Tamarind Puts A Bright And Tangy Twist On Caramel Popcorn

Tamarind has proven to be the best (if unexpected) addition to caramel sauce. Its tartness serves as the perfect counterpoint to the syrup's gooey sweetness, and it elevates caramel-based desserts like fudge brownies and millionaire shortbread with a tanginess that cuts through the sugar and brightens the whole flavor profile. You can even freeze the sauce in an ice cube tray to get tamarind caramel candies that release layers of flavors as they melt on your tongue.

The magic of the tamarind-and-caramel combo can be savored beyond baked goodies. Any treat that could use a drizzling of caramel sauce will taste extra delicious with the addition of tamarind. A good example is popcorn; a chewy canvas for any flavor, this fibrous snack takes on the buttery-sweet-and-sour goodness of this unconventional pairing.

It's easy to make tamarind caramel popcorn at home. Next time you want your binge-watching evening to feel extra special, prepare this gourmet snack in just a few minutes. Simply add 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste to your favorite caramel sauce recipe after you've removed the sauce from the heat, and stir well so the syrup gets a uniform deep brown color. Afterward, place the mixture back on the stove and stir for a minute on medium heat. Pour the sauce over popcorn spread out on a parchment paper-lined baking tray and let cool.

Tamarind paste works best for desserts

You'll see this fruit available in different forms in stores that sell Asian, Caribbean, and/or Latin American ingredients. For easier cooking and impeccable flavor pairing, it's best to determine which type to use for a specific cooking purpose.

Tamarind pulp, which is usually sold in blocks, can be turned into a paste by rehydrating it with hot water and then straining it. This can be labor-intensive if you need a smooth consistency. The syrup-like tamarind concentrate, on the other hand, is formulated with either sodium benzoate or citric acid that serves as a preservative and lends a more intense flavor to the fruit. Although it is very easy to use, some chefs find tamarind concentrate too acidic and artificial-tasting compared to both the pulp and the paste. Paste, in comparison, is similarly convenient plus it packs more of the mouth-puckering, sugary tanginess the fruit is known for. Tamarind is also available in powder form as a seasoning, though its citrusy zing isn't as potent.

Once you've perfected your tamarind caramel sauce, experiment with adding savory ingredients. Season your glaze with a sprinkling of fleur de sel before pouring it over popcorn. Add some heat with cinnamon or black pepper powder. A few drops of rum essence, either with alcohol or alcohol-free, will also make your sauce richer.