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How To Make Tamarind Paste

Everything you need to know about tamarind and how tamarind paste is made from fruit pods.  Use in curries, pad thai and your other recipes to perfectly balance sweet and sour.  Learn how to store your tamarind paste too.  Embrace the tamarind, your best secret ingredient you didn’t know you needed.

A bag of tamarind pods on the counter.

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Discovery is a great passion of mine.  I love to find cozy nooks, unusual bookstores before they all went out of business and international markets.  The mysterious ingredients always feed my curiosity.

I adore second hand stores and antiques stores too.  Besides admiring vintage and antique items from bygone days, you just never know what you are going to discover.

The first time I saw tamarind in any form was along the Mexican Border.  Somebody was selling tamarind suckers.  I loved the fruity tartness of it.

It wasn’t until somebody who thought I knew how to cook Indian food gifted me a block of tamarind.  I had no idea what to do with it or how to prepare it so it stayed in the bottom of my refrigerator for a very long time.  It never seemed to go bad, there wasn’t any furry mold on it.  I eventually tossed it out since I had no idea what I could do with it.  This was BEFORE the internet.  I know, I know…

Fear not my intrepid community, there is no big mystery here.  We are going to de-construct tamarind paste together.


What is tamarind?

Tamarind is a shrub that grows very tall and produces fruity pods.  These pods have a hard shell covering a fibrous and seedy pod.

Tamarind is good for you too.  Tamarind is high in iron, magnesium and phosphorous.

Tamarind originates in Africa but has spread effectively throughout Arabia and India.  Later, in the 16th century, settlers brought tamarind to Mexico where the population quickly incorporated the fruit into their cuisine.  It is a tropical shrub so, sorry my fellow Utahn’s.

As far as the wood of the shrub goes, it is beautiful when infected with a mold.  Spalted tamarind is one of my favorite woods that Mr. Craftiness works with.


How to make tamarind paste from pods?

It is somewhat a laborious task but don’t fret, it’s great to do with others.  Have you ever seen a group of women sit together and assemble tamales?  It’s like a coffee klatch or Scandinavian Fika where a group of women congregate and kvetch or share dreams.  Organize your own tamarind Fika, and make enough tamarind paste to last a year.  In fact, when you do this, take a pic of your group and post on Instagram #TamarindFika.  This could be fun!  Plus, you will have enough tamarind paste for a year!

First you crush the hard shell and peel with your fingers.  Toss out the shell.

Place the fruity pods without the shell in a large bowl.  Barely cover these pods with water for 20-30 minutes.

Next, after washing your hands, massage this bowl of tamarind and work the fruit away from the seeds and fibers with your hands.  Keep working the fruit away from the seeds.  The more you massage the pods, the higher the yield.

Place this fruity mess in a sieve over a bowl and press.  You want to press the pulp through the sieve and leave the seeds and fibers behind.

Pour the sieved pulp into ice cube trays and freeze.  Once solid, place the tamarind cubes in a freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to a year.


Tips for using tamarind paste

How to use tamarind paste in recipes

Since tamarind is used in Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia and Mexico, it goes surprisingly well with the cuisines of those areas.  Just remember that it give a sweetish, sourness to any dish as an add-in ingredient.  It is almost never the star of a recipe but very well could be.  It’s molasses like flavor makes this versatile ingredient a big winner in my book.  Explore and go wild with these amazing suggestions.

  • add to any curry, it’s made for curry
  • soups, chili
  • sauces and marinades
  • make a dessert glaze when added to powdered sugar and milk in a classic sugar glaze
  • add some to a whiskey cocktail, shoot.  Why not?

How to preserve tamarind paste

This is simple and you probably do this already with tomato paste or fresh herbs.

Pour into ice cube trays and freeze until solid.  When solid, dump into a freezer bag, squeeze the air out and freeze for up to a year.  Simple.


How to make tamarind paste from a block

You can skip the pesky chore of shelling tamarind pods buy a block of tamarind paste in an Asian or Indian market and just soak in warm water.  Press the mixture through a sieve after massaging it.  Done.


Substitutions for tamarind paste

I like to use fresh squeezed lime juice and some brown sugar in equal parts as a substitute.  The lime adds the sour and the brown sugar adds the sweetness with a hint of molasses flavor.

How to find tamarind and tamarind paste

I found tamarind pods in a Mexican market in Orem, Utah.  I have seen tamarind blocks in both Southeast Asian markets and Indian markets.  Keep your eyes open and I am confident you will find this little hidden gem you didn’t know you needed.

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Step by step pictures of making tamarind paste


Tamarind pods shelled and ready for soaking.

The first step is to peel the hard shell from the fruit pod.

A peeled tamarind pod on the left and and un-peeled tamarind pod on a cutting board.

The tamarind fruit shelled and un-shelled.

Tamarind pods soaking in water.

The second step to making tamarind paste is to soak the shelled pods in water.

Massaging tamarind fruit, separating the seed from the fibers.

Massage the fruit after soaking in water for 20 minutes.  The seeds and fibers will separate from the fruit.

Tamarind in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl.

Place the pulp with the seeds and fibers in a mesh strainer over a bowl and press the fruit through the strainer.  The paste will collect in the bowl underneath and the seeds and tough fibers will be left behind.

A bowl with the seeds and tough fibers.

Discard the seeds and tough fibers.

A measuring cup of tamarind paste.

I was able to make about 2 1/2 cups of tamarind paste from that large bag of pods.

A freezer bag full of tamarind paste ice cubes.

Place tamarind paste in ice cube trays and freeze.  Then place tamarind paste cubes in a freezer bag and keep in the freezer.  A years worth of tamarind paste is ready to go for all of your delicious recipes.

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How to make tamarind Paste.

Tamarind Paste Recipe

Yield: 2.5 cups
Prep Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour

Learn how to make, store and use tamarind paste.

Ingredients

  • Tamarind pods
  • water

Instructions

  1. Crush and peel and the hard shell from the tamarind pods.
  2. Place peeled tamarind pods in a largebowl.  Add enough water to cover slightly in order to soften the fruit, about 30 minutes, drain.
  3. Massage the fruit vigorously in order to separate the seeds and tough fibers from the fruit.
  4. Place everything in a mesh strainer over a bowl and press the softened fruit through.  The fruit pulp in the bowl is your tamarind paste.
  5. Pour tamarind paste into ice cube trays and freeze.  When frozen solid, place in a freezer bag and store in the freezer.  These will last up to a year.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 20 Serving Size: 3 Tbs
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 14Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 0gSugar: 2gProtein: 0g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

ruth baker

Thursday 4th of February 2021

Hi Tina

I didn't have many pods but got about a small cup of paste. It is really lovely but quite thin and mild Maybe I added too much water but did barely cover them Anyway, Im going to freeze it. As it is quite mild do you think I should use it all in one go for a recipe ?

Tina

Thursday 4th of February 2021

Hi Ruth, if you think it's too thin add it toward the end of you dish half at a time and taste it if you are not sure. I hope it works for you. Thank you so much for the feedback!

Leah

Monday 4th of May 2020

Thank you! I made beautiful tasty tamarind paste today!

Tina

Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Yay! I am so glad to hear it Leah:). It's so easy to make, except maybe peeling the shells off. I keep mine in the freezer. Do you have any recipe plans for it?

uncompahgregal

Thursday 12th of December 2019

If you have ever tasted A-1 steak sauce, you've tasted tamarind (which, to me, is the main flavor). Also, when I lived in the Caribbean, there was a tamarind tree ( 35+ feet high) outside of my office and I spent many a break having a snack of the pods. The Jamaicans roll the pulp covered seeds in light brown sugar and eat as a treat, and I've had Mexican style tamarindo candy which has a slight amount of heat from chili powder. It's yummy either way!

Tina

Wednesday 18th of December 2019

That sounds amazing about living in the Caribbean and snacking on this. I have tried Tamarindo candy too in Mexico. I shared this with my daughter, I think I liked it more than she did. I like that sweet, sour, spicy thing going on. I don't think I knew tamarind is in A-1 (which I love!). This is good info, thank you so much!

Alyssa

Thursday 28th of March 2019

Tina, thank you very much! I really liked the recipe, I took it to my recipe book)

Gigis

Saturday 18th of August 2018

Thank you so much for these great instructions. I live in a small SW Texas town that is 3 hours away from any decent sized city. I can find the pods easily and love asian food so now I can make my own Tamarind paste without ordering online! I grow my own Birds eye chili's, lemon grass, Thai basil etc. on my patio and I really like having this ingredient that will now be easily available to me! Thanks for the freezer tip I do that alot but I'm not sure if I would have thought about doing that for this recipe.

Tina

Saturday 18th of August 2018

I'm so glad this is helpful to you. I live in an interesting place too. I just planted a lemon grass in a pot. I'm going to try to over-winter it here, crossing my fingers. Good luck and keep on cooking those magnificent meals:)

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