Anardana consists of dried pomegranate seeds and is excellent for bringing a tart flavor to dishes. This spice is most often used in the Middle East and India so you may see it listed among the ingredients in recipes from those regions. Anardana is not the easiest spice to find if you live in the West, so you may need to find a suitable alternative if you are making a dish that calls for it. Below are some of the best anardana substitutes.
Your best bet: Make anardana yourself
You can make anardana by dehydrating pomegranate seeds. The old-fashioned way to do this was to place the seeds on a roof for about 15 days until the moisture evaporated. You can try this method, but be aware that it is rarely used these days for sanitary reasons. It is difficult to dry the seeds thoroughly while also protecting them from dust.
The modern alternative is to use an oven. The best utensil in which to do it is a non-stick pan. Place the seeds on the pan in a low oven and roast them until they start to pop. After this point, you can cool them off and then grind them in a food processor. Refrigerate your homemade anardana until you are ready to use it.
A decent second choice: Tamarind
Tamarind is another ingredient that plays the same role as anardana in many Indian dishes. It also provides one of the main flavors in Worcestershire sauce. It pairs well with the flavors you are likely to find in food that requires anardana. Both tamarind and anardana offer a similar flavor profile to Indian dishes featuring different types of meat and fish. Tamarind differs from anardana because it is a legume, but it provides a very similar strong acidic note accompanied by a sweet fruity flavor.
Your options include using the pulp of the tamarind fruit or tamarind paste, which is the processed version. If you use whole tamarind fruit, this will necessitate opening the pods and separating the pulp from the seeds, which can take a little time. Tamarind pulp comes in jars and requires no extra work.
In a pinch: Mango powder
Mango powder is otherwise known as amchur; sometimes it is spelled amchoor. It is a dehydrated fruit, just like anardana. It consists of dried and powdered unripe mangoes. Like anardana, mango powder offers a sour flavor along with a fruity note in the background. It is best known for providing a key part of chaat masala’s flavor profile.
You use it in the same way you would use anardana since the traditional applications for mango powder are like those for anardana. It is an ingredient in chutney recipes and recipes for different curries. Like anardana, it shows up mostly in South Asian dishes but you can use it in Western dishes as well.
Amla powder is another South Asian spice that provides sourness. It is not fruity like anardana but should still deliver a souring effect. Amla powder is quite bitter besides being sour, so you may need to add a fruity element to compensate.
Sumac is a classic Middle Eastern souring agent that shows up in the za’atar spice blend. Besides its tartness, sumac brings a citrus flavor that many describe as lemony. Unlike the other anardana alternatives above, it is intensely red and adds a dramatic burst of color to your food.