Tamarind chutney Sweet n sour, spicy

Playing in the cool shade of a tamarind tree near our house during the hot summer months is one of the strongest memories of the summer holidays. Laying down on the ground while chatting with my friends, looking up at its lacy leaves, and seeing them move in the slightest breeze was something of an ephemeral experience. Although at that age one did not know such articulate words, one just felt it inside. The rootedness of the tree with its big brown trunk and deeply engraved branches gave a feeling of security. In June, after the first rains, the tamarind shoots into enchanting new red leaves, translucent in the sunshine. These were delectable, lightly sour to taste with a soft mouthfeel. We climbed to reach these tips, often with scraped shins to boot. In the early winter season, young flat green-brown pods with a lime green or carmine red centre, were a coveted snack. Little did we know then, that it gave us a vitamin C shot!

From March to April, Indian households bought the ripe tamarinds pods by the kilos, opened and deseeded them. Then they were lightly salted and sunned for 2–3 days. Thereafter, stored in large glazed earthenware jars called Burni. They lasted the whole year, till the next harvest. As kids, we would often slip a few in our mouth as we played outside.

To most Indians, this impressionable tree is a nostalgic element and a time capsule in one’s environment. At a street corner as a landmark to a friend’s home, in the compound of your school under which you ate your lunch box, or in your granny’s garden where you spent the hot summer holiday afternoons with your siblings. Iconic old dusty, narrow country roads, where a tamarind tree spread its welcoming cool shade to stop the car. Open the hood of the old Fiat or Ambassador car to let it cool and later to fill in some water in the radiator!

Besides these idyllic snapshots, the tamarind is a delicious sweet-sour fruit. A gift to mankind, highly nutritious being rich in Vit-C, B-1, B3, potassium, and magnesium. All the goodness of this fruit pod, is captured in my Imli chutney. This is my go-to sauce instead of factory-made ketchup. If in Europe or USA, you can buy tamarind in packets in an Indian, Asian, Thai shop.

This recipe of Imli / tamarind chutney is additionally boosted with iron and calcium from dates, jaggery, and sesame seeds. Plus the imli chutney is finger-licking delicious too. I warn you, it is addictive!

You can use it as a tangy sauce with snacks, on bread and in sandwiches, include it in dressings for your salad. Of course, no Indian chaat is complete without it. Once you make it, store it in an airtight bottle in your fridge, it stores well for over a month.

1 cup = 240 ml/ 1 tbsp = 15 ml / 1 tsp = 5 ml.


1 cup of tamarind, preferably seedless
1 cup hot water + extra as needed
1/2 cup jaggery-grated/ chopped or raw cane /palm sugar
1/3 cup pitted dates, soaked in hot water to soften (unless using Medjool dates)
1 tbsp sesame seeds, roasted in a pan, and powdered (blender of mortar & pestle)
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp cumin powder
(TIP: roast ¾ tsp coriander seeds and ¼ tsp cumin seeds, then powder it, for a fresher taste)
½ to ¾ tsp chilli powder as per taste
½ tsp salt or to taste
¼ tsp each black salt (kala namak, optional, it lends a bit sulphuric aroma, some do not like it ) and asafoetida powder
¼ tsp ginger powder
Yummy, tangy and healthy sauce to replace factory made ketchup!


1.Soak the tamarind in ¾- 1 cup hot water, till it is covered, for 15 mins. Thereafter, massage with your fingers.
2.Strain the pulp through a coarse sieve.
3.Add some more hot water to the left-over tamarind, massage again to loosen the pulp from the fibers, strain again.
4.Blend the dates in a blender to make a smooth paste. Add a bit of water if needed.
5.Take a thick-based small pan.
6.Add all the ingredients to the pan.
7.Adjust water so that you have a mixture runny and thinner than a pancake batter.
8.Heat the Imli chutney mixture on medium heat.
9.Bring it to a simmer and cook for about 4-5 mins. (Do not bring to a rolling boil, to retain its nutrients)
10.Taste, the Imli chutney. It should be sour, sweet, a bit spicy and you should taste the salt too (as in a ketchup).
11.At this stage adjust the salt and the jaggery, as the sourness of the tamarind depends on which land it comes from.
12.Cool and pour into a bottle. Store in the fridge.

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published.