I love tamarind paste, but I’m not a fan of the high price tag. It’s not easy to find either!
So when I stumble upon it in an Asian grocery store or online, I buy as many jars as possible and stash them away for later.
But what do you do if you can’t find it anywhere? There are some great tamarind paste substitutes that exist out there.
Some of the handy substitutes for tamarind paste are Pomegranate Molasses, Worcestershire Sauce, Rice Vinegar, Mango Chutney, Lemon Juice + Brown Sugar, Amchoor Powder, and Dried Tamarind Pulp.
Depending on your recipe, you can interchange any of the above ingredients with tamarind paste. Read the entire article for more information about each of them.
- What is Tamarind Paste?
- 7 Best Tamarind Paste Substitutes
- What Does Tamarind Paste Taste Like?
- Can You Use Ketchup Instead of Tamarind Paste?
- For How Long Can Tamarind Paste Stay Fresh?
- Are Tamarind Paste and Tamarind Concentrate the Same Thing?
- What’s a Good Substitute for Tamarind Paste in Pad Thai?
- Final Words
What is Tamarind Paste?
Tamarind is a legume that originated in Africa or India, but it is also grown worldwide. It can be found fresh as well as dried. It has been used throughout the world as a delicious flavor enhancer for centuries.
Fun fact: In Asia, tamarind was so valuable it was even used as currency at one point!
The pulp of brownish pods can be used to make amazing, tart, tangy tamarind paste.
People use tamarind paste to make chutneys, liquor, and other desserts. I personally love to add it to my seafood dishes such as crab and shrimp paste sauce (recipe coming soon!).
Let’s take a look at the replacement now.
7 Best Tamarind Paste Substitutes
Tamarind paste is amazing, but if you can’t find it in your area or just don’t want to buy it (it is a little pricey), then here are some great alternatives you could try.
1. Pomegranate Molasses
Pomegranate Molasses is made from sweet and sour pomegranate juice boiled down to a thick syrup that has a texture similar to honey.
It had found its usage as a unique flavor enhancer for meat dishes, drinks, desserts, & chutneys!
Similar to tamarind paste, pomegranate molasses has acidity and sour flavor plus it also adds moisture to dishes.
You can use an equal quantity of pomegranate molasses when a recipe calls for tamarind paste. You can also use this in place of Worcestershire Sauce in recipes.
2. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce is an English condiment that contains some bitter and sour taste, but also has lots of umami flavors as well. It can be used in pretty much any recipe, just like tamarind paste.
So if you are in dire need of an alternative for using in seafood recipes or on your favorite BBQ dish then this will surely work!
To achieve a similar taste as that of tamarind paste, add an equal amount of fresh lemon juice and a little water to Worcestershire sauce. If you’re out of fresh lemons to squeeze, use apple cider vinegar instead.
Worcestershire sauce is made from vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, garlic, and other spices. It is a dark liquid that can also make an excellent marinade for meat dishes.
3. Rice Vinegar
Rice vinegar is a Japanese ingredient used for cooking and also as an all-purpose condiment.
It has a delicate sour taste along with fruity notes. It belongs to the category of rice wine vinegar but it does not have alcohol in it.
Rice vinegar has a similar tart taste just like tamarind paste so you could use it in your favorite recipes where you would normally use the paste.
Make sure to add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar when using rice vinegar as a substitute for one tablespoon of tamarind paste.
Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice wine which makes its flavor very unique! It contains some acidity along with a sweet taste from the alcohol.
I love using rice vinegar in Asian noodle dishes such as ramen! You can also use it like tamarind paste in curries and other Asian dishes.
Adding salt to rice vinegar before adding water will enhance the salty flavor in it.
4. Mango Chutney
Mango Chutney is a sweet and sour sauce used as a spread or salsa. It can be made from mango, onion, and spices like cumin, ginger, garlic cloves along with vinegar or tamarind.
Chutneys are a great topping for seafood dishes which makes it a fantastic substitute for tamarind paste in such recipes!
When using mango chutney as an alternative to tamarind paste, you should omit the sugar since there’s already sweetness in it.
You will also need to add more water since there is a higher amount of ingredients in the chutney versus just one ingredient in the tamarind paste.
5. Lime Juice and Brown Sugar
If you don’t have any of the above alternative ingredients on hand, then this is what you want to use!
It’s simply a 2-in-1 substitution for tamarind paste and it works well in recipes that use only small amounts at a time.
Lime juice and brown sugar can be used in place of tamarind paste as well.
Mix 1 tablespoon of lime juice with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to make one tablespoon of tamarind paste. This will give you that tangy and sweet flavor from the tamarind paste.
Here’s a tip: Make sure your water is boiling when you add it, otherwise the sugar might burn and become hard to dissolve.
This is a great option if you want to do things naturally since there are no preservatives or chemicals in here. Also, I personally think that fresh citrus tastes more amazing than food having ingredients added!
One interesting thing about this substitute is that it does not thicken as tamarind paste does so make sure to add more liquid to your recipe when using this as an alternative ingredient.
You can also try adding salt instead of brown sugar if you would like! It gives a creamy taste similar to the texture given by the tamarind paste.
6. Amchoor Powder
Amchoor Powder is made from dried, ground sour green mangoes. It has a tangy, fruity taste. It’s an Indian ingredient that is used in many savory recipes.
It’s a wonderful substitute for tamarind paste because it has the same sour taste which makes it a great alternative for people who have a hard time digesting the paste.
This is also used as barbeque rub, meat marinade, and chutney. It’s commonly used in Indian dishes as well!
Similar to tamarind paste, it can be found in Asian stores or in Indian grocery stores.
However, take note that Amchoor powder doesn’t add moisture to your food so mix it with an equal amount of water before substituting.
You can also use this if you are allergic to citrus fruits or if they don’t grow where you live!
7. Dried Tamarind Pulp
You can find easily dried tamarind pulp in Asian stores as well or at an Indian store.
This is a great tamarind paste substitute since it’s made straight out of the fruit and you don’t have to deal with any extra ingredients that might not be available where you live.
However, make sure to rehydrate your dried pulp before using it in recipes. Add warm water and let it sit for 10 minutes before squeezing out the excess liquid.
What Does Tamarind Paste Taste Like?
Tamarind paste has a brown, sticky appearance and it tastes sour like lemons and limes. It’s also one of the most popular flavors in Asian cooking!
In fact, many dishes in Thailand use this ingredient since it pairs well with other strong flavors. It can be used as a base for dipping sauces or as a flavoring for soups and stews.
Can You Use Ketchup Instead of Tamarind Paste?
No, you cannot use ketchup instead of tamarind paste. You’ll get a very different flavor and it’s probably not what you’re going for if the recipe calls for tamarind paste!
Instead, use easily available substitutes that do work such as brown sugar and lime juice or even using an Indian spice called Amchoor powder if you want a similar taste.
For How Long Can Tamarind Paste Stay Fresh?
Tamarind Paste can stay fresh for 1-2 years when stored properly!
It’s a good thing you don’t need to use a lot of it each time since most recipes call for just a tablespoon or two.
You should store it in the paste in the fridge where temperatures are cool, dry, and dark. Store it in a glass jar to maximize freshness.
Are Tamarind Paste and Tamarind Concentrate the Same Thing?
No, they are not the same thing although they do have similar appearances.
Tamarind concentrate usually contains more water and sugar than paste does. It’s slightly thicker in consistency and it tends to be easier to dissolve in liquids that you want to flavor with tamarind taste.
However, your average home kitchen will only need tamarind paste and therefore it makes sense to buy tamarind paste instead of concentrate.
What’s a Good Substitute for Tamarind Paste in Pad Thai?
If you’re in a pinch and don’t have tamarind paste then try using lime juice and brown sugar.
You can also mix Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and water for similar sweet and tangy flavoring.
The same solution will also work for the Sambar recipe.
There you go, my 7 best tamarind paste substitutes! They’re all inexpensive and easy to find!
As a bonus, they all add their own unique flavor which could lead to new options for your dishes! I hope this article helps some of you out there!
If you have any questions or need some help with substitutions, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help you out as much as I can 🙂