I’ve reworked the recipe slightly with more details about tamarind, plus included an easier version of the recipe using tamarind concentrate.
Also, I would like testers that like the taste of tamarind to make this. This is very specific…you either like tamarind or you don’t.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups of chutney
Tamarind chutney is that familiar brown sauce served with nearly every South Indian meal that’s sweet, sour and ideally paired with cilantro chutney. It’s not thick and chunky like mango chutney, instead it’s thin and perfect for drizzling over Indian breads, samosas or empanadas, rice, beans or most anything. Most commercial and restaurant tamarind chutneys lean toward the very sweet side, so I’ve kept the amount of sugar fast and loose depending on your tastebuds; you may enjoy a slightly more tart chutney when given the chance to prepare it your way.
This chutney tastes and looks different depending on the brand of tamarind pulp used, and if it contains seeds or not. If possible use Indian tamarind pulp without seeds, as it will yield a smoother, darker chutney. But ultimately it doesn’t matter, tamarind chutney is delicious served alongside any curry, with any Indian bread or snack foods…and is an essential ingredient in bhel puri.
Tamarind pulp is sold in 1 pound solid, dark brown blocks wrapped in plastic. I prefer this to dried tamarind pods (no peels to remove), and it comes with or without seeds; the package should mention if it has seeds or not. If in doubt, press your fingers into the block; if you feel and rounded, hard objects inside the block of pulp then it probably contains seeds. Both pulp with and without seeds need to be strained; they contain lots of fibrous material that don’t belong in this chutney.
I’ve also included instructions for making this with tamarind concentrate, a thick, nearly-black paste imported from India that’s usually sold in small jars. This is not my favorite way to make this chutney all will result in a very dark and very thin sauce. It’s okay in pinch when you need tamarind chutney and don’t want to bother kneading a block of pulp, but the texture and flavor are superior using tamarind pulp.
1 pound tamarind pulp, with or without seeds
1 cup plus 1/2 cup hot water
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
6 to 8 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1. Unwrap the tamarind pulp block, place in a mixing bowl and add 1 cup of hot water. Let it stand for 20 minutes. While the pulp is soaking, toast together the cumin and fennel seeds in a small skillet over medium heat for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes until fragrant. Remove from heat and pulse in a clean coffee grinder to a fine powder. Empty the ground spices into another mixing bowl, add the brown sugar, lime juice, ground cayenne, and salt.
2. Fit a 2 cup metal mesh strainer over a small bowl. When the pulp feels soft and squishy, use one hand to knead the pulp. Knead the pulp for about 2 minutes to loosen the pulp from the seeds (if present) and other fibrous stuff. When the pulp looks creamy and most of the tamarind is a soft goo, use a rubber spatula or your fingers to press a small portion of pulp through the strainer, working the pulp over a few times to extract as much strained tamarind as possible. Occasionally scrape under the strainer to free any pulp into the bowl. Discard the remaining matter in the strainer, and continue working batches of pulp through the strainer until it’s all been pressed through.
3. Add the strained pulp to the spice and sugar in the mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the hot water and use a fork or a wire whisk to blend the mixture together to form a smooth and creamy sauce. Continue to add more water to the chutney, a tablespoon at a time, until a very thin and pourable consistency is reached. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Store the chutney in a tightly covered container in the fridge.
Tamarind Chutney using Tamarind Concentrate
Less messy and faster, but very different in flavor and texture from chutney made with tamarind pulp. Use ground spices in this chutney for the smoothest texture possible
- 1/4 cup tamarind concentrate
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1. In a small saucepan whisk together all of the ingredients. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes before serving. Store as directed for regular tamarind chutney.