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Tamarind Around the World

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It’s hard to feel like you’re being healthy while indulging in sweet treats. But what if I told you that you could have something sweet and healthy? Tamarind is a sweet and tangy fruit whose pulp is used as a base in many cuisines around the world. In the tropical areas where it grows, it’s known as an important part of traditional medicines. Today, researchers agree that it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which help protect against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Curious how to include this super-fruit in your diet? Check out these recipes to see how tamarind is used in meals from all over the world!
—Emma Hebertson

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Photo by Emma Hebertson

Kuku Wa Ukwaju (Swahili Tamarind Chicken)

The fragrant taste of this Kenyan dish and Swahili delicacy is primarily due to the incorporation of tamarind into the sauce. Once you get a bite of tender chicken simmering in this bold, complex sauce, you’ll never see chicken the same way.

Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 4



  • 1 chicken in pieces or 4 breasts
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper or lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil


  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander


  • fresh lime juice
  • cilantro, chopped

  1. Remove tendons from the chicken with kitchen shears. Then cut chicken into tenderloin-sized chunks or as desired.
  2. Mix together paprika, cumin, and turmeric in a medium-sized bowl for marinade.
  3. Rub salt and pepper into chicken pieces, then add chicken to the spice mixture. Coat chicken evenly.
  4. Add marinade tamarind paste to chicken and coat evenly, massaging the paste and spices into chicken.
  5. Cover the bowl of chicken with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  6. After allowing the chicken to marinate, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add chicken to pan and cook until mostly cooked through, turning over periodically.
  7. Remove chicken from pan, leaving any extra juices. Add garlic and onion to the pan and sauté until partially soft, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add the remainder of the sauce ingredients to the pan and simmer for 3 minutes.
  9. Once the sauce has combined, add it to a blender and blend until smooth.
  10. Return the sauce to the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and add chicken back in.
  11. Cover and let simmer until chicken is cooked.
  12. Remove from heat and garnish with chopped cilantro and lime juice to serve. Enjoy over coconut rice.
Photo by Emma Hebertson

Agua de Tamarindo (Tamarind Juice)

Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 8

Mexico is known for its aguas frescas (“fresh waters”), flavored drinks sold in almost any place you can find in the country. The three main aguas frescas—horchata, jamaica, and tamarindo—are a staple in Mexico, where refreshing drinks are essential under the hot sun. Tamarind water’s natural, sweet flavor will be the perfect addition to a warm summer day.


  • 2 cups of tamarind, peeled
  • 4 cups of water + 8 cups
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • ½ cup of lime juice, to frost
  • ½ cup of ground chili, to frost
  • ice as desired
  • 2 limes, sliced in circles

  1. Heat 4 cups of water in a large pot over medium heat, and cook the tamarind until soft.
  2. Remove from heat, drain, and let cool.
  3. Separate the pulp from the seeds with fingers.
  4. Add the tamarind pulp to a blender with the sugar and 8 cups of water, and blend.
  5. Frost cups with the lime and chili, add the water and more ice to cups, and decorate with lime slices.
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Imli Chutney (Tamarind Chutney)

Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 6–8

A popular Indian spread, chutney is an integral addition to Indian dishes that provides balance to each meal. Tamarind chutney is one of the most popular for its both sweet and savory flavor. Next time you have Indian food, consider pairing it with this delicious classic.


  • ½ cup seedless tamarind
  • ½ cup seedless dates
  • ½ cup jaggery or brown sugar
  • 2 cups water (for thinner consistency, 3 cups)
  • ½ tsp fennel
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • salt to taste

  1. In a large cast iron or sauté pan, combine tamarind, dates, and jaggery or brown sugar.
  2. Add 2 cups of water and mix.
  3. Boil the mixture for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Add fennel, ground coriander, cumin, red chili powder, ground ginger, and salt to taste.
  5. Mix and mash the spices in.
  6. Simmer the mixture for 2 minutes, then allow it to cool completely.
  7. Transfer date and tamarind mixture to the mixer and blend until it's a smooth puree.
  8. Strain the puree.
  9. Transfer the prepared tamarind chutney into an airtight jar and store it in the refrigerator.
  10. Use the tamarind chutney in preparing sev puri, bhel puri, or pani puri.
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Photo by Emma Hebertson

Kway Teow Pad Thai (Pad Thai)

Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Originally created to promote Thai nationalism, Pad Thai is now considered the national dish of Thailand and is one of the country’s most well-known dishes across the world. It’s close to impossible to not find it offered at any Thai restaurant you go to—but who’s complaining? It’s delicious!



  • 3 tbsp Thai tamarind puree
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce

Stir Fry:

  • 8 oz rice noodles
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 10 oz chicken breast/thigh, thinly sliced
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups of bean sprouts
  • ½ cup garlic chives, cut into 1 1/4” pieces
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts


  • 1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts
  • lime wedges
  • more bean sprouts

  1. Boil a pot of water and pour it over noodles in a large bowl.
  2. Soak the noodles for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water.
  3. Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
  4. Heat oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Add salted chicken to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until mostly cooked through
  6. Push chicken to one side of the pan and pour the lightly whisked eggs in on the other side. Scramble the egg, then mix into chicken.
  7. Add bean sprouts, noodles, then the sauce.
  8. Gently toss the pan’s contents for about 2 minutes until the noodles absorb the sauce.
  9. Add garlic chives and half the peanuts, tossing before removing from heat.
  10. Sprinkle with remaining peanuts and extra bean sprouts. Squeeze lime wedge over the noodles before eating.
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