If you’ve ever gone to a Mexican restaurant, you’ve probably seen tamarind as one of the many agua fresca flavors on the menu. That’s because tamarind is a fruit that’s extremely popular in Mexican culture, despite the fact that it originates in Africa.
Whether you try tamarind at a Mexican restaurant or other location, you’ll notice that it has a sweet and tangy flavor. Tamarind’s tart flavor and spicy-sweet aftertaste have been likened to that of dates and cinnamon.
What Is Tamarind?
So, what exactly is tamarind? Tamarind is a tropical fruit that’s most commonly used as a flavor additive in cooking. It comes from the tamarind tree, and the fruit is characterized by crescent-shaped pods filled with a sticky pulp.
Tamarind is known by the name tamarindo in Spanish or as an Indian date in colloquial English-speaking cultures. The fruit is actually in the legume family, making it related to lentils, peas, and peanuts.
Tamarind is mostly grown in India, Africa, Southeast, Asia, and the West Indies. However, you’ll find this fruit in parts of South America where the weather and growing conditions make it easy for farmers to cultivate this plant.
What Does Tamarind Taste Like?
Tamarind tastes sort of like lemonade with notes of caramel. It’s not a flavor that you’ll commonly find in American meals, but it’s delicious nonetheless.
When you eat Tamarind, you’ll immediately notice a jammy flavor that’s marked by notes of tartness and sweetness at the same time. Since tamarind has both tart and sweet notes it can be paired with either savory or sweet flavors.
Tamarind’s Nutritional Information
Tamarind has long been used medicinally, especially in Ayurvedic medicine. It provides the required sour component of the Ayurvedic diet.
In addition, tamarind has several purported benefits. Many people believe that tamarind tea can help heal sore throats and that tamarind paste is good for sprains and inflammation.
Apart from these uses, tamarind can be used for several other problems, including:
- Dry Eyes
- Gallbladder issues
- Stomach problems
- Liver issues
The reason why tamarind may help with these issues is that it contains several B vitamins and amino acids. These nutrients play a key role in keeping us healthy!
How to Eat Tamarind
Are you ready to bite into some tamarind of your own? There are a few different ways that you can eat tamarind. Let’s check them out!
Although you can technically eat tamarind raw, this is the least popular way to eat them. If you do choose to indulge in raw tamarind pods, however, you’ll just crack open the shell and scoop out the sticky pulp!
Another way to eat tamarind is in juices. Tamarind concentrate is typically added to water and sweetened with lemon and sugar to taste. It’s a great way to dip your toes into the world of tamarind.
If you want to do some cooking with tamarind, you can add it to a sauce. Tamarind adds an earthy and spicy note to your cooking that you won’t get from any other flavor additive.
Another common way of consuming tamarind is as candy. Chefs use tamarind paste mixed with sugar to make a delicious, lemony treat.
Where to Buy Tamarind
With all those ways of consuming tamarind, you’re probably itching to get your hands on this fruit! The good news is that there are a few different places where you can buy tamarind.
In southeast Asia and in Africa, you’ll have no trouble coming across tamarind in local supermarkets. In the United States, however, you’ll have to look a little bit harder.
Whole Foods and organic markets are good places to find tamarind pods. Supply is often limited of the fresh fruit, although stores tend to stock quite a bit of tamarind paste.
You can also visit specialty Asian food stores. Asian food shops are a great place to get your hands on not only fresh tamarind but also products that have tamarind in them so that you can get used to the flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’ve got some lingering questions about tamarind, we get it. Here are a few answers to the most commonly asked questions about tamarind.
Why does tamarind taste bad?
Tamarind is often considered an acquired taste. It has quite a tart flavor, which is also why many people don’t consume it raw. To improve the flavor of tamarind, try turning it into juice and adding sugar.
What fruit is similar to tamarind?
Tamarind is a very unique fruit but is most similar to dates in texture. In flavor, tamarind is more reminiscent of pomegranate molasses or of lime. Mangoes are sometimes likened to tamarinds, too, although mangoes are much sweeter and less nutty.
Is there a substitute for tamarind paste?
If you run into a recipe that calls for tamarind but you don’t have any on hand, there are tons of different substitutes that you can use. Mango powder, pomegranate molasses, and lemon all work well as substitutes. Another good substitute for savory dishes is Worcestershire sauce mixed with brown sugar.
Is tamarind poisonous?
Despite its less-than-appealing appearance, there are no toxic substances in tamarind. That means that it’s perfectly safe to consume this fruit raw or cooked.
Can I eat tamarind every day?
If you’ve tried tamarind and fallen in love with the fruit, you might find yourself wanting to eat it every day. The good news is that there are no health issues associated with eating tamarind on a daily basis. You can eat as much of the fruit as you like with no negative side effects!