Tamarind is one of my FAVORITE flavors for sweet treats! I was first introduced to tamarind through Mexican candy as a kid. Now I also enjoy it as an aqua fresca, cocktails, and even in cooking.
This recipe is super simple only using a few ingredients, but it does take a little bit of time and work. Make a lot of it and you won’t have to make it again for months, as it will last in the fridge for a pretty long time.
I’ve been making this in bulk for my dad. I made it for one of the cocktails on my pop-up menu earlier this summer, and gave the leftover to my dad to take home. He finished 2 liters in 1 month! I was shocked when he asked me to make more so soon. He LOVED it for making agua de tamarindo, both of our favorite agua fresca.
What is tamarind?
Tamarind is technically a fruit that is native to Asia and Africa. It grows on trees and produces pods of fruit that are sweet & sour. Tamarind is used across many different cultures for different things, and you can definitely use this tamarind syrup for all of them!
You only need 3 ingredients to make tamarind syrup! 5 if you count water and salt, but still super simple and easy!
Dried tamarind pods– you can find this at any Mexican market and some Asian markets. Sometimes they are sold as loose bulk items and you can buy them by weight, but they usually come in a bag.
Brown sugar or piloncillo- you can use any sweetener of your choice, but these are the best options that compliment tamarind. If you opt for piloncillo, just make sure its real piloncillo and not the super processed stuff, otherwise you might as well just use brown sugar. Look at the ingredient list- it should be 100% evaporated cane juice.
Lime- this is optional but I highly recommend it for added flavor and longer shelf life.
Water- boiling hot water to soften the tamarind.
Salt- just a pinch to really bring out the flavors.
1. Remove the shells and stringy parts from the tamarind
2. Soak in boiling hot water for an hour
3. Grate the piloncillo while the tamarind is soaking, if using. It will melt much easier and faster, which is necessary because you shouldn’t cook tamarind for too long or it starts to lose flavor. You can also use brown sugar here. White sugar is fine but will not give you the best results.
4. Pour the water and softened tamarind over a sieve and into a pot, pushing it through constantly with a spatula.
5. Push the pulp through until there are only the seeds and sacks left.
6. Add the brown sugar or grated piloncillo. You can adjust the amount of sugar to your liking!
7. Bring to a gentle simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then turn off the heat and add the juice from 1 lime and a pinch of salt. Mix thoroughly and let it cool.
8. It’s ready when the sugar has completely dissolved and coats a spatula.
9. Let it cool completely before storing in a glass container. Do not store in plastic or metal. Keep in the fridge for up to 3 months in a GLASS container, do not us plastic or metal.
How to use tamarind syrup
You can use this syrup to make agua de tamarindo! This is my favorite agua fresca for sure. Just mix a couple tablespoons with a cup of water and lots of ice. My dad usually mixes in white sugar as well to make it extra sweet.
This would also work well on raspados (shaved ice), in cooking dishes like pad thai, or as a flavored syrup for cocktails. If you make this, try making my Tamarind Bourbon Smash!
- 1 lb dried tamarind pods
- 4 cups boiling hot water
- 1.5 cups brown sugar or piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar)
- 1 lime
- pinch of salt
- Remove the shells and stringy parts from the tamarind
- Soak in boiling hot water for an hour
- Pour the water and softened tamarind over a sieve and into a pot, pushing it through constantly with a spatula.
- Push the pulp through until there are only the seeds and sacks left.
- Add brown sugar or grated piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar). You can adjust the amount of sugar to your liking!
- Bring to a gentle simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then turn off the heat and add the juice of 1 lime and a pinch of salt. Mix well.
- Let it cool completely before storing in a glass container. Do not store in plastic or metal. Keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.