Tamarindo candy, also known as Pulparindo, is a popular Mexican candy made from the pulp of the tamarind fruit. The main ingredients in Tamarindo candy are:
The key ingredient in Tamarindo candy is the pulp extracted from the tamarind fruit. The tamarind is a pod-like legume fruit that grows on large tropical trees native to Africa and Asia. The pulp surrounding the tamarind seeds has a sweet-tart flavor and is commonly used to make juices, candies and sauces in Mexican cuisine.
Sugar is added to the tamarind pulp to sweeten the naturally tart flavor. White granulated sugar is most commonly used. The amount of sugar balances out the sourness and gives Tamarindo candy its sweet-tart taste.
Many Tamarindo candy recipes call for the addition of chili powder or another hot spice. This gives the candy a little kick of heat and complements the sweet and sour flavors. The type of chili powder can vary, but common ones are cayenne, ancho chili powder or chipotle powder.
Cornstarch is added to thicken the tamarind pulp mixture into a pliable, rollable consistency. The cornstarch acts as a binding agent and gives the Tamarindo candy its distinctive texture.
Other flavoring agents are sometimes added to enhance the taste of Tamarindo candy. Common extras include cinnamon, lime juice or zest, vanilla extract, cloves and ginger. These complement the fruit flavors and give additional depth.
Bright food coloring is often used to give Tamarindo candy its vivid hue. Shades of red, orange and yellow are commonly used. Food coloring adds visual appeal but does not significantly alter the flavor.
A pinch of salt helps enhance the sweet, sour and spicy flavors in Tamarindo candy. Salt boosts the overall taste and improves mouthfeel.
How is Tamarindo Candy Made?
Making Tamarindo candy involves extracting the pulp from fresh tamarind pods, simmering it into a concentrate, then thickening it with cornstarch and spices. Here is an overview of the basic production steps:
Extracting the Pulp
Ripe tamarind pods are cracked open and the seeds and fibrous material are removed. Just the sticky, edible pulp surrounding the seeds is kept. This pulp is manually extracted and then screened to remove any remaining fibers or strings.
Simmering the Pulp
The tamarind pulp is mixed with water and simmered for 15-30 minutes. This softens the pulp and concentrates the flavor. Sugar and spices like cinnamon are added at this stage.
Straining the Pulp
Once cooked, the pulp mixture is pushed through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove any residual solids or seeds. This leaves a smooth, dense tamarind paste.
Cornstarch is whisked into the warm tamarind paste until it reaches a thick, moldable consistency. More sugar or flavorings can also be mixed in.
Kneading the Dough
The tamarind paste is kneaded by hand or machine to fully incorporate the cornstarch and create a supple, workable dough. Kneading makes it smooth and uniform.
Rolling and Cutting
The pliable dough is rolled out and then cut into individual pieces using a cutting wheel or cookie cutters. Pieces may be rolls, rectangles, circles or other fun shapes.
Coating in Chili Powder
Each piece is typically coated in chili powder or another seasoning like Tajín chili-lime powder. This adds flavor, color and texture.
Finally, the Tamarindo pieces are individually wrapped in wax paper or cellophane to store them. They are now ready to be packaged and sold.
There are a few variations on traditional Tamarindo candy recipes:
- Some recipes use tamarind concentrate instead of fresh pulp.
- Other spices like cloves, ginger or cinnamon may be used.
- Chamoy sauce is sometimes swirled into the dough.
- Dried tamarind may be reconstituted and used in place of fresh.
- Chili powder coating can be substituted for Tajín or salt.
- Extracts like vanilla or almond may provide extra flavor.
- Food coloring can be added to create vibrant colors.
Despite these small differences, the main ingredients and production process remain largely the same across recipes.
Tamarindo candy has many culinary uses in Mexican cuisine:
- Snacking – It is very commonly eaten as a snack or candy by itself.
- Desserts – Used to flavor cakes, ice cream, flan and other desserts.
- Drinks – Added to aguas frescas, micheladas and other beverages.
- Fruit salads – Mixed into fresh tropical fruit salads.
- Sauces and salsas – Blended into dipping sauces and salsas.
- Cooking – Added to marinades, sauces and mole for a sweet-sour kick.
The candy is essentially used wherever cooks want to add a touch of sweet tamarind flavor. It is beloved for its unique, fruity taste.
Popularity and History
Tamarindo candy has a long history in Mexico. Here are some key facts about its origins and rise in popularity:
- Uses tamarind, a tropical fruit important in Mexican cuisine since pre-Hispanic times.
- Evolved from traditional tamarind pulp preparations used in sauces and drinks.
- One of the earliest candies introduced to Mexico, originating in the 19th century.
- Originally produced by small, family-run confectioners called dulceros.
- Commercial production ramped up mid-20th century with distribution nationwide.
- Became a quintessential Mexican candy found everywhere from corner stores to movie theaters.
- Remains a Mexican staple today, though many traditional dulceros have given way to large factories.
- Also popular in other Latin American countries including Colombia, Ecuador and parts of Central America.
In Mexico, Tamarindo candy is essentially the classic, old-fashioned candy of choice. It is nostalgic, authentic and still loved by kids and adults alike.
Tamarindo candy has the following nutritional profile in a 1-ounce (28 gram) serving:
As the nutrition facts show, Tamarindo candy is high in sugar and carbohydrates. The actual amounts can vary slightly between brands, but a 1-ounce serving generally contains around 110-120 calories and 20-25 grams of sugar.
Despite the high sugar content, Tamarindo candy does have some nutritional benefits. Tamarind pulp provides:
- Vitamin C
It also contains small amounts of fiber, protein and antioxidants like carotenes and tartaric acid. So while it is considered a candy or dessert, it does provide some important micronutrients.
Where to Buy
There are a few options for where to buy Tamarindo candy:
Mexican grocery stores and specialty markets carry an assortment of popular Mexican candy brands. These include:
- La Gloria
- Pelón Pelo Rico
- Dulces Vero
- Del Real Foods
- El Pueblito
Prices range from around $1-3 per package. Stores may sell by the piece or in bulk bags as well.
Mexican candy can be found through online retailers like:
- Mercado de Sabores
Prices are similar to in-person stores. Shipping costs may apply for smaller orders.
When visiting Mexico, Tamarindo candy can be purchased from:
- Dulcerías (candy stores)
- Mercados (markets)
- Tianguis (street markets)
- Convenience stores
- Carts or stands in tourist areas
It is widely available across the country from large brands as well as small, local producers.
Here are some fun facts about Tamarindo candy:
- The name translates to “tamarind candy” in Spanish.
- Also called Pulparindo, named after a popular brand.
- Often sold in distinctive triangular packages.
- Traditionally made in brick oven dulcerías.
- Pulp was originally extracted with a hand-cranked mill.
- Used to be sold unwrapped, kept in large jars in stores.
- Kids in Mexico grow up eating this nostalgic candy.
- The chili powder coating contrasts with the sweet and sour.
- It inspired a popular lollipop candy called Pulpopóp.
- A favorite old-fashioned treat for Dia de Los Muertos.
Tamarindo candy has a unique place in Mexican culture as the classic, nostalgic candy made from a beloved tropical fruit. The sweet-tart pulp is turned into a chewy, chili-coated treat that has been around for generations. With its distinctive packaging and rainbow colors, Tamarindo candy remains a favorite candy found everywhere from corner stores in Mexico to specialty markets worldwide.