Known for its complex flavor profile that is distinctly familiar but at the same time exotic, the tamarin fruit and its derivatives are tailor-made for spicing up food.
With just the right amount of sweet and sour tasting notes to its name, tamarind is widely used in Southeast Asian cooking.
In this article, we are going to showcase a bunch of great meal ideas that lean on tamarind for their flavor.
On top of that, we will also feature a few recipes that show you how to make your very own homemade tamarind sauce from scratch (it’s not as hard as it sounds). So come and discover why all the hype surrounding tamarind is so very justified.
1. Pad Thai
Where dishes that feature tamarind are concerned, they don’t come any bigger than the powerhouse Thai dish “Pad Thai”. Pad Thai features ingredients like peanuts, spring onions, and bean sprouts to give it a fresh and crunchy edge.
This recipe is an authentic one as it also uses tamarind paste, fish sauce, sugar, and garlic to lift up its unmistakable flavor.
Although the recipe calls for shrimp to come to the Pad Thai party, this is a versatile noodle dish that suits all meat types and even tofu, it’s just that good.
Although shop-bought tamarind is readily accessible in the Asian section of most supermarkets, there’s nothing quite like whipping up your own batch at home.
Not only do you get more for your money, but the flavors of the tamarind pulp and spices really come to the fore. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of spare time to spend making their own sauces from scratch.
But, if you do manage to fit it in, this tamarind sauce recipe comes authentic by intention and delicious by design.
Tamarind is a popular ingredient all throughout Asia, but where India is concerned, they sure do love their tamarind chutney. Again, this is an invested recipe that asks you to get to work, but the sweet reward is oh-so-worth it.
Flavored with spices like cumin, and cayenne pepper, and sweetened with jaggery sugar, this chutney is the ideal candidate to serve alongside Indian street food like samosas and bhajis.
Whenever we see the words “sticky and chicken” in the same line, we quickly hop on the program and get cooking.
This sticky tamarind chicken takes just 10 minutes to prep, 40 to cook and is set to bring a whole new meaning to the idea of “roast chicken night”.
Sweet, spiced, and tangy, if you were looking for something special that marries tamarind with a bunch of other inspired ingredients, this roast chicken recipe is it.
Serve with extra dipping sauce, lime wedges, and alongside a selection of your favorite vegetables to fully understand why we’re so excited by this recipe. Wine is also optional!
As is evidenced by their national dish “Pad Thai” featuring tamarind, Thai cooking champions tamarind at any twist, turn, and chance it gets.
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs, soy, garlic, ginger, sherry, and shiitake mushrooms stir-fried in a kicking homemade tamarind sauce is as tasty as it sounds.
Served over a bed of white and fluffy jasmine rice, this is your new go-to stir-fry recipe, it’s just that simple.
By scoring the flesh of aubergine halves in a criss-cross pattern diamond pattern, you are opening them up to take on as much tamarind tang as possible, and that is a very good thing.
Once baked, the pattern also presents perfectly as the charred parts of the aubergine turn a deep golden brown, thanks to the tamarind.
Black rice, mint, and feta make this dish feel incredibly contemporary while remaining effortlessly easy. The perfect dish to serve up for a vegetarian evening feast.
There are recipes that come along from time to time, that, even before tasting, you know are going to be good. With Indian roots and a modern sensibility, this beef, potato, and banana curry is one of the special ones.
Cooked in the slow-pot and flavored with rich bits like lemongrass, garam masala, turmeric, curry powder, ginger, garlic, sugar, and tamarind, it’s safe to say that this dinner is destined to be delicious.
Lightly bashed cashews and crispy onions are mixed through the basmati rice, with an optional garnish of cilantro and a final squeeze of lemon sealing this 10/10 curry’s deal.
Needing five ingredients to be brilliant, this caramel-glazed ham can be, in the background, cooking and doing its thing while you whizz round whipping up a side dish or two.
Pomegranate molasses, sugar, tamarind paste, and cayenne pepper are all you need to give this bone-in gammon ham its desirable shine.
Serve it on Christmas as an alternative to turkey and pray to Santa there are leftovers so that you get to keep living the caramel-glazed dream long into Boxing Day and beyond.
Gaining its sweetened flavor from coconut and tamarind plus a bunch of other spices, this fish curry ain’t no ordinary fish curry.
Fish curry generally works best with big chunks of light and white flesh fish, if you can source it, something like haddock will work well.
With a fairly long method list, this isn’t a run-of-the-mill fish curry recipe, this is the kind of curry you give the green light to when it’s time to impress some guests.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Indonesia, then we’re guessing you’ve also had the pleasure of sampling Nasi Goreng. Essentially fried rice, but tastier, Nasi Goreng is the food of the people as it is cheap to make and full of flavor.
Taking on its unmistakable taste by way of shrimp paste, fish sauce, tamarind, garlic, red chili, and brown sugar, it’s easy to see why Nasi Goreng is a staple of Indonesian life.
As with most traditional Indonesian dishes, it can’t be called authentic without a fried egg served on top to fork through the rice and take on its flavor.
The dressing of this summery salad is bound to make big first impressions. Mix pomelo, grapefruit, or lime juice (depending on what you can source) together with fish sauce, light muscovado sugar, and tamarind paste and that is your impressive dressing.
The salad’s lineup is just as exciting with avocado, pomelo, bird’s eye-chili, gem lettuce, large shrimp, fresh cilantro and salted peanuts tossed together. Lunch doesn’t have to be the overworked salad idea that you’ve grown tired of.
There is a new way forward, and this salad is it.
This super tasty, super simple Thai soup packs a hot and tangy hit that you won’t be forgetting in a hurry. As authentic as Thai food gets, bowls of Tom Yum Goong are served up and slurped down by their thousands every day in Thailand.
This recipe has kept it traditional with lemongrass, galangal, mushroom, fish sauce, and shrimp.
If you are scratching your head as to what in the world galangal is, you’re not alone. Popular in Thai cooking, galangal is a root vegetable closely related to ginger.
So, if you can’t find galangal at your local store, then ginger will work just fine as a bitey alternative.
Agua De Tamarindo is a sweet and tart drink that’s widely consumed throughout Mexico as a natural alternative to soft drinks.
Consisting of tamarind, water, and sugar, and served with a few chunks of ice, this unique drink will cool you down on a hot summer’s day.
Ditch the soft drinks with suspiciously long ingredient lists and give Agua De Tamarindo a try next time you’re in a heat-stricken bind. It will cool you down, and leave a pleasantly sweet taste in its wake.
This veggie-packed, flavor-filled, vegan-friendly noodle dish hits all the right sweet, sour, and spicy notes.
Crispy tofu, succulent soba noodles, grated carrot, green onion, bell pepper, cucumber, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to know that this dish works wonders.
Using one pound of fresh tamarind pods alongside other fresh ingredients like ginger, and garlic also lets slip that this recipe doesn’t fancy doing things by halves, or packets. The juice of an entire orange, rice vinegar, and soy sauce help to give it a potent, citrusy bite that suits its ingredients perfectly.
Do the right thing and give this pork loin time to soak up its tamarind marinade for at least eight hours for maximum tenderization and deliciousness.
Although there’s no harm in cooking this cut in the oven, if you want the best results, a flaming hot grill is where it needs to go. Make sure you sear it on both sides for 1-3 minutes to give it some deep-charred lines of grilling approval.
Serve with a selection of your favorite grilled vegetables, salad, and a dinner roll to complete this perfect pork loin dinner idea.
Grilled in a banana leaf for 10 minutes with tamarind, lemongrass, mint, chili, palm sugar, and ginger does incredibly tasty things to salmon.
Banana leaves can be found in the frozen section of most Asian supermarkets, but failing a successful banana leaf strike mission, foil works pretty well too.
As is often the case, the tastiest meals are also the easiest, and once you’ve acquired the ingredients, this Thai-inspired skin-on salmon will be your new quick-fire salmon recipe.
Malaysians can’t get enough of their pork, so it’s little wonder, why, to them, satay equals pork.
This recipe is another case of planning ahead as you need to make the marinade at least four, and up to 18 hours prior to cook-time. Try not to fast-track the marinade as this is where the magic happens.
This recipe features quite an invested ingredient list, but, stick with it, as this pork satay is as tasty as satay gets. Whack the pork down on the grill and watch as the sticky marinade turns a crispy shade of decadence.
Serve over rice with peanut sauce and a cucumber salad for a traditional Penang satay.
Whole-fried snapper (figuratively) swimming in a sticky, and spiced ginger, chili, and tamarind sauce looks authentic because it is authentic.
15 minutes to prepare, 25 to cook, this is another Thai-inspired dish that blends tamarind with fresh ingredients to be delicious. Sure, you may have to pick around a few bones to get to the good stuff, but that is all part of the fun.
Just like in Thai, Malaysian, and Indian cooking, Sri Lankan cuisine is far from partial to tamarind. Egg Kulambu is a sweet and spicy curry that leans on whole boiled eggs for its protein.
This recipe yields eight servings, which, unless you are particularly ravenous on an evening, should mean even tastier leftovers! If boiled egg isn’t your digs then you could swap it out for shrimp, crab, or fish and still call it Kulambu (just drop the egg part).
Shredded coconut, tamarind paste, chopped tomato, and fresh ginger root perfectly complement each other in this traditional Sri Lankan recipe that deserves, no, needs to be tried.
After taking you on a tamarind-centric culinary journey of Asia, we thought it would be a good idea to finish on a recipe that hits a little closer to home.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an American who doesn’t love a few pieces of grilled chicken on their plate (except for vegetarians of course), and this recipe gives our beloved classic a tamarind twist.
The sweet and spiced glaze that gets smothered over this chicken is nothing short of magic. Tamarind paste, freshly squeezed orange juice, orange zest, fresh ginger, and sriracha come together to create the most vibrant basting glaze we ever did see.
Tamarin might seem like an intimidating ingredient to cook with at first, but that’s only at first. Once you get to know the ins and outs of what makes tamarind tick, you will have a hard time making Asian-inspired meals without it.
If the recipes in this article are anything to go by, tamarin is a versatile ingredient that lifts up all kinds of vegetables and meats to great success. Here’s hoping you were able to find something new and exciting to cook for dinner tonight!