If you are looking for a tamarind substitute, you are in luck because we've done all the digging for you and found the best alternatives! Tamarind paste may not be the most common ingredient, but when you need it make sure that you have plenty of alternate options by checking out this list!
Substitutes For Tamarind Paste
Tamarind paste is a staple ingredient in many Thai dishes. So, even if you have never heard of tamarind paste, you have probably tasted it several times.
Tamarind paste is made from tamarind fruit. This fruit can be found in tropical climates around the world. However, it is believed the plant originated in Asia.
- Substitutes For Tamarind Paste
- How is Tamarind Paste Used?
- The Best Substitutes for Tamarind Paste
- 1. Pomegranate Syrup
- 2. Worcestershire Sauce
- 3. Worcestershire Sauce Mixture
- 4. Lime Juice + Brown Sugar
- 5. Lemon Juice & Brown Sugar
- 6. Fresh Orange Juice + Brown Sugar
- 7. Mango Chutney
- 8. Marmalade
- 9. Fruit Syrups
- 10. Rice Vinegar
- 11. Rice Vinegar + Brown Sugar
- 12. White Wine
- More Great Tamarind Paste Alternatives!
- 📋 Recipe
Tamarind is sour fruit with a little bit of a citrus taste. These are the primary flavors that come through when the fruit is processed into tamarind paste.
The final flavor of tamarind paste is sour and tangy, with smoky undertones and a hint of caramel. Its consistency resembles that of molasses.
How is Tamarind Paste Used?
Tamarind paste is a key ingredient in several Thai dishes. Including traditional Pad Thai.
In addition to its use in Thai food, this unique ingredient is used in other dishes around the world. It is a staple in Indian curry and a common ingredient in Vietnamese, Caribbean, and Mexican cuisine.
Coming from a highly acidic fruit, tamarind paste is also great in marinades. The acid helps tenderize meats that are marinated in it. In addition, the sticky consistency of tamarind paste creates a wonderful glaze for cooking meat and vegetables.
This versatile ingredient isn’t just used in savory dishes either. In addition to creating a rich base for soups, sauces, and dressings, it is sometimes also used in desserts.
The Best Substitutes for Tamarind Paste
There are two key flavor profiles to look for when choosing a substitute for tamarind paste. Sour and sweet.
Sour flavors are important to not only reflect the sourness of tamarind paste, but also the acidity. The sweetness helps with balancing the acidity and creating a more balanced flavor.
The great thing is there are A LOT of different options to achieve this desired sweet and sour combination!
If you're lucky enough to actually have tamarind pods, be sure to jump down to the recipe card below for making your own tamarind paste!
1. Pomegranate Syrup
If you don’t have tamarind paste on hand, it’s likely you may not have pomegranate syrup. Simply because these are both ingredients less commonly used in American cuisine.
You may have pomegranate juice though!
Pomegranate syrup is simply pomegranate juice that has been combined with an acidic base and then reduced into a thick syrup. All you need to do this at home is pomegranate juice, lemon juice, and sugar.
Add the following to a saucepan.
- 2 cups of pomegranate juice
- ¼ cup of lemon juice
- ¼ cup of white sugar
Stir over medium heat to combine all the ingredients. Lower heat and simmer until the liquid reduces by half and you have a syrup-like consistency.
The syrupy consistency reflects that of tamarind paste. Moreover, the final flavor is a close substitution for the sweet and sour flavor of tamarind paste.
Whether you need to make pomegranate juice or have store-bought pomegranate syrup, you can use both in 1:1 substitution for tamarind paste.
2. Worcestershire Sauce
Hailing from England, Worcestershire sauce is a great substitute for many ingredients around the world. One reason it works so well as a substitute is because of its complex flavor.
Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies, vinegar, molasses, garlic, onion, and other spices. Everything is combined into a barrel and left to ferment for several months (or years).
Even though the ingredients used to make Worcestershire sauce are quite different than tamarind paste, the result is similar. A complex flavor that is savory, tangy, and a little bit sweet.
While the flavor profile of Worcestershire sauce is a great replacement for tamarind paste, the consistency is not the same. Rather than being a thick paste, Worcestershire is a thin liquid.
For recipes that only need a little bit of tamarind paste, a splash of Worcestershire will work. You can do a simple 1:1 substitution.
However, if a recipe relies on a large amount of tamarind paste for both taste and texture, you will need to combine the Worcestershire sauce with a few other ingredients.
3. Worcestershire Sauce Mixture
To get the most from Worcestershire sauce as a substitute, create the mixture listed below. The addition of these simple ingredients creates a paste that resembles the consistency of tamarind.
The result? A perfect substitute for a complex ingredient!
- 1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice (you can also use lime juice or apple cider vinegar)
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Make sure the brown sugar is fully dissolved. Use in 1:1 exchange for tamarind paste, in any recipe.
Can You Use Ketchup?
You may have heard that ketchup can be used as a substitute for tamarind paste. While this is true, it is not the easiest swap.
To achieve the right taste and texture you need to combine several ingredients. Unlike the mixture above, these ingredients are less common to already have at home (like fish sauce). The Worcestershire + tomato mixture is easier and better.
4. Lime Juice + Brown Sugar
When it comes to substitutes, sometimes the best ones are the easiest and most convenient. For tamarind paste, that means using a simple citrus + sweetener mixture.
Made with two common kitchen ingredients, this substitute is a good basic substitute. It won’t have the complexity of tamarind paste, but it will provide the key sour and sweet flavor profile that your recipe needs.
Moreover, the texture will be thick enough to resemble the texture of tamarind paste. The color will also reflect that of tamarind paste.
Despite having the basic qualities of tamarind, this substitution is best used in smaller quantities.
Use equal parts lime juice and brown sugar to replace 1 part of tamarind paste. ½ tablespoon lime juice + ½ tablespoon brown sugar = 1 tablespoon tamarind paste.
5. Lemon Juice & Brown Sugar
If you don’t have limes on hand, grab a lemon instead. It will give you the same results as the lime mixture.
Follow the same directions provided above (for combining lime juice with brown sugar), mixing equal parts lemon juice and brown sugar. Use the final mixture as a 1:1 replacement for tamarind paste.
When using any substitution that has sugar used as a sweetener, make sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Especially if using it as a substitute in a cold dish. You don’t want a dressing with a grainy consistency.
6. Fresh Orange Juice + Brown Sugar
If you don’t have limes or lemons available, gran an orange. The juice from an orange will provide a similar acidic base (this works work with freshly squeezed orange juice).
However, oranges are sweeter than limes and lemons. Therefore, this substitution works best for recipes that are meant to be sweeter. As well as recipes that will pair well with a hint of orange flavoring.
Combine equal parts of freshly squeezed orange juice and brown sugar. Use the final mixture in a 1:1 replacement for tamarind paste.
It is best to use freshly squeezed orange juice. Store-bought orange juice is too sweet, and you need to add the sugar to get the right consistency.
As with other citrus substitutions, this works best for recipes that call for a small amount of tamarind paste. This substitute also only works with freshly squeezed orange juice.
Sweetener of Choice
Brown sugar is the suggested sweetener because it provides the coloring, consistency, and caramel undertones of tamarind paste. However, you can use another sweetener if needed. Honey, agave nectar, and white sugar will all work.
7. Mango Chutney
Mangos have similar flavor notes that resemble tamarind. Therefore, even though they are on the sweeter side, when combined with other flavors they create a nice alternative to tamarind paste.
Mango chutney is the perfect example of this.
Made with a vinegar base, mango chutney is a great substitute because it has an acidic base. Moreover, the addition of other flavors creates an overall complex flavor. In addition, its thick consistency also resembles tamarind paste.
Another great thing about mango chutney is that it is an easy substitute! It can be used straight out of the jar in a simple 1:1 substitution.
Mango chutney can also be easily adapted for different recipes. If it is too chunky, give it a quick blend before using. If it is too sweet, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
Although mango chutney is a great alternative to tamarind paste, it isn’t the most common ingredient to have on hand. However, you may have some marmalade!
Marmalade is made from oranges. Certain brands are specifically made from bitter oranges. Combined with sugar, marmalade is like a pre-made citrus and sweetener substitute.
While the strong citrus base and sticky consistency of marmalade is great in place of tamarind paste, it may be too sweet. Moreover, just like orange juice, it will lend a hint of orange to the final dish.
Therefore, consider carefully which recipes it will work best in.
Marmalade can be used in a direct 1:1 substitution for tamarind paste. If it tastes too sweet, add a squeeze of lemon or lime to cut the sugar.
9. Fruit Syrups
In addition to marmalade, fruit syrups are another possible substitute for tamarind paste. Fruit syrups will reflect the sweet flavor profile and the sticky consistency of tamarind paste; however, they will not have a savory or acidic base.
If you need a substitute for a sweet recipe or dessert though, a fruit syrup will work in small quantities. You may still want to cut some of the sugar with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
In addition, be mindful that the fruit flavors will come through in your recipe.
Use any fruit syrup you have on hand that you think will pair well with the other flavors in the recipe.
- Raspberry Syrup
- Strawberry Syrup
- Blueberry Syrup
- Boysenberry Syrup
- Blackberry Syrup
10. Rice Vinegar
Rice vinegar is a staple in Asian cuisine. It has an acidity and mild sweetness that greatly resembles tamarind paste. Moreover, it is used in similar types of cuisine.
The biggest difference between these two condiments is their consistency. Rice vinegar is a liquid and does not offer the thick consistency of tamarind paste.
If your recipe calls for a small amount of tamarind paste, the consistency of rice vinegar won’t impact the overall dish too much. Just be mindful that it doesn't make your final dish too runny.
Use rice vinegar in a simple 1:1 substitution for tamarind paste.
If you want to use rice vinegar in larger quantities, use the next substitute.
11. Rice Vinegar + Brown Sugar
To replicate the thicker consistency of tamarind, go one extra step with the rice vinegar and add brown sugar. Just like the citrus mixtures above, this combination provides the balance of an acidic base and sweetener.
Make a simple mixture of equal parts rice vinegar and brown sugar. This thicker mixture can be used to replace tamarind paste in any recipe, and in larger quantities.
Measure the final mixture in a 1:1 ratio.
12. White Wine
If nothing else is available, reach for your favorite bottle of white wine. Preferably a dry white, like a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
While not as acidic as rice vinegar, dry white wine has enough acidity to give a little bit of tang. It also has just the right amount of sweetness.
Use in a 1:1 exchange in small quantities. Be mindful that it will not assist with adding texture to your recipe.
More Great Tamarind Paste Alternatives!
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Apple cider vinegar may be used to substitute tamarind paste 1:1. If using a large amount, you may want to add a bit of brown sugar.
- Kokum – Soak this Indian fruit in water and slowly pour it into your dish, tasting until satisfied.
- Amchur Powder – Amchur powder is an Indian dry mango powder that can be used as a 1:1 substitute for tamarind paste.
- Dried Tamarind – If you can find it, soak dried tamarind in water, then remove any seeds and locate the pulp. Combine the pulp with water until it makes a paste and use it as a 1:1 substitute.
- Kachri Powder – Another Indian ingredient, kachri powder can be used in a pinch but should be a last resort. Because of its bitterness, add small amounts and taste until satisfied.
Some of these tamarind substitutes are simple and some are more complex, so choose what works best for you! Tell us what you're cooking in the comments below!
Best Tamarind Paste Substitute: Homemade Tamarind Paste (+More Great Alternatives!)
- 10 large tamarind pods (skin and strings removed from the fruit)
- 3 cups hot water
- Rinse your peeled tamarind in a colander under cool running water to remove any debris then transfer the rinsed tamarind into a large bowl with the hot water. Cover with a lid or seal by setting a plate over the bowl, then set aside for 10-15 minutes while the tamarind soaks.10 large tamarind pods, 3 cups hot water
- Place a colander into a clean large bowl and pour the hot water with tamarind into the colander. Press the tamarind fruit through the colander, removing the strings and debris from your colander.
- Transfer the strained tamarind pulp into a saucepan then bring to a low boil (uncovered) over medium-high heat, reducing the heat as needed to maintain a slowly bubbling boil.
- Boil for 5 minutes then remove from heat and allow to cool completely before storing or using.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!