Known as the "date of India," tamarind is a tropical fruit that has a sweet and sour taste. The fruit grows on tamarind trees, which are in the evergreen family. Known scientifically as an "indehiscent legume," tamarind is generally referred to as a pod. To access the fruit, the pod is pulled from the stalk and opened. Inside, the fruit is a reddish-brown color. Although originally indigenous to Africa, tamarind trees are widespread throughout India and tamarind is used throughout Asia and South America.
In some places it is difficult to find tamarind paste or tamarind nectar. If a recipe calls for tamarind nectar and you can't find it, there are possible substitutions. Keep in mind that these substitutions will not give the exact flavor of tamarind, but they are close approximations.
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Tamarind is used throughout the world. Some cultures, such as Mexican and Thai, eat the raw fruit as a snack; they also eat it dried, salted or candied. Other cultures, such as Indian and Korean, cook with tamarind paste or tamarind nectar. Tamarind nectar is also called tamarind juice and is the liquid form of Tamarind fruit. In the United States, tamarind's most popular use is as a main ingredient in Worcestershire sauce.
Alternative Substitutions for Tamarind Nectar
You can mix lemon or lime juice with molasses or brown sugar as a substitute for tamarind nectar. You can try the following combinations to find one that suits your tastes: one part molasses and three parts lime juice, four parts dark brown sugar and three parts lemon juice, four parts dark brown sugar and three parts malt vinegar or lime juice, or 1/4 cup orange juice and three tablespoons lime juice. Tamarind is a very tart fruit, so your substitution should be more tart than sweet or sour.
Substitutions for Tamarind Paste
Also known as tamarind concentrate, tamarind paste is a popular ingredient in soups, curries and chutneys. If you're unable to locate tamarind paste, here is the most popular substitution. Combine equal parts dried apricots, prunes, dates, and lemon juice. Cover the dried fruits with hot water and let soak for 15 minutes. Place the dried fruit and lemon juice in a food processor and process until smooth.
Other Alternative Tamarind Nectar Substitutions
Some people believe that Worcestershire sauce can be an adequate substitute for tamarind nectar because tamarind is one of the main ingredients. Others argue, however, that there are too many complex flavors in Worcestershire sauce to make it a good substitution.
If you are unhappy with the flavor of your dishes when using a substitute, and you are unable to find tamarind in your local grocery stores, you can purchase tamarind products online and have them shipped to your home.