Although beating the heat during a relentless heatwave might feel nearly as impossible as resisting binging all eight seasons of Love Island UK in one sitting, a cool drink might at least lift your spirits marginally. Growing up in Florida, one drink in particular always helped me get through the hot summery days without throwing a heat-induced tantrum—and no, I’m not talking about a bright yellow batch of Country Time lemonade.
- Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, Miami-based registered dietitian nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
My go-to cooling bevvie had a similar sweet and sour flavor profile and was equally as refreshing; however, the star of the show was tamarind, a tropical fruit that tastes like sunshine and paradise—which also happens to be packed with tons of nutritional perks linked to boosting longevity. To learn more about this fruit, including how to use it and how tamarind benefits your health, read on.
What is tamarind?
Tamarind is a tree native to Africa (but also grows in other parts of the world) that produces bean-like pods filled with seeds surrounded by a juicy pulp. When fruit is still young, the tamarind flavor is more acidic, and as it ripens, it becomes more paste-like and sweeter while still maintaining its lip-puckering sourness. This edible pulp can be eaten raw or used to cook various dishes like chutneys, drinks (hi, tamarind juice), and desserts. It can also be found in raw, powder, and syrup form, to name a few—and fun fact: It’s one of the key ingredients in Worcestershire sauce. (Although that doesn't make pronouncing "Worcestershire" any easier. Big sigh.)
The key ways tamarind benefits your health
According to Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this punchy fruit is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients. “Tamarind benefits your health in so many ways. For starters, one cup of the pulp of tamarind contains three grams of protein, 75 grams of carbohydrates, and six grams of dietary fiber,” Ehsani says. Additionally, she says that tamarind contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as 26 percent of the daily value of magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, copper, phosphorus, and thiamin.
Perhaps one of the most enticing tamarind benefits is that it’s also rich in polyphenols, which are linked to boosting longevity. According to Ehsani, the pulp and seeds both have this powerhouse antioxidant that can help reduce free radical damage in the body, which can cause chronic illness.
Who should not eat tamarind?
Although this fruit is safe for most folks to consume, there are a few tamarind side effects to keep in mind. (And, of course, those with allergies to the ingredient should avoid it altogether.) When consuming tamarind, Ehsani does recommend eating it in moderation as it can act as a laxative when eaten in large quantities due to its high magnesium and potassium content. That said, this may be a perk for others, and caveats that this may help those dealing with constipation. Although, there are plenty of additional foods you can eat when feeling a little constipated to help keep things flowing smoothly. Think: Oatmeal, beans, chia seeds, and raw green veggies, to name a few.
4 ways to use tamarind
1. For flavoring sauces, marinades, and dressings
Pad Thai Sauce
Tamarind sauce, pulp, or paste is often used to flavor sauces, marinades, and dressings. For example, one of the main ingredients in pad thai sauce is tamarind, which gives this sweet, sour, salty, and savory dish its iconic flavor. This easy tofu pad thai recipe by Minimalist Baker features a vegan-friendly sauce made using tamarind paste (or concentrate), coconut aminos, coconut sugar, chili garlic sauce, lime juice, and vegetarian fish sauce for a heavenly combination. Not to mention, tamarind is also one of the star ingredients in Worcestershire sauce, a multipurpose flavoring condiment perfect for marinades and salad dressings.
Get the recipe: Easy Tofu Pad Thai
2. For sweetening beverages
Tamarind Agua Fresca
Tamarind agua fresca, like this recipe by Isabel Eats, is a common way to use this fruit and one that I grew up enjoying on hot summer days. To make this refreshing beverage, the pods are soaked in hot water to release the pulp and infuse the water with its savory, sweet flavor. Then, the mixture is strained and sweetened with sugar for a tangy beverage filled with health benefits. And if you're looking for ways to up the flavor while reducing your sugar intake (which can lead to inflammation), you can also add ingredients like ginger, lemon, or lime to amp up the taste of your tamarind agua fresca concoctions.
Of course, if you want something that's already premade or the convenience of a grab-and-go drink, De La Calle, a tepache company, has one of the best sparkling beverages in town. Say hello to their Tamarind Citrus tepache fermented Mexican drink that's basically a one-two punch of gut health benefits thanks to its prebiotic and probiotic contents.
Get the recipe: Agua de Tamarindo
3. To make candy
Tamarind Candy Balls
Wildly popular in Mexico, tamarind is used to make popular candies like Pelon Pelonazo and is often paired with spices like chile and citrus-like lime for a super sour and sweet flavor combination. This DIY tamarindo candy recipe by Aubrey’s Kitchen is a three-ingredient recipe made up of tamarind concentrate, dates, and cashews. Protein, flavor, and tongue-tingling fun. What more could you want?
Well, since you asked. For some extra punchiness and spice, the recipe developer behind Aubrey's Kitchen recommends adding a sprinkle of Tajín, a chile-lime condiment that adds a hint of citrus, spice, and savoriness. Sour Patch Kids just met its biggest competition.
Get the recipe: Tamarindo Candy
4. As a flavoring for desserts
This tangy fruit, often in its paste or concentrated form, is also used to add flavor and sweetness to desserts like Mexican paletas (popsicles), cakes, pies, or icing for a pastry. These three-ingredient tamarind popsicles by Muy Delish are the perfect hydrating summertime treat to indulge in poolside and take only ten minutes to prep. And if you want to take things up a notch, try adding a sprinkle of Tajín, the Mexican seasoning packed with major anti-inflammatory benefits thanks to its main ingredient: chili pepper. Sweet, spice, and everything nice. Or, for an even more hydrating approach, pair tamarind with other hydrating foods, like watermelon, strawberries, or melon, for other fun variations of this perfect summertime staple.
Want an even speedier route to a cool and refreshing tamarind popsicle? According to a recent TikTok video by @bellas.bites, you can purchase Mamita's Tamarind Ice in stores, which she says is as hydrating as it gets. Sign us up.
@bellas.bites MAMITA’S Tamarind Ice from Walmart? #foodie #tastetest #icepop #snack #popsicle #eating #foodisfuel #tamarind #didyoueat ♬ original sound - bellas.bites
Get the recipe: Paletas de Tamarindo
Stave off the summer heatwave with this hydrating and anti-inflammatory golden smoothie recipe:
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