12 July 2011

The best tamarind chutney ever!

Ever since I was a kid, tamarind chutney has been my favorite condiment. If you've been following this blog for a while, you probably know that I love the combination of sweet-savory-spicy flavors. This must explain my love for tamarind chutney, which to me is the most exciting condiment in the Indian repertoire! Whether dipping samosas and other savory snacks into it or dousing salads with it as a dressing at Indian restaurant buffets (yes, I did that!), nothing could beat it! I'd been searching high and low for the perfect tamarind chutney recipe for years. Most of them require dates, which must be microwaved and pureed along with the tamarind. This is fine and well, but I don't always have dates on hand and wished that I could whip up a simple tamarind chutney anytime with stuff I that always have in my pantry. Thanks to the wonderful Suvir Saran and his American Masala: 125 New Classics from My Home Kitchen (which I just recently sang the praises of), now I can!

Tamarind, for those who may not be familiar, is a tree indigenous to Africa but which is also found in South and Southeast Asia and South America. The fruit of the tree is contained in hard brown pods which produce a juicy pulp that is sweet and sour in taste. This pulp is used in everything with Indian chutneys and sauces to Worcestershire sauce (I had no idea!) to jams and candies in the Caribbean to drinks everywhere from Mexico (agua de tamarindo, anyone?) and Latin America to Kenya. In South India, tamarind is a major ingredient in our cuisine, used in everything from rasam and sambhar to tamarind rice. The sweet-tart taste of tamarind is unmistakable and definitely delicious! Interestingly, tamarind is reputed the world over for its medicinal properties as well.

This chutney, as well as most Indian dishes requiring tamarind, uses the thick, black, tar-like tamarind concentrate that is readily in Indian groceries and other specialty stores. A jar of this will go a long away and last for quite a long time in your fridge...meaning that you can make this chutney anytime that the craving strikes you (regularly, in my case!). Make sure that you whip up a batch ASAP, as I will be featuring several recipes which make use of this chutney over the next few posts. You will be amazed at everything that you can do with tamarind chutney...it's definitely not just for serving alongside samosas!

Adapted from Suvir Saran
Makes 1 1/4 cups

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons tamarind concentrate

1. In a small saucepan, combine the oil and all of the spices. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, for about a minute or until the spices become fragrant.

2. Add the water, sugar, and tamarind concentrate. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture becomes a dark brown color and is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon (this can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes). Keep in mind that the chutney will thicken more as it cools.

3. Cool and store in a tightly closed container in the fridge for up to two weeks.


  1. I love the taste of tamarind. I have never made my own chutney but this sounds delicious.

  2. Tamarind chutney is the best thing to go with savory snack bite :)

  3. Oooh! I'm sure it goes well with other yummy treats but i'm drooling at the thought of rocking this with a samosa :)

  4. Thank you so much for this post, i just love tamarind!

  5. Oh gosh, I miss samoosas!

    I've never tasted tamarind I don't think. Sounds interesting.

  6. Of course for the longest time I thought chutney meant mango chutney..Now I know there are other type.This looks so good

  7. I've never had tamarind chutney--so intrigued!

  8. His recipes are great. I was lucky enough to stumble upon an Indian Market in Pasadena, CA. I could spend hours there. Loved the spices and all of the other specialties. I purchase tamarind among many other items. Fabulous taste, saving your recipe.

  9. Mistress Of Spices - How very generous and kind of you to give so much praise and attention to this humble tamarind chutney.

    Truth be told, my partner Charlie saw me reading this and said "It is the best Tamarind chutney ever, dates or not".

    Sadly, too many people who make tamarind chutney with dates or without, forget to add the modest quantities of spices that make all the difference.

    Over the years, through Indian Home Cooking (which first brought this recipe out to the world) and then American Masala, I was lucky to cook this up in demos and hands-on classes across the country. It is always wonderful to see the expressions on peoples faces as they get a taste of it. This could be used on any table, anytime, anywhere, and find instant fans. Such is the power of honest and simple cooking.

    One student in a hands-on class loved making it, since he had tasted it the nigh before in a demo class. He said that night he took the tiny-winy amount he was able to take home as left-overs and poured it over vanilla ice cream and had epiphany around tamarind chutney all over again, just a few hours after the first one during the class.

    Last year, I took some of this chutney to the operator of the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck in NYC and he did just the same as above. I am told the ice cream with Tamarind Chutney got quite an enthusiastic and popular welcome.

    Many, many thanks for supporting the book and my hunger to travel, learn, cook, test, retest, edit, read again, edit once over.. and keep doing this almost daily.. since the search for recipes is endless and the work it takes to make a recipe one that someone such as you can embrace, not an easy one. Your blog post made my month... maybe even more. Thanks!

  10. Hi, thanks for sharing this great and simple chutney, we love all these types of chutney. This is something new and will treasure it.

    Must try this week.

  11. That certainly looks like the best tamarind chutney! Love that texture.


  12. I've never made my own chutney, but now I have the perfect recipe!

  13. Never underestimate a simple and delicious tamarind chutney...all it needs is the right amount of texture and the right type of spices.
    Would like some on top of yummy samosas!!!

  14. Excellent! I bought some tamarind paste a while ago, but haven't found a nice, simple tamarind chutney recipe... until now. Thanks!

  15. Greetings from Laos! I ate a version of tamarind chutney with some shredded kaffir lime leaf and lots of garlic slivers. It was a revelation. The restaurant in Luang Prabang is called Tamarind and sells a coconut and tamarind sauce for ice cream and makes numerous juices from local fruits and spices.

  16. @Anonymous...how very interesting! I've never heard of a tamarind chutney with kaffir lime. Looking forward to going to Laos soon and checking out your restaurant!