Tamarind Chicken

May  6, 2013
7 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

We eat a lot of chicken, a lot. I am constantly looking for new ways to reinvent the wheel. This one is a take on southeast Asian cuisine. It is by no means is intended to be authentic -- I just follow the mantra of hot, sour, salty, sweet. —Summer of Eggplant

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Summer of Eggplant is a lighting designer who lives in Atlanta.
WHAT: A hot-sour-salty-sweet chicken dish that grills up in minutes.
HOW: Marinate your chicken in tamarind pulp, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime zest, sugar, and spices. Then, 4 to 6 hours later, grill it up!
WHY WE LOVE IT: We love how easy this dish is to prep -- if you can put ingredients into a bag, then you can make this dish. When it's too cold to grill, we use a grill pan and then finish it in the oven -- feel free to do the same. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 4 leg quarters
  • 3/4 cup tamarind cooking pulp
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 lime, zested
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five spice (I use Reims from La Boîte Epice)
  1. Place the ingredients in a large Ziploc or seal-able bowl. Mix until combined, add chicken, and marinate for 4 to 6 hours. Rotate the chicken in the marinade every so often.
  2. Set up the grill for direct/indirect heat. We do this by making a semi circle of charcoal. You'll know when the grill is hot but not too hot when you can count to 3 with your hand over the fire.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Sear the chicken skin side down for about 4 to 5 minutes until crispy. You may pour the excess marinade over the legs at this point. Turn the legs over and cook skin side up for another 2 minutes over the high heat, then move them to the cooler side of the grill, but still near the coals for indirect heat, put the grill lid on and cook for about 25 minutes. They are done when the internal temperature reaches 160°F.
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36 Reviews

Jaxmccaff November 14, 2021
Really enjoyed this recipe! I had tamarind concentrate so I just put a good dollop in and then the rest of the ingredients as listed. I served with basmati rice (with saffron and olive oil) and grilled radicchio. Will make this again!
Sarah O. March 10, 2021
Just made this and it was really, really good. Followed the recipe exactly and it turned out great! Made it with some potatoes on the side . Highly recommend!
Florence B. February 15, 2021
It was easy, quick and delicious. Even my picky grandchildren gobbled it down!
Amy T. June 7, 2017
I just made this and it is hands down the best chicken i have ever eaten.
Summer O. June 7, 2017
Hope I can make it out the front door tomorrow with my swelled head! :) Glad you enjoyed it.
Sian D. December 5, 2016
Thanks, I made this to go in a salad (inspired by a restaurant menu item: tamarind chicken; spiced pumpkin; grilled peach; cumin yoghurt, coriander) and it was Really Great.
Jacquie July 5, 2016
Thanks for this recipe. I have a tree and harvested for the first time this year. Made paste with pods and dates.
girlwithaknife March 4, 2016
3/4 cup of tamarind sounds like a lot. I have a little jar of tamarind paste I got from Whole Foods. Anyone know how much of that to use?
SusanKP May 30, 2018
I'm curious about the conversion from pulp to paste too.
Tom B. November 29, 2015
I'm new to cooking with tamarind and so looking forward to trying this recipe. I live in rural Haiti where we pick it off the tree and suck on the seeds. Done this for years. Never thought to try cooking with it. Now I just have to wait for the right season! (or more likely, wait 'til we get stateside) .This looks incredible.
ojailyn February 27, 2015
I really enjoyed this chicken..I used drum sticks...I will make in future....however, next time I will buy tamarind in a jar....very time consuming buying paste and processing...In the future I welcome short cut....thanks for delicious recipe
a July 10, 2014
what the hell? the picture blocks half the recipe!
Lauren K. July 15, 2014
It sounds like you might have encountered a browser issue -- I'll see if we can get that fixed!
BARBARA W. June 29, 2014
I do not have a grill either. I placed a cake rack in a baking container,like what you would bake a turkey in and baked the chicken at 400 40-45 mins
Pamela S. June 27, 2014
Would yuo help me convert this to an oven?...I live in an apartment and can't grill. 450 degrees for 30 min and turn over for an additional 15? Flavors sound great!
Summer O. June 29, 2014
When we do it in the oven it usually takes us about 40 minutes total at 425.
Mariona G. June 10, 2014
OMG!!! I saw the recipe and fell in love, so I prepared the marinade yesterday and put it into the fridge overnight, the rest today, and it's so savory!!I've been looking around long time for this flavor… Congrats!!!
Summer O. June 10, 2014
Thank you!
BARBARA W. May 14, 2014
whole foods and kroger sell it. try the ethnic,indian, areas. Also you can buy the tamrind and make the paste by cooking the tamrind with some water(i guesstimate) for 30 to 40 mins or until the water is almost absorb. remove the seeds
Horto May 13, 2014
tamarind,how I find this?
Summer O. May 7, 2014
I'm not sure which rock I've been living under but I had no idea this got a Wildcard pick. Thanks! I'm flattered.
Shawn O. May 7, 2014
do you use the lime zest and the lime juice or just the zest?
Summer O. May 7, 2014
Just the zest but you could try using the juice too for tangier version.
sevenfaces March 20, 2014
This was so easy, tasty and impressive; ticks all the boxes! Feeling extra lazy so I roasted the chicken on parchment paper in the oven, so even though there were no grill marks parts of the skin still turned a lovely caramelised brown. I poured the rest of the onions and garlic marinade over the chicken with 10 minutes to go, which gave me a rich sauce to serve with the chicken over steamed rice, green beans and choy sum. I'll be making this again for sure.
BARBARA W. March 19, 2014
glad i could help, you are welcome. Its a keeper for me too
KakiSue March 19, 2014
Made this last night-- and WOW! complex, tasty, beautiful mahogany color on the chicken. I bought a box of fresh (dried?) sweet tamarind at Whole Foods last week and have been looking for ways to consume. Making the pulp was pretty easy- crack the pods and remove, pull the strings, soak/simmer (45ish minutes) strain. I didnt worry about proportions-just made sure it was thick/thin and easily incorporated into the marinade. I could have easily used 6 leg quarters instead of 4 in the marinade, too. Thanks a ton- this will be in regular rotation!