Tamarind paste is an interesting cooking component that has gotten application across the world. From Asia to India and Latin America, this paste provides some much-needed sourness and tartness to dishes. It is relatively famous in the United States as well.
With a thick consistency and sour taste, tamarind paste has come to stay. However, you could need a substitute from time to time.
So, what is the best substitute for tamarind paste? Pomegranate molasses has emerged as the top choice for a tamarind paste substitute, thanks to their relatively similar taste and almost identical texture. Since it’s a one-for-one substitute, you won’t have any problems with using pomegranate molasses instead of tamarind paste as well.
An Overview of Tamarind Paste
Tamarind paste is a cooking component gotten from the fruit of the tamarind tree. It originates from Africa, although it has become prevalent in dishes across the world. The tamarind tree itself has also spread, growing all over Asia and in some parts of Mexico.
The tamarind tree’s fruit is sour, dark, and sticky. Through processing, you can get tamarind paste. Today, tamarind paste is used in dishes across India, Asia, Vietnam, and various parts of Latin America. Its strong sour flavor provides a perfect way to counteract overly sweet dishes, and it offers a much-needed tang for some cuisines as well.
You should be able to find tamarind paste at the Asian section of your local grocery store. However, there are also some substitutes available if you need to try something different for various reasons.
Why Replace Tamarind Paste?
- Non-availability: If you can’t find any tamarind paste around you, it would be better for you to get a substitute instead.
- Taste differences: Some people could also feel that the tamarind paste is too sour for them. Thankfully, there are some substitutes that provide a bit of a sweeter taste for you.
Options for Tamarind Paste Substitutes
Best Overall Substitute for Tamarind Paste: Pomegranate Molasses
As you probably expect, pomegranate molasses comes from pomegranate juice. You get it when you reduce the pomegranate juice to the point where it becomes syrupy and sweet. Expert manufacturers watch to ensure that the juice doesn’t become too sweet. In some cases, pomegranate molasses is actually used to improve acidity – not sweetness.
One of the primary reasons why you want to use pomegranate juice as a substitute for tamarind paste is the similarity in texture. Both are used to improve the moisture of any dish, and they also give a darker color to dishes. They differ slightly in taste, but the taste is relatively negligible.
Even better is the fact that pomegranate molasses is an excellent one-for-one substitute for tamarind paste. So, you use the same quantity of pomegranate molasses as you would use tamarind paste. The substitution technique couldn’t be more straightforward.
Thanks to its combination of sweet and sour flavors, pomegranate molasses is especially helpful in seasoning Asian and Indian dishes.
The only slight dent in pomegranate molasses is that they might not be readily available. Pomegranate molasses is quite rare, so you might not have it at home or a local grocery store. Don’t worry, however, as there are several other ideal substitutes for tamarind paste.
Best Substitute for Similar Flavors: Citrus Juice
When it comes to souring agents, there’s hardly anything as good and readily available as lime or lemon juice. Their ability to improve tartness in cuisines is almost unmatched, and you will find that they fulfill virtually the same role as tamarind paste.
Tamarind paste might be sweeter than citrus juice, but they still do relatively well as substitutes for it. Today, many Indian cooks use lemon or lime juice to replace tamarind paste. If they can use it, there’s no reason you shouldn’t.
Interestingly, lime and lemon juices also work in Thai dishes. This is because these dishes require more sweetness than Indian cuisines. So, while tamarind paste offers full sourness, these juices provide a hint of sweetness to the sour that works just fine.
Like pomegranate molasses, you can use lemon or lime juice in the same quantities as tamarind paste. You can also mix these with sugar, although you would need to add equal parts of sugar with the juice to be on the safest side. When you have a mixture, use the exact quantities as you would use tamarind paste.
However, keep in mind that you would need to be careful about the citrus juice you use. Many cheap options tend to use non-vegan sugar and minor amounts of natural fruit, and you will find that these are generally lousy tamarind paste alternatives. For the best stuff, make sure to use the real deal.
Best Substitute for Souring Dishes: Mango Powder
Also known as mango amchur, mango powder is made from drying and powdering unripe mangoes. Mango powder has also become popular in India, although it mainly works as a souring agent in the country’s northern region.
Mango powder works as an excellent tamarind paste substitute because of its tartness and fruity nature. However, the most significant difference between the two lies in the consistency. Mango powder is dry, so it might not provide the same feeling and texture as tamarind paste. However, you can use mango powder to make a paste if you want a more similar consistency. Just get equal parts of water and mango powder and mix them.
Mango powder is a perfect one-for-one substitute for tamarind powder, so there are no volume differences.
However, like citrus juice, you also want to ensure that your mango powder is of the best quality. There are many lower-quality products out there, and while they may be cheaper, they don’t have the same tartness that you’ll get from high-quality mango powder.