Tamarind gives food a fruity, tart flavor with a hint of sweetness. It is most commonly sold as a paste or as a syrup. In either case, it is essential for giving Southeastern Asian dishes an authentic depth of flavor. It can be hard to find if you do not live near an Asian grocery. If you cannot find this flavoring or need some right now, take a look at some of the best tamarind substitutes.
Your best bet: Lemon or lime juice and sugar
Tamarind’s flavor profile is a mixture of sweet and sour, with the balance leaning towards the sour. The best way to replicate this is with a sour element such as lemon or lime juice, mixed with sugar. Lemon and lime juice are relatively easy to find and their flavors pair well with most of the flavors in dishes that require tamarind.
While tamarind’s acidity comes from tartaric acid, the acidity found in citrus fruit comes from citric acid. Both can provide the required sourness. If you do not have lemon or lime juice on hand, you can use vinegar as your source of acidity. If you use vinegar, avoid strongly flavored types like balsamic vinegar.
To make this substitute, combine equal parts sugar and lemon or lime juice. Use the same amount of the mixture that your recipe requires for tamarind.
A decent second choice: Mango powder
Mango powder is also known as amchur or amchoor and has a similar flavor to tamarind in that both are tart and slightly sweet. It is made from dried unripe mangos that are ground into a powder. Mango powder is rarely ever used outside of Indian cuisine, so the first place to look will be an Indian grocery store.
There are two things to keep in mind if you use mango powder in place of tamarind. The first is that you will need to use more of it to get the same level of tartness. Add 50 percent more mango powder to your dish than the amount required for tamarind. If your dish requires a teaspoon of tamarind, you will need to use 1 ½ teaspoons of mango powder. The second thing is that mango powder adds no moisture to the dish, which means that you may need to compensate by adding more liquid. Make a paste with it by adding an equal amount of water. For 1 ½ teaspoons mango powder, add 1 ½ teaspoons water.
In a pinch: Pomegranate molasses
Pomegranate molasses consists of pomegranate juice that has been reduced to a thick, concentrated syrup. It is used in many Middle Eastern dishes and brings a deeper and more complex acidity than that provided by lemon juice. Note that you can opt for versions that have sugar or versions without it. In either case, it is not very sweet and that makes it a good substitute for tamarind. Use exactly the same amount of pomegranate molasses that your recipe indicates for tamarind.
Worcestershire sauce often contains tamarind, which is what provides the sauce with its tangy flavor. Look for brands that list tamarind among the ingredients. Use exactly the same amount of Worcestershire sauce that your recipe requires for tamarind.
Dried fruits combined with lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar can provide acidity along with the fruitiness and depth of flavor that tamarind brings to dishes. Place raisins, prunes or other dried fruit into a blender or food processor along with citrus juice or vinegar and puree them. Use the resulting mixture just as you would use tamarind.