5 Minute Recipes/ Asian Recipes/ Condiments and Sauces/ Recipes/ Vietnamese

Easy Vietnamese Tamarind Dipping Sauce

08/02/2024 (Last Updated: 09/02/2024)

A tart sweet and sour sauce that’s bursting with flavour. Tamarind dipping sauce is THE sauce you want alongside your Vietnamese fried spring rolls and fresh rice paper rolls. Get dippin’!

A small blue dish filled with tamarind dipping sauce.

Why We Love This

Tangy, sweet and sour aka the perfect combination for the perfect dipping sauce! Traditionally eaten with grilled fish or seafood, it also goes well with chicken, as a salad dressing or with rice or noodles bowls. You can also use as an alternative sauce with Crying Tiger.

We love eating this as a snack with veggie sticks! Both carrot and cucumber are super refreshing alongside the bright tamarind flavour.

Related: Peanut Hoisin Sauce / Vegetarian Rice Paper Rolls

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A vegetarian cold roll is dipped into a bowl of tamarind sauce.

What is Tamarind Dipping Sauce?

This Vietnamese tamarind sauce is sometimes referred to as Nuoc Mam Me (not to be confused with the fish sauce based Nuoc Mam Cham). It’s a fantastic combination of tart tamarind puree which has been amped up with all your favourites – chilli, garlic and fish sauce, then balanced out with a good spoonful of sugar to temper off that hit of sour.

What You’ll Need

  • Tamarind Puree – Look for Jeeny’s brand available at large supermarket chains in the International aisle. Or head to your nearest Asian grocery store. You can also use tamarind pulp but will need to turn it into paste first.
  • Fish Sauce – We use Squid brand. Sub with a vegan fish sauce such as cocomino fysh – a coconut amino alternative.
  • Sugar – Used to balance out the sour notes from the tamarind. Any sugar works, but the darker the sugar the more caramel notes that will come through.
  • Garlic – Fresh works best for frying first in the oil, but minced is also fine. Can sub for 1/2 tsp of garlic powder.
  • Chilli – This brings the heat! We used sambal oelek, but you can also use sriracha, chilli paste or freshly chopped bird’s eye chillies.
  • Garnish – Finely chopped fresh cilantro / coriander or mint, or onion go well, you can even add super finely julienned carrot like we’ve done in our Bun Cha Gio sauce.
Ingredients laid out to make tamarind sauce.

How to Make Tamarind Sauce

First, gather your ingredients: See recipe card below for measurements.

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Fry the garlic for 30 seconds until fragrant, then add the sambal oelek and tamarind puree.
  2. Add the water, mix well until smooth and heat until it begins to bubble.
  3. Add the sugar and fish sauce, stir again until it boils then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer to a small dipping bowl.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Watch Your Heat – There’s no need for high heat here, you only want to lightly fry your garlic, then warm the tamarind and dissolve the sugar. Don’t overcook it!

Storage, Freezing & Reheating

Place into a clean glass jar and keep in the fridge for up to a week or two. Can be frozen, but best eaten fresh. No need to reheat once made.

FAQs

What can I do with leftover tamarind puree? Here’s 3 quick ideas.

1. Sparkling Tamarind – Add sparkling water and turn it into a refreshing beverage. Why not try adding mint as well?
2. Meat Glaze – Combine with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and chilli. Brush the mixture over grilled meat such as chicken or fish in the last few minutes of cooking for a zingy and caramelised glaze.
3. Salad Dressing – Mix with olive oil, honey, Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt for a quick and delicious salad dressing.

I can’t find tamarind at all – what are the best substitutes??

If you have to substitute, use pomegranate molasses (this can also be hard to source though…). Otherwise, in an absolute pinch, use lemon juice mashed up / blitzed up with something like dates or dried apricot.

Serving Ideas & Variations

  • Find Your Balance – We like our sauce quite tart, but you can add more sugar if you need to tone it down. If you love heat, then amp up that chilli too!
  • Add Shallots – Add finely chopped shallot when you fry the garlic for added flavour.
  • Add Peanut – Peanut butter into the mix or crushed peanuts on top as a garnish.
  • Alternative Serving Ideas – Serve up with your dumplings, chicken skewers, popcorn chicken or even tonkatsu!
Rainbow rice paper rolls surround a dish of tamarind dipping sauce.

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Garlic and chilli pieces float in a light brown Vietnamese tamarind dipping sauce.

Easy Vietnamese Tamarind Dipping Sauce

A tart sweet and sour sauce that's bursting with flavour. Tamarind dipping sauce is THE sauce you want alongside your Vietnamese fried spring rolls and fresh rice paper rolls. Get dippin'!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Course: Basics, Condiment
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Servings: 1 Small Dish
Calories: 172kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $5

Equipment

Ingredients

  • ½ tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp garlic chopped
  • ½ tbsp sambal oelek sub sriracha or chopped chilli
  • 3 tbsp tamarind puree 40 g / 1.4 oz
  • cup water 80 ml / 2.7 fl oz
  • 1 tbsp sugar white, brown or palm sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce

Instructions

  • Heat the ½ tbsp vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Fry the 1 tsp garlic for 30 seconds until fragrant, then add the ½ tbsp sambal oelek and 3 tbsp tamarind puree.
  • Add the ⅓ cup water, mix well until smooth and heat until it begins to bubble.
  • Add the 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp fish sauce, stir again until it boils then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer to a small dipping bowl.

Video

YouTube video

Recipe Notes

  • Watch Your Heat – There’s no need for high heat here, you only want to lightly fry your garlic, then warm the tamarind and dissolve the sugar. Don’t overcook it!
  • Find Your Balance – We like our sauce quite tart, but you can add more sugar if you need to tone it down. If you love heat, then amp up that chilli too!
    Add Shallots – Add finely chopped shallot when you fry the garlic for added flavour.
  • Add Peanut – Peanut butter into the mix or crushed peanuts on top as a garnish.
  • Alternative Serving Ideas – Serve up with your dumplings, chicken skewers, popcorn chicken or even tonkatsu!

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Easy Vietnamese Tamarind Dipping Sauce
Amount per Serving
Calories
172
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
0.4
g
1
%
Saturated Fat
 
0.1
g
1
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
0.1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
0.1
g
Sodium
 
1603
mg
70
%
Potassium
 
375
mg
11
%
Carbohydrates
 
44
g
15
%
Fiber
 
3
g
13
%
Sugar
 
31
g
34
%
Protein
 
2
g
4
%
Vitamin A
 
27
IU
1
%
Vitamin C
 
8
mg
10
%
Calcium
 
52
mg
5
%
Iron
 
2
mg
11
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Easy Vietnamese Tamarind Dipping Sauce

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