Vietnamese Tamarind Dipping Sauce

Vietnamese Tamarind Dipping Sauce

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Soak: 10 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 1/2 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
25 Calories
0g Fat
6g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 25
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 356mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 17mg 84%
Calcium 13mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 98mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Sweet, tangy with a touch of spicy, this Vietnamese dipping sauce is the perfect accompaniment to any grilled fish or seafood. In Southeast Asian cooking, sauces are also enjoyed with rice or noodle bowls. The ingredients that go into a sauce, what spices and herbs are added, make each sauce distinct from others. This dipping sauce offers up a great flavorful combination with each tantalizing bite.

Citrus juice is a common ingredient. Lime is native to Southeast Asia so it is used more often than lemon. Kalamansi, more acidic than lime, is another citrus that grows in the region. And then, there's tamarind. Not as easy to use than vinegar or citrus juice but definitely worth all the extra steps in the preparation.

Tamarind is a tree and the fruits are pod-like. The pulp of a young tamarind fruit is sour and ideal for making sour broths and sauces. Worcestershire sauce contains tamarind extract. As the fruit matures, the pulp becomes sweeter. At that stage, tamarind is made into candy or jam or pressed to make juice drinks.

"This sauce had amazing flavor. I used a small Thai chili, and it was quite spicy, so I would use less next time or a milder pepper. With the sour tamarind pulp and hint of sweetness from the sugar, it was yummy." — Diana Rattray

Vietnamese tamarind dipping sauce with chili pepper
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 3 tablespoons tamarind pulp

  • 1 small chili pepper, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Vietnamese Tamarind Dipping Sauce ingredients

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Place the tamarind pulp in a heatproof bowl.

    Place the tamarind pulp in a heatproof bowl

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Bring half a cup of water to the boil. Pour into the bowl with the tamarind pulp. Allow to soak for about ten minutes.

    tamarind and water mixture

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Strain with a wire mesh, pressing the pulp through the mesh. Discard everything that cannot be pressed through the mesh.

    tamarind pressed through wire mesh

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  5. With a mortar and pestle, mash the chili, garlic, and sugar to a paste.

    With a mortar and pestle, mash the chili, garlic, and sugar

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Gradually add the tamarind extract and fish sauce, mixing as you pour. 

    Vietnamese Tamarind Dipping Sauce

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

What to Serve With Tamarind Dipping Sauce

  • Drizzle a little tamarind dipping sauce over a salad or hot cooked rice.
  • Use the spicy sauce as a dip for spring rolls, shrimp, chicken nuggets, dumplings, or wings.
  • Brush the sauce over grilled shrimp or chicken.

Recipe Variations

  • For a sweet dipping sauce, increase the sugar to 1 to 3 tablespoons, or to taste.
  • Replace the chili pepper with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of chili-garlic sauce (sambal oelek).
  • Use brown sugar or palm sugar instead of granulated sugar.

How to Store

Refrigerate tamarind dipping sauce in an airtight container and use within 1 week.

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