A common feature in Asian, Mexican, and Caribbean cuisine, tamarind paste has a sour, somewhat citrusy and sweet flavor with hints of smokiness and caramel taste. Its complex flavor profile paired with its sticky, thick texture can elevate the flavor profile of a wide range of recipes. It’s a versatile ingredient that you can even use in uncooked dips, chutneys, and marinades to tenderize the meat.
If you’ve run out of this kitchen essential, you can still create a similar flavor profile with these 7 tamarind paste substitutes!
1. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce has a powerful umami flavor that is sweet, sour, and spicy, thanks to the inclusion of tamarind, vinegar, molasses, and sugar in its composition. As tamarind has a slightly acidic nature and is used to tenderize meat, Worcestershire sauce can prove to be an excellent substitute for the original ingredient in a variety of dishes.
However, because Worcestershire sauce does not have the complex flavors of tamarind paste, you will need to create a Worcestershire sauce mix using a few other ingredients to get the full complexity of tamarind paste.
To make the Worcestershire sauce mix:
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce + 2 Tbsp water + 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (if you don’t have lemon juice, swap it for lime juice or apple cider) + 2 Tbsp brown sugar + 1/2 cup tomato paste.
You can now use this Worcestershire sauce mix in a 1:1 ratio to replace tamarind paste.
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste = 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire mix.
2. Pomegranate Molasses
Pomegranate molasses is a thick, sticky, dark-colored syrup made by reducing pomegranate juice. It offers a balance of sweet and tart flavors along with an astringent undertone that can effectively mimic the flavor profile and texture of tamarind paste in a variety of sweet and savory recipes.
While pomegranate molasses has a thinner consistency, it still provides the necessary moisture. You can find it in the Middle Eastern section of your local grocery store. Or you can make it at home by reducing pomegranate juice, lemon juice, and sugar. It’s a great substitute for tamarind paste in recipes that call for some acidity and sourness.
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste = 1 teaspoon of pomegranate molasses.
3. Lime Juice and Brown Sugar
A mixture of equal amounts of lime juice and brown sugar offers a delicious balance of sweet and sour that can make a decent stand-in for tamarind paste. As the ingredients to make this substitute are easily available, this mixture can be used as the first line of defense when you’re run out of tamarind paste.
While lime juice and brown sugar share similar characteristics in flavor profiles as tamarind paste, the mixture won’t give the same complexity of flavors as the original ingredient. But, in most recipes, you won’t even be able to tell the difference in the final dish, so you can easily use it as a stand-in for tamarind paste when you’re in a bind.
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste = 1 teaspoon of lime juice and brown sugar mixture.
4. Rice Vinegar
Rice vinegar has a sourness and underlying sweetness that is quite similar to the flavor of tamarind paste. But because we’re dealing with vinegar rather than sauce, the texture and consistency will be slightly different. Although this can be easily remedied by adding a thickening agent like cornstarch to the mix.
When using rice vinegar as a stand-in for tamarind paste, choose high-quality varieties because cheap or low-quality rice vinegar’s flavor may be too harsh for your recipe and will likely overpower all the other flavors in the dish.
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste = 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar.
And if the taste of rice vinegar is too distinct for you,
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste = 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar + 1/2 brown sugar.
5. Dried Fruit and Lemon Juice
This may seem like an odd combination, but a mixture of dried fruit and lemon juice is almost identical to tamarind paste. Soak equal parts chopped prunes, dates, and apricots in a small bowl with water and lemon juice for 20-30 minutes to soften the fruits. After that, strain out the water and blend the mixture to make a thick, sticky, dark paste that resembles tamarind paste.
While this mixture will have a similar texture and color, the flavor will lack that burst of tartness that tamarind has. However, because the flavor difference isn’t as noticeable in the finished dish, you can use it as a substitute in a pinch.
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste = 1 teaspoon of dried fruit and lemon juice mixture.
6. Citrus Marmalade
Citrus marmalade is a jelly made from citrus peel, citrus juice, sugar, and water. It has an astringent flavor with slightly bitter and sweet notes and is commonly used in holiday desserts.
Marmalade brings a depth of flavor to meals, with a texture quite similar to tamarind paste, and has citrusy properties that can enhance the flavor of your dish when you’ve run out of tamarind paste. It’s the perfect substitute to use in recipes where texture and consistency can make or break the dish, such as sauces and dressings.
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste = 1 teaspoon of citrus marmalade.
7. Amchur Powder
Amchur powder is essentially dry mango powder and is made from unripe mangoes. It has a tart flavor that is similar to tamarind and is widely used in Indian cooking, particularly in North Indian cuisine. Its deliciously fruity, acidic, and sour flavors are similar to tamarind paste, making it one of the best replacements in most Indian dishes.
As amchur powder is, well, powdered, it will most likely not bring the same consistency or texture to recipes as tamarind paste. To remedy that, simply mix equal parts of water and amchur powder to turn it into a paste. Its flavor and distinct aroma are a wonderful addition to savory dishes and can elevate your meals without altering their overall flavor profiles.
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste = 1 teaspoon of amchur paste.