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Best Substitute for Tamarind Paste

Lisa Price
Last Updated on
by Lisa Price

If you have a recipe that calls for tamarind paste but can’t find it anywhere, there are plenty of tamarid paste substitutes you can use. Many of these substitutes are mixtures such as a Worcestershire mixture of Worcestershire sauce, water, brown sugar, lemon juice, tomato paste, or a combination of lime juice and brown sugar.

If you’re looking for something you don’t have to mix yourself, try straight rice vinegar, pomegranate molasses, or mango chutney for a tamarind paste substitute. Depending on the recipe and how much tamarind paste you need will depend on what you use.

Tamarind paste is a sour and citrus-tasting molasses common in Asian and Indian recipes. Indians like to use coconut milk to lessen the tangy taste of tamarind paste. It is highly acidic and can tenderize meat very well, which is why many use it in their marinades.

Tamarind Paste
Tamarind Paste

1. Pomegranate Molasses

Pomegranate Molasses as tamarind paste substitute
Pomegranate Molasses Seed and Syrup

If you can find it, pomegranate molasses is an excellent tamarind paste substitute. You get pomegranate molasses by reducing pomegranate juice until it’s thick and sticky. It tastes both sweet and sour when done, much like tamarind paste, with a bitter undertone that makes it a great option for Indian and Asian dishes.

If you’re looking for pomegranate molasses, check the Middle Eastern section of your local grocery store or head to a Middle Eastern market. If you have pomegranate juice, you can make it yourself. Just add lemon juice and sugar and reduce.

Can’t find pomegranate molasses? See recommended pomegranate molasses substitutes.

2. Lime Juice and Brown Sugar

Lime juice and brown sugar as tamarind paste substitute
Lime Juice and Brown Sugar

This substitute is appealing as you can find it at any grocery store or even have it on hand. However, it doesn’t give quite the complexity of flavor that other options do. Still, since many recipes don’t call for much tamarind paste, most don’t notice a difference.

Just add an equal amount of lime juice and brown sugar, then mix and use. For example, if your recipe call for one tablespoon of tamarind paste, mix half a tablespoon each of lime juice and brown sugar, and you’re good to go.

3. Worcestershire Mixture

Worcestershire Sauce Mix as substitute for tamarind paste
Worcestershire Sauce Mix

Because tamarind paste is good as tenderizing meat, some Worcestershire brands actually use tamarind paste, making this a good start for a tamarind paste substitute. To get the full complexity of tamarind paste, you will need to add quite a few ingredients together. Still, they’re all fairly basic and should have them on hand.

  • 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ cup tomato paste

Mix everything and then use in a 1:1 ratio for your tamarind paste. If you don’t have fresh lemon juice, try to get fresh lime juice or sub apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice.

Can’t find worcestershire sauce? See recommended worcestershire sauce substitutes.

4. Rice Vinegar

Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar has both the sourness and the underlying sweetness that you find in tamarind paste. The only problem is the thickness. If you’re not worried about your sauce being a touch runnier than normal, just use it in a 1:1 ratio. If you want the consistency of tamarind paste, then use cornstarch to thicken it up.

Make sure you’re using rice vinegar and not white vinegar. White vinegar is very strong and can easily overpower all other flavors in your dishes. If you don’t want to figure out which vinegar to use, just use white wine instead.

5. Mango Chutney

Mango Chutney
Mango Chutney

Mango chutney is an excellent tamarind substitute as it’s relatively thick and tastes very similar to tamarind paste if you buy the right kind. If you find your mango chutney too sweet, add in some lime or lemon juice to cut the sugary taste.

Mango chutney is a condiment from India and has many different forms and variations. You can either buy it or try making it yourself, so you have it on hand for a condiment or if tamarind is hard to find in your area.

Frequently Asked Questions

Unless you cook Asian or Indian meals frequently, you may not know much about tamarind paste or its substitutes. This should give you a better understanding of this Asian and Indian staple.

Can I Use Ketchup as a Substitute for Tamarind Paste?

Ketchup is a common replacement for tamarind paste. Still, you’ll need to add fish sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, dark soy sauce, and rice vinegar to make it taste similar to tamarind paste.

With so many extra ingredients, it’s better to go with a simpler substitute without spending a lot of money on the other sauces you need to create a ketchup substitute. Or try out the Worcestershire mixture above, which uses tomato paste instead of ketchup and with other common ingredients you probably have in your kitchen.

What Flavor is Tamarind Paste?

Tamarind paste is a thick, sour sauce with a sweet citrusy undertone and hints of caramel and smoke, making it hard to find an exact substitute. How ripe the fruit was when the manufacturer made it will determine your tamarind paste’s flavor profile. If you make tamarind paste from scratch and want a sweeter flavor, go for a riper fruit.

What Are the Ingredients for Tamarind Paste?

The main ingredient is tamarind, a tropical fruit pod that is both sour and sweet at the same time. You can find tamarind in either the whole fruit form or in a block of tamarind pulp where the seeds are removed beforehand.

The other ingredients to making tamarind are water, salt, and sugar. If all you can find is tamarind pulp, you can make the paste yourself by following this recipe, just tamarind pulp and water. You’ll need a fine mesh strainer to remove the skin and excess seeds, and any other unwanted particles as you go through the cooking process.

What is Tamarind Paste Good For?

Tamarind paste is good for many things, not all of them having to do with food, such as having tamarind tea to soothe a scratchy throat.

In addition, certain cuisines use tamarind paste in candies and desserts. Still, mainly savory dishes in both Asia and India use tamarind paste. You can even make a chutney out of it and smear it on bread as you would jam.

Can I Use Tamarind Sauce Instead of Tamarind Paste?

Tamarind sauce, also known as tamarind concentrate, can be a substitute for tamarind paste. You just have to do a 1:2 ratio of tamarind concentrate to water. So for every teaspoon of concentrate you use, you should add two teaspoons of water.

What Can I Use as a Tamarind Concentrate Substitute?

You can use the lime juice and brown sugar recipe above for a tamarind concentrate substitute with just a minor tweak. First, you should double the amount of lime juice and make it a 2:1 ratio instead of a 1:1 of lime juice and brown sugar.

In fact, since tamarind concentrate is just a more potent form of tamarind paste, any of the above substitutes will work. Just up the acidity level by adding more lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar for a more concentrated flavor.

Can I Use Tamarind Powder as a Tamarind Substitute?

It’s not advised as tamarind powder is very different in flavor and consistency from tamarind paste. In addition, it will interact with your dish differently in powder form than in paste form, especially since paste has water, sugar, and salt added.

Where Can I Find Tamarind Paste?

You can sometimes find tamarind paste in the international section of your local store. First, look in the Asian and Indian sections. If you can’t find it, then go to a specialty shop or market that caters to Asian or Indian cuisines.

If that doesn’t pan out, you can always look online at Amazon and other sellers. Finally, if you can’t find the tamarind paste but can find the pulp or the whole fruit, you can make it yourself.

About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
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