A Guide To Tamarind Paste And Tamarind Water

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:

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 strained through a sieve

Sieved tamarind water, with the seeds and pulp left behind in the sieve 

 Tamarind water ingredients Serves: 12

Method for making tamarind water

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2021

If you are looking for something to cook something with the tamarind water, try our Perfect Pad Thai recipe, or shop for southeast Asian ingredients here.   


  • Almost on a celestial par with making a good fresh tomato sauce is, for me, the soothing preparation of date and tamarind paste. I got the idea to do it while reading ‘The Settler’s Cookbook’ by Yasmin Alibahai-Brown. Knowing I had good local suppliers of both dates and fresh tamarind, I had to try it, despite the fact I didn’t have a clue what I would eat it with. Now I have a bit more of a clue! It is versatile for sure, and can even liven up a pomodoro that needs it.

    Anita McCullough on

  • Complete amateur cook, made a little Chinese last night and used tamarind concentrate instead of tamarind juice; didn’t ruin meal but too strong a flavour. I hate when you put a simple question into the internet and get numerous answers you were not looking for. But here – after glimpsing at the usual 20 unwanted answers – I found this one. Exactly what I wanted and in plain English. Wonderful and thank you.

    Raymond Dempster on

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