Asian food is so versatile, don’t you think? There are so many cuisines to choose from. Although, this time, when I mention Asian food, I am focusing more on the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They all have one ingredient in common, though. It’s tamarind paste!
So are you willing to try and cook any of these cuisines? I am sure you are! But if you decide to cook and are all out of the vital tamarind paste, there is no need to worry. Today’s article will help you find the best substitutes for tamarind paste.
What are the best substitutes for tamarind paste? They may sound unconventional, but the best tamarind paste substitutes are Worcestershire sauce, pomegranate molasses, mango chutney, kokum, and amchur powder.
Before I start talking about the substitutes, let me tell you a little more about tamarind paste.
Quick Peek: Tamarind Paste
This section will help with information about tamarind paste along with its flavor and texture profile, uses, and nutritional values.
What Is Tamarind Paste?
As you must have guessed, tamarind paste is made from the tamarind fruit. However, what is tamarind in the first place? Tamarind is a fruit originally from tropical Africa.
The tamarind tree produces pod-like fruits that contain a slightly sweet but mostly tangy-tasting pulp. This pulp is further boiled until it softens. The soft pulp is passed through a strainer to remove all the excess fruit and shells.
This pulp is then further cooked to form a thick paste. Mostly manufactured in bulk, it is available in most Asian stores under various brand names.
Describing Tamarind Paste: Flavor And Texture
As tamarind paste is in a paste form, it usually has a smooth texture. The fruit itself has a texture similar to that of a pear. It is chewy and has a grainy texture.
As far as taste goes, tamarind is extremely sour with a few notes of sweetness. Since tamarind paste usually does not have any flavorings added to it, it also has an extremely sour yet slightly sweet taste.
Uses Of Tamarind Paste
Tamarind paste is mostly used to add sour notes to food. It is used widely in tropical regions of India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It is also quite a popular ingredient in Africa and the Caribbean. It goes very well with chicken and seafood and in India is used mostly for vegetarian cooking.
It is used to add sourness to the famous south Indian lentil soup- sambar. Moreover, it is also used to make tamarind chutney which adds a lot of flavor to most food. It goes well in stews and is used for glazing various meats.
Tamarind Paste On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope
Tamarind itself is used for various medicinal purposes. So that establishes the fact that tamarind is definitely good for health. When I talk about paste, it has vital nutrients like vitamin B1 and B3 along with potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron.
However, tamarind paste is usually used in very small quantities. So it does not really provide any of its health benefits per se when consumed. Tamarind is, however, associated with improving tissue health, brain health, and bone health.
Best Tamarind Paste Substitutes
Given below is a list of the various ingredients you can use as a substitute for tamarind paste.
Worcestershire sauce is a dark brown liquid condiment from the United Kingdom. It has a sour and umami flavor. Some brands of Worcestershire sauce actually use tamarind paste as a base to add sour flavor. That itself makes it a great substitute for tamarind paste.
Worcestershire sauce, however, needs to be combined with a few other ingredients to make it a great substitute for tamarind paste. Combine the Worcestershire sauce with some water, sugar, lemon juice, and a hefty amount of tomato paste. This is surely going to work wonderfully as a substitute for tamarind paste.
Here’s the recipe for some grilled hanger steak using Worcestershire sauce for you. Do give it a try!
This definitely may sound unconventional, but it works! Pomegranate naturally has a sweet and sour taste. Pomegranate molasses is a thick, dark syrup made by reducing pomegranate juice.
Since it is concentrated, pomegranate molasses has a sweet and sour flavor, much like tamarind paste. This makes it a great substitute, especially in Asian cuisine. You can use the same amount of pomegranate molasses as tamarind paste in any recipe. Here is a list of best pomegranate molasses substitutes in case you’re out of it.
3. Lime Juice With Brown Sugar
Probably the best combination of sweet and sour! Moreover, this combination is the most easily available substitute for tamarind paste. Lime juice provides a sour, tart taste, while brown sugar gives it the sweetness.
The combination of lime juice with brown sugar might not taste exactly like tamarind paste. However, when used as a substitute in any recipe, you can hardly tell the difference! Use the same quantity of this mixture as the amount of tamarind paste needed in a recipe.
4. Dried Fruit
Combining dried fruit with lemon juice works as a great tamarind paste substitute. When I talk about dried fruit, the ones that work best are dates, prunes, and apricots. These particularly dried fruits work better when formed into a paste and have a naturally sweet taste.
The key to making this paste is to soak the dried fruits in lemon juice. Let the fruits soak for 20-30 minutes, and then pulverize them. This paste will have a sweet and sour taste. Use it in the same quantity as tamarind paste in any recipe.
You can use any type of vinegar you have at home. However, rice vinegar and white vinegar would work the best.
Combine the vinegar with some brown sugar. This will produce a mixture that has the right balance of acidity and sweetness, making it a great substitute for tamarind paste.
The only problem with this mixture, however, is that it has a thin consistency. However, you can definitely adjust it with some corn flour. Use the same amount of this mixture as the amount of tamarind paste in a recipe. Here’s the recipe for smoked pork loin made with vinegar.
6. Amchur Powder
Amchur powder is a dry powder made with unripe mangoes. It is a very popular spice in India. It has a sour taste, making it a great substitute for tamarind paste.
Since it is a dry powder, you can add it as it is to your food, and it will give the same sour flavor as tamarind paste. However, if you would still like to adjust the consistency a little bit, you can add some water to it.
Mango chutney is thick and has a similar sour taste to tamarind paste. This makes it a great tamarind paste substitute.
One thing to remember, however, with mango chutney is that some brands might have a sweeter-tasting mango chutney. So if the one you have turns out to be too sweet, you can adjust the taste by adding some lime or any other citrus juice.
Mango chutney also often has chunks of mango in it. You can blend the chutney in a blender to get a smooth consistency. Here is a recipe for mango chutney.
Kokum is a fruit with a great amount of natural acidity. This fruit is used a lot in Indian cuisine, quite a lot of times as a substitute for tamarind paste. This itself proves that it makes a great substitute for tamarind paste.
Kokum, just like dry tamarind, has to be soaked in water before use. Once it becomes soft, you can add the mixture to any recipe to get a sour taste. However, be careful about how much you add as per your personal taste preference.
After going through the whole article, I know you might still have doubts about which substitute would work best. For this reason, I have broken it down further as per suitability, availability, and flavor profile.
Most Suitable: The most suitable substitute for tamarind chutney would be pomegranate molasses, considering its naturally sweet and sour flavor.
Easily Available: The substitute most easily available would be lime juice and brown sugar.
Best Flavor Profile: Kokum would give the best flavor profile when used as a substitute for tamarind paste.
I hope this article has helped you learn about tamarind paste and all its substitutes. Tamarind paste is an extremely versatile ingredient to work with. You can use it in various Asian dishes for sure. However, if you are feeling experimental, you can use it in absolutely any recipe.
Tamarind paste’s uses should not be limited to adding to curries or basting. It can even be added to salad dressings to amp up their flavor. So the next time you are in the mood to experiment in the kitchen, definitely do consider using tamarind paste!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is tamarind paste made of?
Tamarind paste is made with tamarind fruit.
What does tamarind paste taste like?
Tamarind paste mainly has a sour taste, with a hint of sweetness.
Is tamarind good for health?
Yes, tamarind has many health benefits.
Is tamarind paste and sauce the same?
No, they are actually different. However, tamarind paste is the base in tamarind sauce.