How to Make Tamarind Paste - An Easy Guide

Wednesday 11 May 2022


Tamarind paste is a flavoring made from tamarind, a dark, sticky, sour fruit that comes in pods and grows in trees. It is a signature ingredient often used in Thai, South Asian, Caribbean and Mexican cuisine.

Best used in curries, seafood dishes, and pad thai to name a few, tamarind paste is the secret to get that tangy deliciousness for dishes, desserts, or even candies.

You can definitely get a store-bought jar of tamarind paste anytime you hope to try out some unique recipes. However, nothing beats homemade ones. Making your own tamarind paste will not only be a rewarding feat as a cook but it will also cater to your palate much better.

In some cases where you can’t have either store-bought product or find the right ingredients, you can also rely on some alternatives. While it is hard to replicate the exact flavor of tamarind paste, there are a few substitutes that taste just as good and work just as well for your recipes.

Going back, let’s help you out in making your own tamarind paste so you can get cooking.

How to make tamarind paste using pulp blocks:

For an easier route to your homemade paste, you can use tamarind pulp that comes in blocks. These tamarind blocks are simply compressed flesh from a number of tamarind pods with the skin and seeds removed. Even so, most of these blocks contain rough fiber that are inedible so it’s usually removed in the process of cooking.

  1. Remove the tamarind pulp block from its package and break it into smaller pieces.

  2. Pour over 2 cups of boiling water or enough to cover the pieces.

  3. Soak for 20-30 minutes.

  4. As the block gets soft, remove some visible fibers. Start mashing with a spoon. You can remove some of the liquid if you think the mixture is too saturated with water.

  5. Press the mashed pulp block through a colander or sieve to separate the remaining fibers from the tamarind paste. 

  6. If you think the mixture is too thick or there’s still a lot of fruit left to be extracted, you can add in a bit of hot water to the fibers. Press it through the sieve once more to get more paste.

  7. You can store the paste in your choice of container.


How to make tamarind paste using tamarind pods:

If you’re up for a challenge, you can also make tamarind paste using pods. It’s challenging because it’s laborious but it’s not really difficult. In fact, the method is similar to how you make a paste with tamarind blocks except you will need more time to extract the fruit. In a way, it can be a fun home economics activity to do with your children or some of your friends.

Make sure you’ve got plenty of unripe tamarind pods to secure at least a jar of paste and get the most out of your time and effort.

  1. Crush the shells and peel it with your fingers. This is the most time-consuming part. 

  2. Remove the fibers with your hands and place the fruit pods in a bowl.

  3. Soak and cover these pods with water for 20-30 minutes. Your water should be enough to completely submerge the pods but not too much that can make your paste too watery.

  4. Use your hands to remove the tamarind flesh from the seeds and fibers. You can use some utensils for this but using your hands would yield better faster results.

  5. While separating the fruit in the bowl, it’s slowly getting mushed. Massage the seeds thoroughly so you can get more fruit in the mixture.

  6. Place and press through a sieve to separate the seeds and fibers.

  7. After straining the liquid thoroughly, you should be left with a thick ketchup-like consistency which is your tamarind paste. Store it in a clean container.

Related FAQs

What are the ingredients in tamarind paste?

Basically, all tamarind pastes are made with just tamarind and water. When buying store-bought products, read the label of ingredients so you can be certain that it’s free from preservatives, sugar, etc.

What can I use to substitute tamarind paste?

Some alternatives to tamarind paste that you can use is a mixture of lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and tomato sauce. With these ingredients, you can get a similar depth and complexity of flavor with an emphasis in tanginess. 

You can also try pomegranate molasses, or mix lime juice or lemon juice with brown sugar, for simpler options.

How long does tamarind paste last?

Homemade ones that are properly stored in a mason jar can last up to 6 months unopened in the fridge. If you’re constantly using it, it can last for 4-6 weeks and make sure you use a clean utensil when scooping from the container.


To wrap it up:

There’s no one rigid way on how to make tamarind paste but the steps above show an outline followed by most recipes. Others would still add in one more step like cooking the mixture over medium high-heat until it boils, stirring constantly in the process. 

Some would also use a food mill to separate the fiber and seeds from the fruity pulp. So, with the steps above in mind, go ahead and try making your own tamarind paste as you may discover some personal steps that make things easier or tastier for you.

About the author:

Harsh Paul has been a passionate chef for 11 years. He is an asian food expert, and he also runs the food blog to help people find all kinds of ingredient substitutions.

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