This sweet-tart Tamarind Syrup requires just 3 ingredients - dried tamarind (aka tamarindo) pods, fresh lime juice, and sugar. Pour it as you would other syrups (ie. over pancakes or ice cream), or as an ingredient in both cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages. Tamarind Syrup makes a lovely gift for the foodies in your life!
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Recipe Inspiration
Having spent most of my life on or near the Mexican-US border, I have seen dried tamarind pods at our local markets, yet I've never prepared them. I found it easier to buy a jar of pre-made tamarind paste. Never one to shy away from making things "from scratch," I decided recently that it was time to take on the challenge of breaking down these slightly gnarly looking brown pods.
I have not seen fresh tamarind pods because I haven't looked for them. We have a local Latin foods market that I feel confident carries the fresh pods. I hesitated to use fresh tamarind pods for the syrup recipe because they aren't likely available to most of my readers. However, the dried pods are widely available in markets that carry a good selection of Mexican or international products.
Tamarind syrup seemed to be a good place to start working with this new to me ingredient. The holidays are fast approaching, and I love gifting food like this spiced plum syrup and these gourmet salts. I must confess, however, I had my sight set on the tamarind and mezcal cocktail that follows this post.
🌳 What is Tamarind?
Tamarind is a tree, (scientific name Tamarindus indica). It is native to India, but grows in many tropical regions including Mexico and South America. A legume, the tree produces pods that are laden with pulp that is used extensively in food, drinks, and medicines.
You can find tamarind in 3 main forms: Raw pods (both dried and fresh), pressed block (pods and seeds removed), and concentrate that has been boiled down. It is likely to have preservatives added. For more on tamarind see What Is Tamarind? A Tropical Fruit with Health Benefits.
How difficult is it to prepare tamarind pods?
I will not lie... breaking down tamarind pods is a bit of work. It is also messy. However, if you are committed to avoiding preservatives and chemicals, this tamarind syrup is worth the effort!
The most tedious aspect of preparing the pods is removing the outer pod and strings. You can break the pods while dry, similar to taking peanuts out of their shells. I find it easier to cover them with water, bring it to a boil, and let them soften in the hot water for a few minutes. I then rinse them with cold water and drain them. The softened pods come off easily.
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- tamarind pods - I buy tamarind pods in the produce section of my grocery store. They are whole, dried tamarind pods. I will work on substituting tamarind blocks instead of the pulp from pods, but I don't have a quantity at this point in time.
- sugar - On photo day, I used turbinado (aka raw) sugar. My favorite is piloncillo (aka jaggery). Both are made from sugar cane. Turbinado is partially refined, while piloncillo is unrefined. The molasses-like flavor works well with the tamarind. Brown sugar is a better option than white sugar if you need to substitute.
- fresh lime - The juice of 1 lime is the finishing touch on your tamarind syrup. Please use fresh!
Cover pods with water; bring to a boil. Let the tamarind soak for 5 minutes (+/-) then rinse with cold water and drain. This step softens the shells, and the peel more easily. Alternatively, you can save this step, and shell them dry.
Remove the outer shell and the stringy fibers from the pods. NOTE: You can remove seeds at this time as well, but they'll stay behind in the strainer after they're cooked.
Rinse out the saucepan. Add 4 cups of boiling water. Allow the tamarind to soften 15-20 minutes.
Pour the tamarind mixture and its liquid through a strainer into a vessel large enough to hold it. Using the edge of a wooden spoon (or similar), press as much pulp through the strainer as you can get through.
The liquid and tamarind pulp should now be free of seeds and fibers. You should have about 4 cups +/-.
After rinsing out the pan, add the tamarind and sugar. Bring to a bowl, then reduce heat to a low boil. Cook 20-30 minutes until slightly thickened. Allow mixture to cool, then add the juice of 1 lime. Stir to combine.
Never store tamarind (paste, syrup, etc.) in plastic; store it in glass. Tamarind is highly acidic, and will react with plastic.
Unrefined or partially refined sugar (like piloncillo or turbinado) provides more depth of flavor than white sugar. Brown sugar is a better substitute.
The short answer is yes. Tamarind pulp is considered a fruit. As with all fruits, tamarind contains sugar. However, it does contain many important nutrients including B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium. Keep in mind, though, this syrup has a lot of sugar and is not considered healthy.
Due to the acidity of the syrup, it will last in the refrigerator 2-3 months.
🧂 Useful Stuff
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I am looking forward to playing around with this flavorful syrup... especially for the holidays. I do hope you'll give it a try!
- Cover pods with water; bring to a boil. Let the tamarind soak for 5 minutes (+/-) then rinse with cold water and drain. Remove the outer shell and the stringy fibers from the pods.
- Rinse out the saucepan. Add 4 cups of boiling water and the tamarind. Allow the tamarind to soften 15-20 minutes.
- Pour the tamarind and its liquid through a strainer into a vessel large enough to hold it. Using the edge of a wooden spoon (or similar), press as much pulp through the strainer as you can get through.
- After rinsing out the pan, add the tamarind, its liquid, and the sugar. Bring to a bowl, then reduce heat to a low boil. Cook 20-30 minutes until slightly thickened. Allow mixture to cool, then add the juice of 1 lime. Stir to combine.
NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.