What is Tamarind, Uses and Recipes

What is Tamarind, Uses and Recipes


Tamarind has traditionally offered its puckery, highly acidic, tangy-sweet flavor to North African, Indian, Thai, and Filipino cuisines. However, this plump, pod-like fruit (indigenous to Africa) is now jet-setting across the world, feeding a global curiosity for what’s next in food, drink, and flavor.

Popping up in Mexican cuisine like Tamarind Chile Mole and Chamoy, Peruvian-Japanese Nikkei Ceviche, and more, tamarind’s well-rounded, full-flavored profile holds its own as both the star and supporting act, depending on how it is used. From creating brightness in a Pad Thai, to craveable sweetness in a chutney, or cutting the heat of chilies, tamarind brings a welcome versatility to professional and home kitchens alike. 


Grown from the hardwood tamarind tree, Tamarind is a dark-colored, edamame-pod-shaped fruit that grows in Africa and tropical regions. Harvested when ripe, it is then peeled to reveal a pulp and seeds. Outside of the culinary world, tamarind tree bark is used in carpentry and the leaves are seen as anti-inflammatory with various at-home remedies and uses. The word “tamarind” also means “Indian date,” derived from the Arabic “tamar hind.”


Unripe tamarind is very tart, making it an excellent ingredient in chutney. Ripened tamarind can be enjoyed straight from the pod or combined with other ingredients to make a paste for marinades, candies, or sauces.


1. Tamarind Water


Steep tamarind flesh in boiling water and strain to unlock its potent sour power. Balanced out with a little sugar, this refreshing Mexican agua fresca can be sipped on its own or ladled into Indian dishes to impart complex flavor with sweet and sour notes.

2. Ponche Navideño (Mexican Christmas Punch)


A staple throughout Mexico while celebrating the Christmas Holidays, this traditional warmed punch is made by simmering fruits with tamarind, sugar cane, and spices until fragrant.

3. Steak & Eggs


The classic breakfast combo of steak and eggs – but make it inspired! Elevated with a drizzle of steak sauce made from sweet soy sauce and tamarind paste, this recipe will convince you that breakfast can be anything but ordinary.

4. Tofu Skewers


Tamarind lends its tart pucker to these tasty vegetarian skewers when combined with chile and soy sauces before drizzling over skewered tofu, butternut squash, and Brussels sprouts. Enjoy as an easy vegetarian starter or hearty side.

5. Sambol Turnovers


Seeni Sambol, a spicy and sweet Shri-Lankan caramelized onion relish, helps brighten up this savory turnover with tangy, sour tamarind and spices like crushed red pepper and ground cardamom, offering an exciting glimpse into flavor innovation from a global standpoint. It also makes for an extremely convenient grab-and-go lunch or elaborate snack.

6. Lentil Curry


A dish passed on from generation to generation in Indian kitchens, Sambar is a popular Southern Indian lentil-based curry starring the rich flavor of a unique spice blend (Sambar Seasoning) made with lentils and bold flavors like coriander. Warm and comforting, it is a must-have addition on any Indian-inspired menu.

7. Pad Thai


Create homemade Pad Thai in the comfort of your own home in 15 minutes. Thai basil and fish sauce highlight the dish’s umami appeal, balanced with the bright, sour notes of tamarind concentrate. Serve with your choice of chicken, shrimp, or tofu for a creamy, restaurant-worthy meal.

8. Redang Curry


Rendang curry is a rich, fragrant, and mildly spicy blend of aromatic ingredients including chilies, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, tamarind, coriander, and turmeric. It is commonly used to make Rendang Beef, a signature slow-cooked curry dish popular throughout Southeast Asia.

9. Vada Pav


Perfect for date night or a crowd, we invite you to choose your own cooking adventure with communal dishes like Vada Pav. A traditional Indian street food, you can serve these fried potato balls on soft sweet rolls with an array of simple but delicious tamarind or green chutneys, making it easy to welcome the authentic, layered flavors of India home.


Less traditional, but just as delicious, Tamarind shines in the McCormick® Flavor Inspirations 2024 Flavor of the Year Tamarind Naturally Flavored & Pasilla Chile Seasoning: a tangy, Mexican-inspired seasoning blend that pairs tamarind fruit with the mild heat of pasilla chiles and savory notes of paprika, coriander, and onion. Elevate dishes and recipes with this versatile blend that delivers sour and savory flavor with a gentle heat to everything you shake it over. Representative of the flavor trends taking place on a global level, the unique taste shines in these exciting recipes below.

1. Sticky-Sweet Chamoy Ribs


Chamoy, with its mildly hot, tangy, and floral characteristics, is the perfect companion to the fruitiness and subtle heat of McCormick® Tamarind and Pasilla Chile Seasoning. Here, the blend is featured in both the sauce and coleslaw for an extra dose of elevated flavor.

2. Tangy Tamarind Pasilla Feta Dip


Fast and simple, this delicious dip delivers savory and tangy flavors across the board. Top with a homemade hot honey drizzle starring Tamarind and Pasilla Chile Seasoning before serving with fresh-cut veggies, pita chips, or breadsticks.


Whether you choose to go a more traditional route or explore the more innovative use of tamarind, there’s no slowing the tamarind fruit down.

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