Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Tamarind is the fibrous, sticky, aromatic, and intensely sour pulp that surrounds the seeds in pods of Tamarindus indica, a tree in the bean family native to Africa and Madagascar. The pulp can be extracted by soaking it in water for a few minutes, squeezing the fibrous mass, and straining off the flavored water; tamarind extract is also manufactured and sold as a thick paste. The pulp is about 20% acids, mainly tartaric, 35–50% sugars, and about 30% moisture, and has a complex, savory, roasted aroma thanks to browning reactions that take place on the tree as the pulp becomes concentrated in the hot sun. In much of Asia, tamarind is used to acidify and flavor sweet-sour preserves, sauces, soups, and drinks. Tamarind is also popular in the Middle East, and it’s one of the defining ingredients in Worcestershire sauce.