Agua de tamarindo, a refreshingly tart Mexican drink

Tamarind, known as tamarindo in Mexico, is found  throughout the country as a favorite drink on food vendor counters and carts.  Besides being the main ingredient for the ice cold, tart drink, agua de tamarindo, it is mixed with sugar to make an overly sweet candy that children love. One popular tamarind candy is called Pelon Pelo Rico. The name translates to “Delicious Bald Hair” and describes the strings of candy that are squeezed out of the smooth-topped little container. Maybe it would have looked more string-like when I squeezed it out if my kitchen hadn’t have been so hot. Only a kid could love this stuff.

Purchased agua de tamarindo is usually too sweet, the sugar masking its characteristic tartness. If I make it myself, I can control the amount of sugar added.

To make your own, first crush the pod covering and peel off the shell. It’s almost like peeling a hard-boiled egg. Pull off any strings. You will be able to feel seeds incased by the pulp. Or you can buy a package of shelled pulp from a street vendor, as I did, but you will still have to remove the strings and seeds.

To remove the seeds, bring 2 cups (about 1 lb./.5 kilo/.5 liter) of pulp and 2 cups (.5 liter) of water to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool uncovered.  When it is cool enough to handle, pick up about eight seeds and squeeze in your hand. The pulp will ooze out between your fingers and you will be left with a handful of seeds. It probably is not the most efficient way to separate the pulp, but it gets the job done quickly. After fifteen minutes, I had one and one half cups of pulp. Discard the seeds.

Recommended music: Santana’s Supernatural provided the right Latino beat for this job.

For each two glasses of agua de tamarindo, stir together one and one half cups of water and one quarter cup of pulp. Sweeten to taste. Pour into ice-filled glasses.


Etymology: Tamarind is a Latinization of the Arabic words تمر هندي, meaning “Tamar Hindi”, or Indian date.

Tamarind is not a New World native. It originated in tropical Africa where it is still found wild. Tamarind was brought to the Americas, probably in the 17th. century, possibly by the Portuguese.

Worcestershire Sauce contains tamarind pulp, as do many East Indian chutneys.

More reading:

Tamarind (Wikipedia)


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20 thoughts on “Agua de tamarindo, a refreshingly tart Mexican drink

  1. El agua de tamarindo es deliciosa y no olviden antes de prepararla siempre usar un desinfectante de agua para que puedan protegerse y proteger a su familia de microorganismos.

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  2. “Out of Mexico, the so-called Mexican food is not quite the same thing.” – exactamente ):
    We do have tamarind but I don’t really see it fresh, rather it’s in bloques which you can break up and add water to. This would be similar to the “package of shelled pulp” that you mentioned and probably this is the way I’ll have to try it.

  3. Your site is amazing; I’m so glad I found it. (on Always Well Within)

    I have always loved Mexican food and I do cook it occasionally at home, less now than I used to. It’s confusing sometimes trying to get to the ”real mexican” rather than texmex kind of style. Sadly when I travelled to Mexico I had some bad fortune with food and I did not enjoy it as much as I could have. I think your blog can inspire me again :)

    This tamarind drink looks great for summer (which is well on the way here) I must try it. Also, your photos are so bright! Tan hermosa!

    1. Muchas gracias! I hope the recipes do inspire you. Out of Mexico, the so-called Mexican food is not quite the same thing.
      It was a very hot day here today, and ice cold glasses of agua de tamarindo helped cool us down. I hope you have tamarind where you are.

  4. Me encanto tu blog!!… Me la he pasado buscando recetas mexicanas porque a veces se extra;a mucho la comida.. ya tengo un monto pero tu blog esta super bueno!.. Thanks for sharing fantastic real mexican recipes! :)

  5. It has been some while, but I used to be able to buy tamarind pulp at my usual grocery store, but not as you describe: it was smooth without seeds or strings.

    They still have the pods you picture, but I’ve not tried using them.

    The pulp was in a hand-sized package, wrapped in plastic, and dark (almost black), a little drier than anko (the sweet adzuki beans from Japan). I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but the little bit of label on it described mixing it with water (husband speaks a little Spanish)

    Nice and tart. I can find only the pods now.

    The commercial tamarind drinks as so sweet that they have no flavor…

    1. I wish I could buy what you describe — the pulp already cleaned of seeds and string. The only way I enjoy drinking agua de tamarindo is if I make it myself. Mexico is known for its sugar indulgence.

  6. My absolute favorito is a Tamarind Margarita. The best one I ever had was in Tlaquepaque, just outside of Guadalajara, Jalisco. It came in a huge handblown Martini glass with a thick blue rim, coated with a mix of rock salt, dried chili pepper and sugar. The tamarind was not too sweet so that the fruit and tequila mix was a perfect blend. Too bad I didn’t get the recipe!

  7. I became addicted to tamarind at an early age. Back in the 1950s my dad did the Sunday steak BBQ and I slathered on tamarind based Heinz 57 sauce. But alas they changed the recipe in 1985 and now it is quite different. I still use it occasionally hoping for that old tart fruit taste from yesteryear, but it is gone. I keep a chunk of dried tamarind on hand in the frig for my Indian cooking.
    So great to finally see what they look like – who else would show us these things !!??
    Thank you !!

    1. I was wondering if Hispanic grocery stores north of the border would ever have fresh tamarind. Maybe not, since you have not seen it before. Tamarind is widely used in East Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, but I can find no references to its use in Mexico, aside from cold drinks and candy.

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