Tamarind pulp is made from the citrussy flesh inside the tamarind pod - which grow on trees like the image above.
Though the tamarind fruit is related to peanuts and chickpeas, the brown-red fleshy pulp has a sticky, date-like consistency with distinctively tart flavour and sweet date aroma. However tamarind pulp is rarely asked for in recipes.
Instead, recipes call for tamarind water, cooking tamarind, tamarind paste, or tamarind concentrate. Tamarind paste, concentrate and water are very similar - they are just different dilutions of dried and soaked tamarind pulp.
What is tamarind used for?
Tamarind is used throughout southeast Asia in curries, in Indian curries and sauces and even in a Mexican drink called Agua de Tamarindo. Try cooking with tamarind in these recipes:
- Indian tamarind recipe: Goan Roast Cauliflower & Green Bean Curry,
- Iranian tamarind recipe: Yasmin Khan's Bandari Fishcakes with a Tamarind and Date Sauce
- Thai tamarind recipes: Nam Phrik Kapi - an all-purpose Thai sauce, Our Perfect Pad Thai Recipe, Seabass with Tamarind and Chilli
Should I use tamarind paste or tamarind pulp?
Tamarind paste is much more convenient and quicker to use - you can easily spoon tamarind paste from the opened jar directly into your dish.
However, if tamarind forms much of the flavour of your dish, you might prefer the flavour of fresher-tasting tamarind water freshly made from tamarind pulp. And if you're used to making your own tamarind water you'll have a more consistent result.
What is tamarind paste and how to use it?
Tamarind paste or tamarind concentrate, and sometimes even called 'cooking tamarind', usually refers to the product you can buy in small plastic tubs (usually the size of a typical tin of tomatoes or baked beans), or tiny glass jars. It can also be called 'cooking tamarind'.
Tamarind paste is already diluted but the dilution varies between brand. Therefore you should always taste dishes as you slowly add the tamarind because the recipe writer may be using a different brand to you.
What is tamarind water and how to make it?
Many recipe books will direct you to make your own tamarind water from tamarind pulp, so that you are using the same concentration as the recipe writer. If you always make the tamarind water yourself you will have more control.
You can identify tamarind pulp because it is a firm block of the dried tamarind fruit, usually a rich brown colour, wrapped in see-through plastic.
Once diluted, some also argue it tastes fresher than the more liquid tamarind paste or concentrate you'd buy in a tub.
Tamarind water ingredients Serves: 12
- 100g tamarind pulp
- 600ml boiling water
Method for making tamarind water
- Pour boiling water over the tamarind pulp, and leave to soak for 20 minutes. Break the pulp up with a fork, and strain the mixture into a bowl using a sieve. Press as much pulp through as possible using a spoon, and scrape any tamarind puree from the underside of the sieve into the bowl.
- The tamarind water will keep in the fridge for up to a week, or can be frozen. If freezing, pour into an ice cube tray for easy-to-use portions.
After a stage as a chef at a London Michelin-starred restaurant Nicola became obsessed with seeking the best flavours from around the world. She started Sous Chef in 2012, and is always sharing her knowledge of ingredients and writing recipes to showcase those products. Learning from the products, Sous Chef's suppliers and her travels, Nicola has written the majority of the recipes on the Sous Chef website, all of which are big on flavour.