The bright, tart and sweet flavor of tamarind concentrate, also called paste, appears in many Thai and Indian dishes. Purchase tamarind concentrate in blocks at international markets, but in a pinch, you can substitute more common ingredients. Though the flavor won’t be exactly the same, a proper tamarind substitute will contain the same sweet and sour components.
The sour flavor of tamarind concentrate resembles the mouth-puckering taste of citrus fruits. Combine lemon or lime juice with brown sugar to replace 1/6 of the amount of tamarind concentrate called for in your recipe. For instance, use 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar to replace 1 teaspoon of tamarind concentrate. Adjust the amount of sugar based on your personal preference for sweetness in the dish.
Amchoor powder from unripened mangoes tastes similarly tart. Available in Indian grocery stores, amchoor powder is a common ingredient in northern Indian dishes. Use 50 percent more amchoor powder to replace tamarind concentrate. For example, if your recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of tamarind concentrate, use 1 1/2 tablespoons of amchoor powder.
Worcestershire sauce gets its tangy flavor from tamarind so this condiment makes a natural substitute for tamarind paste. Look for a brand of Worcestershire sauce that lists real tamarind in the ingredients; some low-quality brands might skimp on this flavoring. Use 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire to replace 1 tablespoon of tamarind concentrate.
Use the sweetness of dried fruits combined with lemon juice to create a sweet and tangy replacement for tamarind concentrate with a texture the same as tamarind paste. Puree equal parts of pitted prunes, dried apricots, lemon juice and chopped dates in a food processor, and use 1 tabelspoon of this mixture to replace 1 tablespoon of tamarind concentrate in your recipes.
References and ResourcesThe Kitchn; Seeking Suggestion: Substitutes for Tamarind in Pad Thai; Emma Christensen; November 2010
Kate's Global Kitchen; Tropical Fruits Month: Tangy Tamarind; Kate Heyhoe; 2000
The Cook's Thesaurus: Indian Condiments and Sauces
Gourmet Sleuth: Tamarind Paste