Tamarind Paste Vs Concentrate — What’s The Difference?
Tamarind is a hardwood tree that yields large brown pods, and in these pods is tamarind fruit. The tamarind fruit has a very distinctive flavor, and there are a few ways this small fruit is processed to be used in cooking.
Two popular ingredients created with tamarind fruit are tamarind paste and tamarind concentrate. The two are often confused for one another as they look and taste similar.
What is the difference between tamarind paste and concentrate? One of the main differences between tamarind paste and concentrate is that the paste has a much stronger flavor, and it is made directly from the tamarind fruit. Tamarind concentrate tastes more diluted and has a more gel-like consistency.
Let’s dig into the differences between these two products!
What Is Tamarind Paste?
Tamarind paste is a popular ingredient used in Thai cooking, mostly for savory meals, but it can also be used to make candy and desserts.
It is made from the fruit of the tamarind tree, specifically the pulp around the seeds in the pod. The seeds are removed from the pulp so that the paste can be ready-to-use.
The great thing about tamarind paste is that you can make it yourself at home, or buy it pre-made.
Tamarind paste can be sold in a block, and you need to reconstitute it using boiling water to make it easier to use for cooking. It is also popularly sold as thicker paste in a jar, which can be easier to use than the block of paste.
Tamarind paste is fairly easy to come by and it lasts for quite a long time, making it a great ingredient to keep at home when you want a kick of flavor, or when you want to make pad thai!
What Is Tamarind Concentrate?
Tamarind concentrate is similar to tamarind paste in that it is made from the pulp of the tamarind pod and with the seeds removed, but tamarind concentrate is easier to use for cooking as it is a gel-like consistency, and not in block form.
It is similar in consistency to tamarind paste when sold in jars, and similar in flavor, just with a more diluted taste to it.
Tamarind concentrate can be made from the juice of the fruit from the tamarind part, and some other parts of the fruit, but it is not made from the whole fruit itself.
The Confusion Between The Two
It can be hard to look for the differences between tamarind paste and concentrate as many of the brands who sell either, classify one product as both tamarind paste and concentrate.
This is usually just referring to pre-made tamarind paste, which can be diluted with some water and added to a meal, but it is easy to understand where the confusion comes from.
Only some brands have clear distinctions between tamarind paste and tamarind concentrate — you do need to know what you are looking for when you are purchasing one.
The tamarind fruit has a very complex flavor profile, which is what makes it so popular (and so suitable) for different cooking styles and for both sweet and savory dishes.
As tamarind paste and tamarind concentrate are made from the same thing, they do share a similar taste. The flavor of both is sour with citrusy notes, which are balanced off with a sweeter caramel flavor.
Whichever you choose to use, you will get the sweet, sour, tangy, and tart flavor from either, which can be such a great addition to a meal.
The beauty of using tamarind is that you can bring out certain flavors more by using various ingredients.
For example, adding sugar to the tamarind helps to bring out more of the caramel flavor as well as tone down the sourness of the paste or concentrate.
Strength Of Flavor
The difference between the two comes in the intensity of flavor.
Tamarind paste is considered to have a stronger flavor, as it is made directly from the pulp of the tamarind pod. This gives you just about a full flavor, which does need to be used in moderation.
Tamarind concentrate also has a strong flavor, but it is more diluted than tamarind paste as it is made using other parts of the pod too — it also has a more gel-like consistency through processing.
Even though tamarind paste has a milder flavor than paste, it still holds a kick of flavor, and it will definitely bring about a whole host of different flavors to your dish.
How They’re Used
Tamarind paste and tamarind concentrate are used in a very similar way; it is just the preparation that differs between them.
When using tamarind paste blocks, you do have to cut or break some of the block away, and then mix it down using some boiling water.
Usually, you would use around 2 parts of water to 1 part of tamarind paste, to make it easier to mix into the other ingredients.
Tamarind paste that comes in a jar is ready to be added to other ingredients as is, but you might want to add a small amount of water to make it more liquid.
Tamarind concentrate has a gel-like consistency, which makes it easier to add to other ingredients. You can still add a small amount of water to it, but it should not be necessary to be able to use the tamarind concentrate.
Due to the complex flavors of tamarind, it can be used in so many different ways.
The most common use is to make pad thai and other Thai dishes, but it is also great when mixed with other ingredients to make a marinade for chicken, lamb, or beef.
On the sweeter side, tamarind paste and tamarind concentrate can be used to make desserts and cocktails too!
Both tamarind paste and concentrate can be stored in the same way.
Unopened, they can be stored in a cool, dry area, such as in a pantry. Once opened, it is advised to place the paste or concentrate in the fridge, to keep it at its best quality.
The paste or concentrate might become slightly thicker when stored in the fridge, so you will need to stir the contents first or dilute them with some water before adding them to a meal.
Stored in the right way, tamarind paste and tamarind concentrate can last for a few months in the fridge.
Are They Interchangeable?
Tamarind paste and tamarind concentrate are interchangeable — they are made from the same thing and have the same flavors, after all! However, you do have to adjust quantities and dilution to make them suitable to be used for one another.
If you were going to use a tamarind paste block, then you need to dilute one part of the concentrate with two parts of water, to use it in its place.
To use premade tamarind paste instead of the block, you can use 1 tablespoon of the paste in place of 1.5 tablespoons of the block to achieve a similar taste.
To use tamarind paste in place of tamarind concentrate, you will need to dilute it down to match the consistency of the concentrate — you will have to taste it as you go to make sure it is suitable for the meal you are making.
What Is Tamarind Puree?
Tamarind puree is another product made from tamarind, and it is different from the paste and the concentrate.
The puree is made from the dried tamarind fruit and is more liquid compared to the other two. It is more like a dipping sauce and is almost the same consistency as apple sauce.
Tamarind puree can be used in cooking and added to sauces and stir-fries for a sweet and sour flavor. The puree does not need to be cooked down, so it is commonly added to a meal at the very end of the cooking process.
Tamarind paste and tamarind concentrate are very similar ingredients, but there are some differences between them that affect their preparation and flavor.
Tamarind paste is made from the pulp of the tamarind pod and it can be sold in a solid block or in a premade jar. Both have a strong citrusy, sweet and sour flavor, and impart this well into food.
Tamarind concentrate is made from the pulp of the pod, and parts of the fruit, and has a gel-like consistency. It is dark in color and full of flavor but is slightly milder than the paste.
Both are popularly used in different cuisines, but most commonly in Thai cooking — the complexity of flavor means they are great for both sweet and savory dishes.
Now that we’ve learned all about tamarind paste and tamarind concentrate, here are some additional questions that we thought you might have.
How do you turn tamarind paste into concentrate?
To turn tamarind paste into concentrate, place some of the tamarind block into a large bowl and pour boiling water over it. Once the water is cooled, massage the block in with the water to make a more liquid tamarind substance.
What can I use in place of tamarind paste?
The most common substitutes for tamarind paste are either lime juice or a mixture of vinegar and sugar.