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 this spice 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 below.
Table of Contents
- Your best bet: Lemon (or lime juice) and sugar
- A decent second choice: Mango powder
- In a pinch: Pomegranate molasses
- Other alternatives
- Must-read related posts
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. A good substitute is to replicate this is with a sour element such as lemon or lime juice, mixed with sugar. Brown sugar is the best option, but white sugar works too. 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 sour flavor. 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 powder 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% more mango powder to your dish than the amount required for tamarind. If your dish requires a tablespoon of tamarind, you will need to use 1 ½ tablespoons 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 if you’re looking for a tamarind paste substitute. Make a paste with it by adding an equal amount of water. For 1 ½ teaspoons mango powder, add 1 ½ teaspoons water.
–> Learn More: What’s A Good Tamarind Paste Substitute?
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 suitable substitute for tamarind. Use exactly the same amount of pomegranate molasses that your recipe shows 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 provide sourness, along with the fruitiness and depth of flavor, that tamarind brings to dishes. Place the raisins, prunes, or other dried fruit into a food processor along with citrus juice or vinegar. Then puree them to your desired consistency. Use the resulting mixture just as you would use tamarind.