What is Tamarind / Imli?
Tamarind or Imli (in Hindi) is the sticky, sour dark brown, tropical fruit that grows in a pod on a tree.
When unripe, the hard outer shell - which encases the dark brown flesh, seeds and fiber, is greenish - brown in colour. The fruit inside is sharp, intensely tart in taste.
When ripe, the shell becomes evenly brown in colour. The flesh inside, while still distinctively tart in flavour, develops a sweet, date-like aroma.
Tamarind is used widely in Indian, South East Asian and Latin American cooking. It is delicious and healthy too - tamarind is high in iron, magnesium and phosphorous
Do you love cooking with Tamarind? Show me your favourite tamarind based recipes on Instagram and Facebook
What is Tamarind Concentrate, Tamarind Paste, Tamarind Puree?
Tamarind Concentrate is the cooked down, intensely flavoured, thick and smooth version of the fruit. Sold in jars/tubs, tamarind concentrate usually has preservatives added to it. Although quite convenient, I find that the concentrate tastes quite fake, has an after taste that I am not very fond of and it certainly lacks freshness in taste.
Tamarind Paste or Puree is the slightly diluted, flowy form of tamarind concentrate. Paste, Puree and Concentrate are terms that are used interchangeably. Shop bought tamarind paste can be used straightaway in your dish, but because it is already diluted and the dilution varies from brand to brand, I recommend that you taste test and add tamarind little by little till you get the level of sourness that you like.
Can I use tamarind paste instead of concentrate?
Yes, absolutely! When a recipe calls for tamarind paste and you only have tamarind concentrate at hand, just mix 1 part of concentrate with 2 parts of water and voila! tamarind paste is ready!
Tamarind pulp vs paste
The tightly packed block of dried tamarind fruit, usually wrapped in a see-through plastic wrapper, that you buy from the shop, is also referred to as Tamarind Pulp. It contains the seeds and fibrous parts of the tamarind. Usually tamarind pulp is not used in cooking directly - it is made into an extract or concentrate or paste and then used in cooking. Therefore, tamarind paste is extracted from tamarind pulp.
Homemade Tamarind Extract or Imli Pulp from pods - step by step
It is so easy to make it, make it a part of your meal prep routine! Free from preservatives, this extract is a handy little thing to have in the fridge to add oomph to a dish!
The best part is that it requires only 2 ingredients - tamarind and water.
Recipe yield: This recipe will give you 150g (approximately) of the extract.
I have made this recipe with the fruit that is deseeded and cleaned. You can use the same method to for tamarind pulp.
- Remove the tamarind pulp or fruit from its wrapping and remove any fibers and seeds. Although the pulp that is packed in blocks is "cleaned" i.e. the seeds and fiber removed, I prefer to double check to ensure that I have a clean pulp in hand.
- Soak 50g of tamarind in 200 ml of hot water for 10 minutes. The hot water softens the dried fruit and speeds up the process of rehydrating it.
- After 10 minutes, the tamarind will be cool enough to handle. Now squeeze it with your fingers. Do this for 2-3 minutes (set a timer!). You will see that the amber coloured water thickening and become pulpy.
- Scoop out the soft, pulpy flesh, fiber and seeds (if any), squeeze, and keep it aside (see Video). Repeat this process till you have removed most of the bits out. It is ok to have some pulpy bits (but not the fiber) in the extract. However, if you prefer the extract to be smooth, then pass it through a sieve.
- Do not discard the squeezed out pulp and fiber yet. You can use this to make tamarind water. (See notes below)
- Store the extract in a glass jar and keep it in the fridge. This will stay good for up to 2 weeks.
Do you, like me prefer making tamarind extract at home? Fresh and free of preservatives? Do let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
How to use tamarind extract in cooking?
Having the extract of tamarind in your pantry can be quite handy! It can be used directly in your dishes. Because it is sour, when using tamarind in cooking add some sweetener - either jaggery or sugar - to give a lovely, balanced, sweet-sour flavour.
- curries, gravies and stir fries
- make sauce or marinade
- use as a salad dressing
How to store the extract?
- Store it in a clean, glass bottle with a tight lid in the fridge. It will stay good for up to 2 weeks. You may have to give it stir before using - it tends to sediment.
- You can freeze this as well. A clever hack: Pour the extract into ice cubes tray - 1 tablespoon per cube - and freeze them. Add the frozen tamarind cubes directly to your cooking.
What is Tamarind Water?
Tamarind water is just the extra diluted version of the extract. There are two ways to make tamarind water:
- From scratch with pulp: Soak 50g of tamarind in 400 ml of hot water i.e. the quantity of water is double that of what you had used to make the extract. The rest of the process is the same as that for making the extract. What you will have is a thinner, watery version of the extract.
2. From the squeezed out pulpy bits and fibre: After you have made the extract, do not discard the pulp and fiber yet. You can make tamarind water with it. Add another 50 - 70 ml of warm water to this pulp and squeeze it with your fingers for 1 -2 minutes. Strain, remove and discard the pulp and fiber. Voila! What you have now is Tamarind Water.
Using Tamarind Water in cooking: Use it in those dishes which call for tamarind to be added to a broth/ sauce or diluted version of tamarind.
- Rasam - Indian tamarind soup;
- Broths and Stews
- The flavoured water that is used to fill much loved Indian street food, paani puris.
- Make a drinks and beverages
Have you made this recipe? I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and rating below. This will make me super happy and motivate me to create more good content for you. Thank you xx Padma
Substitutes for tamarind paste
Don't have tamarind paste? Do not like its taste? No worries! There are some other souring agents that you can use to bring sour taste in your cooking - lemon or limes and pomegranates being two of them. Read this article of mine to know more about the Natural Souring Agents that I use in my cooking.
According to Nigella, a popular alternative is to use lime juice mixed with an equal quantity of light brown sugar.
Nutrition Values (approximate) of Tamarind Extract
|Serving size: tablespoon|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 3.1g||1%|
|Dietary Fiber 0.3g||1%|
|Total Sugars 2.9g|
|Vitamin D 0mcg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet.|
Recipe Card + Video
I hope that you find this article useful and making tamarind extract does not seem as daunting as it sounds! If you have enjoyed reading this, do let me know by way of comments. Hearing from you will make me super happy and motivate me to create more good content for you. Thank you and see you in my next post! xx, Padma