If you have food intolerances that mean you struggle with deep, umami flavoured ingredients like miso or soya sauce and are looking for something to bring a bit of zing to your dinner, then tamarind might just be what you’re looking for.
The tamarind tree is a tropical hardwood tree that produces large bean-like pods. These are filled with seeds surrounded by pulp. As this pulp ripens it becomes juicy and develops a distinctive sweet-sour flavour which tingles the tastebuds no end.
Tamarind is used in many dishes like curry and chutney, as well as sauces and dressings. It’s also a key ingredient of Worcestershire sauce.
You can buy tamarind in two forms – as a block of compressed pulp or as a smooth concentrate already processed with the fibre removed. Health and nutrient wise, the compressed block is better as it’s essentially raw tamarind. However, to make a paste that can be used for cooking takes a lot of soaking, squeezing and pressing through a sieve.
To make life easier, I tend to buy a small pot of tamarind paste and keep it in the fridge. Beware though as it’s very dark and has a habit of drizzling where you don’t want it to and it can stain worktops and wooden boards if you’re not careful. It’s potent stuff!
Depending on where you live, you should be able to find tamarind paste and blocks in Asian stores. Otherwise you can buy it online from various stores including Amazon.
Because tamarind is so sour, it needs a little sweetness to balance the flavours, so I use whole dates as a base for the sauce. This also gives texture and of course a little fibre too, always good for gut health.
This sauce can be used as:
- a dressing for salads, particularly crunchy Asian inspired dishes
- poured over roasted veggies
- drizzled over savoury-filled pancakes
- added to stews and soups
- as a base for curry
I’ve added in a little spice to the recipe; feel free to amend the amounts or omit altogether to suit your tastes.
I hope you enjoy this delightfully tart but sweet sauce. It’s certainly one of the tastiest additions I have in my plant-based kitchen. Enjoy!
Tamarind and date sauce
- 125 ml water
- 75 grams pitted dates
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 1/4 tsp chilli powder
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- pinch asafoetida optional
- salt to taste
- Pour the water into a small pan and add the dates. Pop on the lid and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until the dates are super soft and hydrated. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.
- Pop the dates into the small bowl of a food processor or hand blender. Blend to a paste, adding more water if it's too thick.
- Add the remaining ingredients and blend again to combine.
- Check the flavour and add more spices or salt as needed.
- Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 5 days.