Have you ever wondered what it is that makes Pad Thai so irresistible...besides its peanut-y goodness? It's Tamarind. Making your own tamarind paste is simple and inexpensive. Once you discover the wonderful flavour of tamarind you will be putting it in everything!
What is tamarind?
The tamarind tree produces pod-like fruit that has a brown, edible pulp inside with seeds. It's used in many cuisines around the world. Like nature's sour candy, it's both sweet, sour, and tangy and imparts zingy undertones to anything you add it to. It's an essential ingredient in Pad Thai sauce and is also used in many other curries, sauces, desserts, and drinks in Africa, South America, Mexico, The Caribbean, and South Asia. It's even an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce!
Why make tamarind paste?
Although you can buy tamarind paste or concentrate in jars (found in specialty Asian and Indian shops) making your own produces a fresher taste. You can have great results with the store-bought paste or concentrate, not to mention the convenience, but it's also harder to come by than the blocks of compressed pulp and not as fresh tasting. If you can't find compressed tamarind in the store you can order this one (affiliate link).
How long will it last?
Tamarind paste has a long shelf life. In the fridge, it will last 4-5 weeks and in the freezer for many months. Freeze in ice cube trays for convenience, one tablespoon portions to use in sauces, stews, marinades, etc.
How to make tamarind paste from a block of pulp
- Remove pulp from package, break up into pieces and place in a bowl with enough room to add water.
- Pour over 2 cups boiling water.
- Mash it with a spoon.
- Let soak for 20 minutes.
- Press it through a colander until only the fibers remain behind. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the colander from time to time. Discard the fibers and keep the smooth paste
- Yields approximately 2 cups of tamarind paste.
Recipes That Use Tamarind Paste
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- 1 16 oz block Tamarind pulp, seedless
- 2 cups boiling water
- Break up the block of tamarind and place in a bowl.
- Pour boiling water over tamarind, smash up a bit with a spoon and let soak for 20-30 minutes.
- Place in a colander and push pulp through with a spatula or spoon, scraping the bottom of the colander from time to time, until only the fibers remain and you have about 2 cups of thick tamarind paste.
- Store in glass or plastic containers in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks. Freeze in containers or ice cube trays for 6 months.
Cindy HIrsch says
The recipe I am trying to make calls for tamarind water. The store had Tamarind Mechua and there are no instructions on the package or the recipe how I would make tamarind water from this 8 oz block. From google searching am I right that it is taking this pulp and adding boiling water and then straining it? If so how much of this block and how much water do I add to have the right concentration to make the tamarind water? I only need 4 tbsp for the recipe so not sure if need to use the whole block to get the right concentration in the water.
Hi Cindy! I recommend using the whole block as per my instructions and freezing what you don't use. That way it's there when you need it. I'm not sure what you're making with the tamarind water so can't say how much you will need but start with 1/4-1/3 the amount of paste and add more to taste.
Cindy Hirsch says
Thank you so much! Very grateful for your response.
My pleasure! Hope you enjoy it. Tamarind is one of my favourite "secret" ingredients 😉
Lynne N Enzweiler says
Thank you for posting the directions about this unfamiliar ingredient. I came home from the Super HMart with a block of seedless Tamarind, but since I had only looked at the ingredient list and not read the entire blog or watched the live cooking video yet, I wasn't sure if I even had the right thing. There were no directions or explanations on the package. I love your blog--even though I am an experienced cook, I am trying new things with you and your detailed and clear directions are a godsend.
Andrea, apparently the Tamarind I purchased has the seed. Would I use the same promise for the seedy version?
Yes exactly the same. The seeds will get strained out when you press it through the sieve. Just might take a bit longer. 😀
Yes it's the same process. It just may take a bit longer to strain it with the seeds. Enjoy!