sometimes that you run out of stock of some important ingredients in your pantry. When you want to cook curry, but you don’t have tamarind paste, there are other ingredients you can use.
- Brown Sugar and Vinegar
- Lime Juice and Brown Sugar
- Pomegranate Molasses
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Amchur Powder
- Lemon Juice and Dried Fruit
- Mango Chutney
- Tamarind Pulp/Sauce
Before we delve into the potential alternatives, let’s understand a bit more about the origins of this popular asian dish ingredient.
12 Best Substitute For Tamarind Paste
Tamarind paste is made from the fruit or pods of a tamarind tree. It is a hardwood tree native to Africa but is now grown in Asia and Mexico.
The dark reddish-brown fruit inside the large brown pods is removed and separated from the seeds.
You can easily find tamarind paste along the Asian aisle of a local supermarket or an Asian specialty store.
If you want to make your own tamarind paste, you can, as dried pods are available in most Asian stores. Remove the fruit and simmer in ¼ cup of water for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat then mash the fruit and strain the liquid. Press the fruit through a sieve to get as much pulp as possible. You can now use your tamarind paste.
The most commonly used substitute is a combination of sugar and vinegar. It might be the most ideal replacement because sugar and vinegar are always available and easy to find.
Brown Sugar And Vinegar
Rice vinegar is the ideal choice since it helps brighten the flavors of your meals. Brown sugar is added to balance the saltiness. Some cooks add toasted sesame seed soil, particularly in Chinese stir-fry dishes for added flavor.
Ideally, combine 1 part of rice vinegar and 1 part of brown sugar for every 1 part of tamarind paste in the recipe.
Some cooks recommend apple cider vinegar for its tangy and sour flavor. It is best used when cooking meat dishes.
Lime Juice and Brown Sugar
Lime juice makes a good substitute for tamarind paste because it has the same sour and tart flavors. Adding brown sugar gives lime juice a hint of sweetness, which is the flavor profile of tamarind paste. Though you won’t get exactly the same flavor profile, in most dishes, it is hardly noticeable.
Lime juice with brown sugar enhances the flavor of sweet and savory dishes. If you are going to make a salad dressing, dissolve the brown sugar first in a cold mixture before adding lime juice.
Use equal parts of lime juice and brown sugar. The ideal ratio is 1 tablespoon of lime juice and sugar mixture for every 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste.
Another ideal replacement for tamarind paste is pomegranate molasses. The sweet and sour flavors of the pomegranate mimic the flavor profile of tamarind paste. Molasses is made from reducing pomegranate juice until you have a thick syrup. You may or may not add sugar.
The combination of sweet, tangy, and sour flavors of pomegranate molasses makes it ideal for sweet and savory dishes. They go well with meat, poultry, and lamb. You can also use it to make barbecue sauce, marinade, glaze, and salad dressing.
The ideal ratio of pomegranate molasses and tamarind paste is 1:1.
You can easily find Worcestershire sauce in your local grocery stores or supermarkets. It is also an ideal substitute for tamarind paste.
However, to get the complex flavor profile of tamarind paste, you have to mix Worcestershire sauce with other ingredients:
What You Need:
- 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
- ½ cup of tomato paste
Mix the above ingredients. The ideal ratio for this Worcestershire mixture and tamarind paste is 1:1. You can replace lemon juice with lime juice or apple cider vinegar. (https://www.foodchamps.org/tamarind-paste-substitute/)
Marmalade is traditionally made by extracting the juice and cutting the peel of citrus fruit, then boiled in water with sugar. The result is a jelly version of the fruit of your choice. Marmalade almost has the same flavor profile as tamarind paste. It has a distinct sour flavor with a hint of astringency.
Tamarind paste and marmalade have the same consistency, making them an ideal replacement for tamarind paste. It is best used in making sauces and salad dressings.
The ideal ratio of marmalade and tamarind paste is 1:1.
Amchur powder is derived from unripe mangoes and is popularly used in India. To make a paste that is similar to the texture of tamarind paste, mix amchur powder with water. Make sure you mix equal parts of each.
Amchur powder interacts with other ingredients as tamarind paste does. [Source]
Its combination of acidic, fruity, and sour flavors makes amchur powder an ideal substitute for tamarind paste. Its richness and aromatic flavor make it the best substitute for tamarind paste when cooking Indian dishes.
The ideal ratio between amchur powder paste and tamarind paste is 1:1.
Lemon Juice and Dried Fruit
You can combine equal parts of chopped apricots, dates, and prunes with lemon and water to make a tamarind paste substitute. Simply simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes before you strain the water out. Put in a blender to make dried fruits and lemon juice paste.
You can also use raisins in case apricots, dates, and prunes are not available.
You may produce a similar texture with tamarind, but the flavor profile won’t be as vibrant as that of tamarind.
The ideal ratio of the mixture and tamarind paste is 1:1.
Mango chutney has the same consistency as tamarind paste, making it a good alternative to use in your recipes. It is as thick and almost has the same flavor profile. If mango chutney is too sweet for your taste, you can simply add a few drops of lime or lemon juice to balance the flavor.
It is a popular condiment in India and has different variations. Mango chutney can be eaten as an appetizer or side dish for your favorite Asian or Indian dishes. You can also add it to your toast with cheese for a light snack.
You can buy mango chutney in a jar, though, it is not readily available in most supermarkets. But you can also make your own. You’ll need ripe mangoes, vinegar or lemon juice, sugar, salt, and your choice of spices. You may add chopped onions to make it more complex.
DIY Tamarind Pulp/Sauce
If you have time to make your own tamarind sauce, you can do so using just a few ingredients that are easy to find.
What You Need:
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup of tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
You can mix all the above ingredients in a blender until you get the same consistency as tamarind paste. If lemon juice is unavailable, replace it with apple cider vinegar or lime juice.
It is ideal to use freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice rather than buying the bottled variety, so you can get a better sour flavor.
Add or cut down on the brown sugar as needed. The taste and the acidity will depend on your preference, so taste as you go through the process.
Kokum is a native of India; however, it is quite rare and difficult to get hold of, even in India. It is another ideal alternative to tamarind paste.
Kokum is soaked in water, and then crushed to make a paste. The seeds are removed before straining the mixture to remove excess water.
This fruit provides the same depth of flavor, but it is more exotic and more expensive.
Kachri is another exotic fruit from India. Its appearance is like a small watermelon and is a relative of cucumbers. It is tangy with hints of tartness, making it a good tamarind paste substitute.
However, once the kachri powder has been opened, it loses its tangy flavor in a few days and just becomes a tart.
Spiced Up Ketchup
If you look at a Pad Thai recipe, you’ll find ketchup as one of its ingredients since most North American recipes use it to replace tamarind paste.
Being easy to find and most households have a bottle in their pantries, it makes a convenient replacement for tamarind paste.
You only need to spice regular ketchup to replace tamarind paste. Mix 1 tablespoon of ketchup with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 2 teaspoons of oyster sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce.
The mixture will be a combination of sweet, salty, sour, and savory flavors. The ideal ratio is 1 tablespoon of this spiced-up ketchup mixture for every 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste.
Tamarind Paste Substitute Related FAQs
Does tamarind paste taste the same as the concentrated variety?
Tamarind paste and tamarind concentrate have similar flavor profiles, though the concentrated variety is less fruity. Tamarind concentrate has a more intense color than tamarind paste.
The unique flavor profile of tamarind paste makes it ideal to use in cooking authentic Asian and Indian dishes. However, it doesn’t mean that you cannot replicate it or use a substitute, especially if you can’t find tamarind paste in your local grocery store or supermarket.
The idea is to use substitutes that have the same flavor profile as tamarind paste. There are Asian dishes that need authentic sweet and sour flavor profiles, and the key is to find the right ingredients that can bring out the best in your dishes, whether you use real tamarind paste or its substitute.
Can I use tamarind concentrate as a substitute for tamarind paste for cooking?
Tamarind concentrate is also known as tamarind sauce, and yes, you can use it as a substitute for tamarind paste in cooking. The ideal ratio is 1:2 of tamarind concentrate to water.
For every teaspoon of tamarind concentrate, you should add two teaspoons of water to the recipe.
If I don’t have tamarind concentrate, is there another substitute that I can use?
The mixture of lime juice and brown sugar makes a good substitute for tamarind concentrate. You just have to make some adjustments. First, you need to double the amount of lime juice. Instead of having a 1:1 ratio of lime juice and sugar, change it to a 2:1 ratio.
Take note that the tamarind concentrate has a richer flavor and is more potent than tamarind paste. You can use any of the substitutes we mentioned in this article. You can increase the acidity level by adding more lime juice, lemon juice, or vinegar if you want to make a more concentrated flavor.