Tamarind rasam is a sour, spicy and warming rasam variant from the South Indian cuisine. It is made with tangy dried tamarind, tomatoes, spices and herbs. It makes for a healthy side that can be served as a soup or mixed with steamed rice and eaten. Nourishing, comforting soup like dish for the winters or monsoons. Bonus, my recipe does not need any ready rasam powder.
It’s raining and raining here. So all that I make these days are some hearty soups, comforting dals, spicy starters, steaming pakoras and tangy rasams.
Rasam is a South Indian variation of soup. Usually it has a thin consistency and is either had as is or with rice. Most of the rasam variations are very good for cough, cold and fever. They are also warming, healthy and best had during cold seasons.
There are many types of rasam that I make like:
Tamarind rasam is also known as Puli Rasam. As tamarind is called puli in Tamil language. The recipe is also called as Chintapandu Charu in Telugu Language..
This sour and spicy tamarind rasam is perfected over the years. In this recipe, the sourness comes from tamarind. The pungency, spiciness and heat come from the spices and herbs like black pepper, cumin, garlic and red chilies. Since we are using these spices and herbs, we don’t need to have ready rasam powder to make this recipe.
Adding tomatoes to the rasam is optional and you can skip that. Since I do like the flavor of tomatoes I have added it. Also while grinding the spices, if you want you can add some coriander stems with leaves. I have skipped adding them and added coriander leaves later as a garnish.
You can either temper the rasam before or after. In this recipe I have tempered before and then simmered the rasam.
Rasam should not be overcooked so that the flavors from the spices don’t get lost. Generally, rasam is served with rice and sambar combination. You can also serve it plain with rice and a side vegetable dish like poriyal, thoran, kootu or any dry vegetable dish. It also tastes good as a soup.
How to make Tamarind Rasam
Make Tamarind Water or Extract
1. Soak 1 lemon sized tamarind (or about 2 tablespoons tightly packed tamarind) in 1 cup water for 30 to 40 minutes. If you are short of time then soak in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.
You can also use ready tamarind paste. Mix about 2 to 3 tablespoons tamarind paste with 1 cup water and set aside.
2. Later, squeeze the pulp from the soaked tamarind with your hands in the water. Keep aside.
3. Crush 1 medium-sized tomato with your hands or you can chop them. You can also use a small food chopper to crush the tomato.
4. Add the crushed tomatoes to the tamarind pulp. Set aside.
5. Measure and keep all the ingredients ready. In the below photo, you will see the ingredients that we need for the ground spice mix.
You will need:
- ½ teaspoon whole black pepper
- 1 to 1.5 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 4 to 5 garlic cloves
- 3 to 4 dry red chilies (broken and seeds removed)
- ¼ cup of coriander leaves with their stems (cilantro)
6. Add these spices and herbs to a mortar. You can also crush these ingredients in a coffee grinder or a small blender to a semi coarse mixture.
7. Crush with the pestle and make a semi coarse mixture.
Make Tamarind Rasam
8. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan or kadai (wok). First fry ¾ teaspoon of black mustard seeds till they crackle.
You can use any neutral flavored oil or sesame oil made from raw sesame seeds.
9. Add ½ teaspoon cumin seeds.
10. Fry till cumin are browned.
11. Add 10 to 12 curry leaves and ¼ teaspoon asafoetida (hing). Fry for some seconds. You can opt to add 1 to 2 small cloves of lightly crushed garlic in the tempering at this step.
12. Add the tamarind pulp and crushed tomatoes mixture carefully as it can splutter.
13. Stir and mix well.
14. Add the ground semi coarse mixture of spices and herbs that we had prepared earlier.
15. Mix well.
16. Add about 2 cups of water or as required.
17. Season with salt as per taste.
18. Mix again.
19. Bring to one boil and then later continue to simmer puli rasam for about 5 minutes. The tomatoes should soften. If they have not softened, then cook further for a couple of minutes.
20. Lastly add 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves and give a stir.
21. Serve tamarind rasam hot or warm as a side dish with any South Indian vegetarian main course. You can also enjoy it as a soup.
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- 2 tablespoons tamarind – tightly packed or 1 lemon sized tamarind, soaked in 1 cup water for 30 to 40 minutes
- 1 tomato – medium sized
- 2 to 2.25 cups water
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) – for garnish
- 2 tablespoons oil – any neutral flavored oil or sesame oil made from raw sesame seeds
- salt as required
Ingredients for the rasam spice mix
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 or 1.5 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 4 to 5 garlic cloves – small to medium-sized
- 3 to 4 dry red chilies – broken and seeds removed
- ¼ cup coriander leaves with their stems – optional
- ¾ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds – optional
- ¼ teaspoon asafoetida powder (hing)
- 10 to 12 curry leaves
- Soak the tamarind in 1 cup water for 30 to 40 minutes. Or if you are short of time then soak in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Squeeze the pulp from the soaked tamarind with your hands in the water. Keep aside.
- Crush the tomatoes with your hands and add this to the tamarind pulp.
- You can also chop the tomatoes, if you prefer.
- Make a semi coarse mixture in a small blender or coffee grinder or in a mortar-pestle with the ingredients mentioned under rasam spice mix.
Making tamarind rasam
- Heat oil in a pan. First fry the mustard seeds till they crackle.
- Add cumin and fry till they are browned.
- Add curry leaves and asafoetida. Fry for some seconds. You can opt to add 1 to 2 small garlic cloves here in the tempering.
- Add the tamarind pulp – crushed tomatoes mixture.
- Add the ground semi coarse rasam powder.
- Stir and then add about 2 cups water or as required. Season with salt as per taste.
- Bring to one boil and then simmer puli rasam for about 5 minutes.
- Lastly add chopped coriander leaves and give a stir.
- Serve tamarind rasam hot with any South Indian main course vegetarian meal. It can also be enjoyed as a soup.
- The recipe can be scaled.
- The addition of tomatoes is optional. But it gives a good flavor.
- You can reduce the spices for a less pungent taste. But I don’t recommend increasing them.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This Tamarind Rasam recipe post from the archives (first published in July 2013) has been republished and updated on 17 June 2021.