Tamarind: The Exotic Fruit with Exciting Potential

At the end of last year, seasoning giant McCormick declared tamarind “the flavor of the year for 2024.”1 Now that we’re halfway through, let’s see how its faring.

From our perspective, tamarind, a fruit grown in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and other tropical climates like Mexico,2 has a lot going for it.

  1. It simultaneously delivers two of the top five flavor profiles mentioned in social conversation related to food and beverage: sweet and sour.3
McCormick tamarind and pasilla chile seasoning
Photo from McCormick.com
#Most Mentioned Flavors in Social Conversation Related to Food and BeverageYOY
% Growth
Tastewise 2023–2024
  1. It’s commonly used within three very popular cuisines: Asian, Indian, and Mexican.
  2. It’s versatile and can be found in everything from candy to condiments, entrees, and beverages.
  3. Top organizations are touting its health benefits, as a fruit “rich in antioxidants, high in calcium, fiber and magnesium, and with the potential to reduce inflammation and trigger satiety hormones to manage weight.”4 Of course, Indonesians have known this for centuries, with tamarind a key component in Jamu, an ancient healing elixir.5
  4. And finally, it makes an outstanding margarita.

Despite the above bragging rights, we see minimal traction. However, we do find editorial content on an annual basis. Back in 2018, tamarind was the National Restaurant Association’s “Flavor of the Week.”6 In 2021, it became the subject of a Masterclass article.7 In 2022, Food & Wine suggested we “punch up our cooking with tamarind,”8 and Doritos launched a new chip flavor, Tangy Tamarind.9

Since 2023, we have seen:

  • Alcoholic beverage launches, e.g., Don Ramon Plata Tamarindo Tequila,10 and Smirnoff’s recurring seasonal offering of Spicy Tamarind Liqueur
  • Featured recipes from top culinary experts, e.g., the New York Times “Tamarind Sauce,”11 The Splendid Table’s “Roasted Asparagus with Tamarind And Crispy Shallots,” and Food & Wine’s “20 Ways to Taste a 2024 Flavor of the Year”12
  • A tamarind takeover at The Lawrenceville School dining hall13
  • Slight growth in social media conversations, with tamarind mentions in food and beverage growing roughly 4% vs. last year, but highly niche (representing less than a 1% share of conversations)14

While tamarind is an integral part of many global cuisines, it hasn’t quite taken off in the U.S. If you haven’t already, we recommend trying it. Our own Culinary Specialist, Chef Dan Follese considers tamarind “fun to work with when pushing acidic and sweet flavor profiles” and recommends using it to add color and flavor to marinades — especially on poultry and seafood. If you can’t find the raw fruit, you will often find pastes, purees and concentrates in ethnic aisles, independent, specialty and natural grocery, as well as online.

[1] “Tamarind unveiled as McCormick & Company’s 2024 flavor,” FoodDive, 12/14/23
[2] Google Search, Generative AI
[3] Tastewise, 2023–2024
[4] “5 Reasons to Try Tamarind,” Cleveland Clinic, 5/08/24
[5] “The ancient drink that powers Indonesia,” BBC, 2/22/23
[6] “Flavor of the Week: Tamarind enhances food and drink with sweet-and-sour flavor,” NRN, 5/15/18
[7] “What Is Tamarind? How to User Tamarind Paste and 6 Easy Tamarind Recipes,” Masterclass, 9/29/21
[8] “Sour Power,” Food & Wine, 4/28/22
[9] “Doritos Launches New Tangy Tamarind Flavor, Food Network,” 7/19/22
[10] “Don Ramón Plata Tamarindo Tequila Brings a Taste of Mexico to the US,” TrendHunter, 7/17/23
[11] “Tamarind Sauce,” New York Times Cooking, 3/26/24
[12] “20 Ways to Taste a 2024 Flavor of the Year,” Food & Wine, 12/13/23
[13] “Lawrenceville Dining Ahead of the Trend with Tamarind,” Larwrenceville.org, 1/20/24
[14] Tastewise, 2024