15 Tamarind Recipes to Try at Home (Because the Fruit Is More Popular Than Ever)

Pucker up, buttercup

tamarind recipes: thai glazed ribs
Jenny Huang/The Pepper Thai Cookbook

Mouth-puckering flavors and fermented foods are steadily climbing the ranks in foodie culture. We’re talking calamansi, hibiscus, yuzu and everything in between. As international cuisine, culinary fusion and acidity take the spotlight in 2024, an underrated ingredient is about to have its moment: tamarind. New York Times named tamarind as an up-and-comer to watch out for, and it was also named McCormick’s Flavor of the Year.

For the uninitiated, tamarind is a tropical fruit that grows on trees in bean-like pods. Inside hides a nutrient-rich, fibrous, pasty pulp that’s beloved for its tangy, sweet-and-sour taste. It’s native to Africa, India and the Middle East, but is also a common ingredient in Latin, Asian and Caribbean cuisines (hola, agua de tamarindo). Just so you can see what all the fuss is about, we’ve rounded up 15 tamarind recipes to get you better acquainted with the fruit.

6 Food Trends That We Predict Will Reign Supreme in 2024

tamarind recipes: broken tamarind pod with more pods in a bowl
Caterina Oltean/500px/Getty Images

But First, Here’s What to Do with Fresh Tamarind

Tamarind can be used in sauces, drinks, desserts, marinades and so much more. (It’s also an essential ingredient in pad Thai.) But nothing beats eating it straight from the pod if you ask us. If you happen to get your hands on some that’s ripe and brown on the inside, it can be sucked from the pod as is—mind the seeds—or used in glazes, pastes or sauces. Underripe tamarind is best used for pickles and chutneys, since it’s very sour.

It may be tough to find it in pods near you in the U.S., but you can use always use store-bought tamarind paste, concentrate, extract, nectar, powder (even soup mix!) or chutney (which is already sweetened) instead. If you buy the fresh kind, “soak the tamarind pulp in hot water, remove the fibers and seeds and squeeze to extract the dark, smooth paste,” explains Rathina Sankari for Bon Appétit. Once it’s free, you can add it to curries and marinades for sweetness. In powder form, it’s best for drinks, candies, soups and snacks.

15 Tamarind Recipes

1. Pepper Tiegen’s Thai Glazed Ribs

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, special occasion-worthy, dairy free

Tamarind paste is a key ingredient in the umami-rich glaze on these pork ribs. Instead of being smoked or grilled, the meat is deep fried for a crisp exterior and tender interior in a fraction of the time. Sounds like a no-brainer to us.

2. Shrimp and Tofu Pad Thai

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, beginner-friendly, dairy free

Tamarind concentrate is tamed by sweet dark brown sugar and pungent fish sauce to create a drool-worthy sauce for rice stick noodles and veggies. Finish your plate with salted peanuts and a spritz of fresh lime juice.

3. Vegan Tamarind Noodle Bowl with Veggie and Kelp Ribbons

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegan, gluten-free, beginner-friendly, no cook

Tamarind paste, agave and fresh citrus bring this no-cook gem to life in a flash. In case you’ve never had kelp noodles, they’re see-through noodles made from the gelatinous extract left over from steamed kelp. They’re similar to glass noodles.

4. Maple Sweet Potato Salad With Tamarind Dressing

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: dairy-free, vegetarian, gluten-free

Fact: A salad is only as tasty as its toppings. This one is piled high with crunchy pepitas, tender roasted sweet potatoes, wholesome kale and—wait for it—fried wild rice. Tamarind purée unites with Kewpie mayo and maple syrup for a sweet-and-savory dressing you’ll make again and again.

5. Mangonada

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, kid-friendly

Bring on the chamoy, Tajín and fresh mango chunks for a tropical beverage that will put you on a beach (mentally, at least) at first sip. The recipe calls for finishing the drink with a tamarind stick, a soft candy made from tamarind pulp.

6. Tamarind Balls

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, <10 ingredients, no cook, <30 minutes

Only three ingredients (and not a moment of cooking) stand between you and these swicy delights. If you’d prefer them to be straight-up sweet, skip the habanero pepper. But we’d argue it offers delicious contrast to the acidity of the tamarind pulp.

7. Coconut Acorn Squash Curry

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: gluten free, beginner-friendly, vegan

Tangy tamarind pulp + nutty acorn squash + rich coconut milk + all the aromatics and spices = a 30-minute dinner for the books. Finish your bowl with cilantro, lime, sliced chiles and toasted pepitas (and save the acorn squash seeds to roast alongside them).

8. Sparkling Tamarind Pear Cocktail

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <10 ingredients, make ahead

Prosecco stars in this effervescent libation, but cava or Champagne will do just fine in its place if that’s what you have on hand. Pro tip: Prepare the tamarind syrup in advance so it has plenty of time to cool before mixing the cocktails.

9. Grilled Thai Satay Chicken

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: high protein, crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly

Tamarind finds a home in a Thai-inspired peanut sauce, which gets its lush texture from coconut milk and plenty of complex heat from Thai red curry paste. Go over the top with finishing touches, from fresh cilantro and chili peppers to diced mango and lime wedges.

10. Bulgur Stuffed Eggplants with Currants & Pine Nuts

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegan, beginner-friendly, make ahead

If you don’t have tamarind paste on hand, pomegranate molasses or even an extra dash of vinegar and a liquid sweetener (like maple syrup) will suffice in a pinch. But nothing will really replace its sweet-tart splendor one for one. Substitute rice or quinoa for bulgur to make the dish gluten free.

11. 20-Minute Peanut-Free Chicken and Shrimp Pad Thai

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, <30 minutes, beginner-friendly

If you love pad Thai but have a peanut allergy, this lightning-fast recipe has you covered. To ready the tamarind paste for the sauce, concentrate it by mixing it with two parts water until smooth, then strain it while pressing down on the seeds and solids.

12. BBQ Chickpea Flatbread

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: kid-friendly, vegetarian, gluten free

The recipe recommends using a barbecue sauce that contains tamarind for lip-smackingly sweet-and-savory results. Thanks to gluten-free flatbread, this ’za is wheatless, but you can substitute any pre-cooked crust you’d like.

13. Savory Spiced Tamarind Lentils

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegan, gluten free, one pot

Tamarind paste amplifies the bright acidity of chopped tomatoes, while maple syrup curbs its sourness just enough, so the lentils’ dressing isn’t overpowering. Take your pick of green, brown, black or red lentils—the pantry is your oyster.

14. Lentil Tamarind Barbecue Burgers with Chickpea Fries

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours
  • Why We Love It: vegan, gluten free, make ahead

Yes, this plant-based bounty requires some patience, but we promise it’s worth it, from the shiitake-lentil walnut burgers to the tamarind barbecue sauce. Prepare the sauce ahead (and make a double batch while you’re at it) to save time before dinner.

15. Vegan Pad Thai

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, vegan, gluten free

The key to making this pad Thai vegan is skipping proteins like chicken and shrimp in favor of tofu and substituting vegan fish sauce for the O.G. If you can’t find any at your local grocery store, substitute more soy sauce, or tamari—or coconut aminos if you’re gluten free.

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...