Just a spoon of this tamarind pulp is guaranteed to add oodles of flavor to your dish! Add it to your salad, soup or stew for that perfect sweet-sour balance. The best part? this recipe is free from preservatives.
Ingredients and instructions
It is so easy to make this one. Make it a part of your meal prep routine. Free from preservatives, tamarind puree is a handy condiment to have in the fridge for that instant sweet-sour hit!
The best part is that this recipe requires only 2 ingredients:
tamarind and water
I have made this extract recipe with the fruit that is deseeded and cleaned. Follow the same method if using pulp instead of the fruit.
- Remove the 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 ⅓ cup (50grams, approximately) of tamarind pods in 1 cup (200 - 230 ml) of hot water for 10 minutes. The tamarind will make the water amber colored almost instantly! 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!). As you squeeze and massage the pulp, you will notice that the amber colored water starts to thicken 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.
- Store in a clean, glass jar with an air tight lid in the refrigerator.
Do not discard the squeezed out pulp and fiber yet. You can use this to make tamarind water. (see notes below)
Notes and storage
- Recipe yield: This recipe will give you ¾ cup (150grams, approximately) of tamarind extract.
- Using tamarind paste instead of concentrate: When a recipe calls for tamarind paste and you only have tamarind concentrate at hand, just mix 1 part of tamarind concentrate with 2 parts of water and voila! tamarind paste is ready!
- Storage: 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?
Tamarind (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.
Tamarind Paste, Tamarind Concentrate, Tamarind Puree explained
It's all a bit confusing, I know. Let me explain.
Tamarind Concentrate is the cooked down, intensely flavored, thick and smooth version of the fruit. Sold in jars/tubs, tamarind concentrate usually has added preservatives. 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. Store 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.
Tamarind pulp vs paste
Tamarind pulp is the staring point of tamarind paste.
The tightly packed block of dried tamarind fruit, usually wrapped in a see-through plastic wrapper, that you buy from the store, is known as pulp. It usually has seeds and fibrous strings.
Pulp is not used in cooking directly. It is cleaned and then made into paste, puree or concentrate.
See the section above where I have explained in details the difference between tamarind concentrate, paste and puree.
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.
What is Tamarind Water?
Tamarind water is just the extra diluted version of the extract. There are two ways to make tamarind water:
Soak ⅓ cup (50grams, approximately) of tamarind in 2 cups (about 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.
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 ¼ cup (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 puree in cooking
Tamarind is quite a versatile natural sour ingredient that you can use in any recipe where the recipe calls for a date like, sweet-sour taste.
Having the tamarind puree in your pantry can be quite handy! It can be used directly in your dishes. To balance the sour, always add some natural sweetener such as jaggery or sugar for that sweet-sour flavor.
Add a dash of tamarind water as a substitute for vinegar in your stir fries.
Tamarind water is used to fill much loved Indian street food, paani puris.
Tamarind paste substitute
- Lime juice or juice of lemon.
- Pomegranate molasses can be a great substitute for tamarind and has similar flavor profile as that of tamarind.
- According to Nigella, a popular alternative is to use lime juice mixed with an equal quantity of light brown sugar.
Frequently Asked Questions
The tightly packed block of dried tamarind fruit, usually wrapped in a see-through plastic wrapper, that you buy from the store, 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.
Lime juice mixed with equal parts of sugar is a good substitute for tamarind pulp.
Pomegranate molasses is also a good substitute for tamarind and has a similar flavor profile.
I hope that you found this post useful and making tamarind pulp 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
Homemade Tamarind Pulp
- 1 large bowl
- 1 glass bottle (to store the pulp)
- 1 small bowl (to keep the pulp)
- 1 sieve (optional)
- ⅓ cup tamarind pods or pulp (deseeded, 50 grams, approximately)
- 1 cup hot water (200 - 230 ml)
Prep the tamarind
- Remove the tamarind pulp/ fruit from its wrapping. Although the tamarind that is packed in blocks is “cleaned” i.e. the seeds and fiber removed, I prefer to check to ensure that I have a clean pulp in hand.
- Soak the tamarind in hot water for 10 minutes. The tamarind will make the water amber colored almost instantly!The hot water will soften the dried tamarind and speed up the process of rehydrating the tamarind.⅓ cup tamarind pods or pulp, 1 cup hot water
- After 10 minutes, the tamarind will be cool enough to handle. Now squeeze the tamarind with your fingers. Do this for 2-3 minutes. The amber coloured water thickening and become pulpy.
- Scoop out the soft, pulpy flesh, fiber and seeds (if any), squeeze, and keep in a bowl. (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.
- Store the tamarind pulp in a clean glass jar, tightly sealed and in the refrigerator. This will stay good for about 2 weeks.
- This recipe yields, approximately, 150 grams of tamarind pulp.
- Tamarind pulp can be frozen too. A clever hack: Pour the extract (about 1 tablespoon each) into an ice cube tray and freeze.
- Do not discard the squeezed out pulp and fiber yet. You can use this to make tamarind water (see notes above)
- Tamarind Fruit or Pulp? I have used tamarind fruit here – one that is deseeded and (most of the) fibers removed. You may use tamarind pulp and follow the same method.
- Storage: Store the pulp in a clean glass jar with airtight lid and it will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If you want it to last longer, then cook the pulp for a few minutes to reduce it and make it more concentrated. Add 1 teaspoon of salt.