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Spicy Thai Tamarind Dipping Sauce

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This spicy Thai tamarind dipping sauce recipe is easy to make for every home cook and is perfect for meal prep. It’s made of a blend of sugar, tomatoes, and dried chilies, delivering a deliciously sweet, sour, and spicy taste.

Spicy Thai tamarind dipping sauce with look chin.

Just like Thai sweet chili sauce, this hot sauce is ideal for dipping vegetable spring rolls, tod mun pla, and even Hat Yai fried chicken.

Honestly, it’s the perfect dip for just about everything!

What is spicy Thai tamarind dipping sauce

Spicy Thai tamarind dipping sauce is a versatile condiment with a blend of sour, spicy, and sweet. In Thailand, it’s typically served with look chin, popular street food. It’s perfect for adding flavor and heat to your favorite snacks.

Spicy tamarind dipping sauce

This sauce is one of my favorites ever, just like my grandmothers authentic Thai peanut sauce! It’s a big hit with my family – we typically pair it with tasty Thai meatballs.

In this recipe, tamarind brings a unique tangy taste, brown sugar adds a distinct caramel-like sweetness, and a little salt balances it all out. The chilies are a must for adding spice, but feel free to adjust the amount to your spice level.

Close-up of spicy Thai tamarind dipping sauce.

In our former Thai restaurant, this sauce was one of the most popular ones. Everyone loved it with fried kanom jeeb and all sorts of grilled meats like Thai chicken wings.

What is tamarind

Tamarind is a tangy fruit that’s popular in both Mexican and Asian kitchens. It grows on the tamarind tree, which loves the warm weather found in Southeast Asia.

The tamarind fruit comes in a pod that’s filled with seeds surrounded by a sweet and tangy pulp. When the fruit gets ripe, this pulp turns into a thick paste that’s a key ingredient in many Thai food.

Chefs in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and other places love using tamarind. It adds a unique sour flavor to soups, curries like the famous Thai massaman chicken curry, stir-fries, and different sauces.

Apart from its culinary uses, tamarind offers many health benefits, making it a valuable ingredient in the medicine world. It’s rich in antioxidants and has anticancer properties, which is why this fruit promotes health and wellness.

Look chin sauce (luk chin)

This look chin sauce is the perfect combination with fried Thai meatballs, also known as luk chin tod / look chin tod, a staple at Thai street food markets.

You can find these meatballs, ready to cook, at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets. They’re available in a mix of flavors and shapes, with beef, pork, and fish being the most popular ones.

Spicy tamarind dipping sauce with meatball.

My husband and I can’t resist them for a quick bite as we explore new food markets. But honestly, it’s the sweet and spicy dip that comes with them that makes it so good. That’s what inspired me to whip up my own version of a delicious sweet and spicy tamarind sauce recipe.

The Thai meatballs are easy to fry in a pan, so make sure to grab some and pair them with this spicy tamarind dip.

Ingredients

For the exact measurements, please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of this post.

Ingredients for spicy tamarind dipping sauce.
  • Tamarind paste – This thick, tangy paste is extracted from tamarind fruit pulp. It has delicious sweet and sour flavor.
  • Pickled garlic juice – A liquid infused with the pungent essence of pickled garlic.
  • Thai chili flakes – Red pepper flakes add heat to the sauce – use store-bought or make them yourself by crushing dried chilies.
  • Tomatoes – I used small tomatoes, but any size or type will do.
  • Brown sugar – A healthier alternative to white sugar, adding an extra caramel-like sweetness to the sauce.
  • Salt – Balances out the flavors and enhances the overall taste.
  • Water

Cooking instructions

Sliced tomatoes on a cutting board.

Step 1: Cut tomatoes into small pieces to speed up the cooking time later.

Water with brown sugar in a wok.

Step 2: Heat water in a large wok or skillet over medium heat. Once boiling, add sugar and stir until dissolved.

Tamarind sauce in wok with tomatoes.

Step 3: Add pickled garlic juice, salt, tamarind paste, and chopped tomatoes to the pan. Simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes.

Red pepper flakes added to tamarind sauce in a wok.

Step 4: Add dried chilies, adjusting the amount to your preferred spice level.

Close-up of Thai tamarind dipping sauce with dried chilies and coriander leaves.

Step 5: Let the sauce boil for an additional 5 minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves and whole dried chilies. Enjoy!

Kitchenware

  • Mortar and pestle or food processor for making chili flakes
  • Wok or large frying pan with spatula or stirring spoon
  • Cutting board and a sharp knife
  • Measuring spoons and cups

Serving suggestions

Transfer the sauce into a sauce cup. Top it with a sprinkle of cilantro (coriander) for color. You can pair use it as a dip with lots of things, here are some of my favorites:

How to store this spicy sauce

This recipe yields about 15 portions, so you’ll have some delicious spicy tamarind dipping sauce for later. Here’s a simple way to keep it fresh:

Storing: After making the sauce, allow it to cool to room temperature. Store it in an airtight container and keep it in your fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Freezing: Pour the sauce into a freezer-safe container or bag. This way, you can keep it for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight.

Reheating: Before serving, your sauce might need a quick reheat. Do this on the stove top over low heat.

Frequently asked questions

Is this tamarind dipping sauce spicy?

Yes! This recipe makes a sweet and spicy sauce. To lower the heat level, simply reduce the amount of chili flakes used in this recipe.

Can I use fresh tamarind instead of tamarind paste?

Yes. If you want to use fresh tamarind, follow these steps: Add fresh tamarind and 6.8floz water into a bowl and mix until only the pit of the tamarind remains. The easiest way is to knead it with your hands.

Is this dipping sauce gluten-free and vegan?

Yes, all ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free and vegan. However, it’s important to check the labeling of your tamarind paste to ensure you’re using a gluten-free version.

Thai dipping sauce recipes

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Spicy Thai Tamarind Dipping Sauce

Spicy Thai tamarind dipping sauce with look chin.
This tamarind dipping sauce has a perfect balance of tangy, sweet, and hot flavors. It's easy to make and perfect for meal prep!
Praew
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Dipping sauce
Serving Size 15

Ingredients

  • 5.3 ounces tamarind paste
  • 13.5 fluid ounces water
  • 14 ounces brown sugar
  • 5 fluid ounces pickled garlic juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12.4 ounces tomatoes sliced
  • dried chili flakes to taste

Instructions

  • Cut tomatoes into small pieces to speed up the cooking time later.
  • Heat water in a large wok or skillet over medium heat. Once boiling, add sugar and stir until dissolved.
  • Add pickled garlic juice, salt, tamarind paste, and chopped tomatoes to the pan. Simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes.
  • Add dried chilies, adjusting the amount to your preferred spice level.
  • Let the sauce boil for an additional 5 minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves and whole dried chilies. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Feel free to adjust the amount of dried chilies to your spice level.

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