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Tamarind Candy | Makham Gao | มะขามแก้ว

Tamarind Candy | Makham Gao | มะขามแก้ว

Several years ago, the boyfriend and I visited his home town of Chiang Mai.  As we were catching a ride into town one morning, the boyfriend had a sudden recollection that the street we were on was the same one his aunt lived on.  It was an amazing realization given that he hadn’t been back to Chiang Mai since he was a child!  After figuring out where we were, he immediately directed our tuk tuk driver to his aunt’s house.  And before I knew it, we were standing together at her front door…  

As the boyfriend had been too busy giving directions to our driver to clue me in to where we were going, I was completely unprepared for the visit.  I had mere moments to work on my pronunciation of sawadee ka, figure out how deeply to bow with my wai, and know how best to introduce myself to his relatives (friend? girlfriend? just some random girl from America?).  

I was so caught off guard that I didn’t really have a chance to take in my surroundings – the house that his grandfather built, the church that his aunt presided over, the beautiful clouds in the sky that he captured in photos from that day… 

Tamarind Candy | Makham Gao | มะขามแก้ว
Just a few days ago, the boyfriend informed me of yet another detail I was too nervous to pick up on that day in Chiang Mai — the huge tamarind tree in his aunt’s backyard.  He has memories of visiting her house as a boy and going out to the backyard to pick fresh tamarind from that tree.  He and his family members would crack into the brittle pods, tear away the connecting veins, and eat the tamarind fresh as a mid-day snack.  

Tamarind Candy | Makham Gao | มะขามแก้วIn addition to eating tamarind fresh, I’ve learned that some Thais turn it into a sweet treat by coating the tamarind with sugar, salt, and chili.  This is apparently a fairly common way to eat tamarind (and other sour fruits like green mango) in Thailand.  It works well because the tamarind itself is tart, so you create a perfect little bite that is sweet, salty, spicy, and sour all in one.  It’s the Thai balance of flavors, applied to fruit!

The boyfriend and I are lucky enough to be able to find tamarind in our area and generally enjoy it fresh, just as he did growing up.  But since learning about this new way to eat tamarind, I’ve had a lot of fun making this candy!  I’ve been opting for the simple method of just rolling the fresh tamarind in this coating, but have seen recipes for more formal candy making by boiling the tamarind with sugar and then shaping them into little logs before coating.  Either way, it’s a wonderful snack for when you’re feeling like a little something more than just fruit… 

Tamarind Candy | Makham Gao | มะขามแก้ว


Tamarind Candy | Makham Gao | มะขามแก้ว

Makes 3-4 servings

Tamarind Candy | Makham Gao | มะขามแก้ว


  • 10-20 fresh tamarind pods
  • 5 Tablespoons coarse sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ground chili
  • 1 Tablespoon salt


  1. Remove the tamarind fruit from its shell and devein it. Then break the tamarind into bite-sized pieces, with one seed in each piece, and gently mold into a ball. If you prefer, you can also keep the tamarind fruit intact.
  2. Combine the sugar, salt, and ground chili in a small bowl. Place the tamarind balls into this mixture and roll around until all of the balls are evenly coated.
  3. You can eat the tamarind candy right away, but they're even better if they have a day or two to sit and allow the flavors to meld together.


10 comments… add one
  • Debbie April 23, 2018, 8:55 pm

    Can the seeds be eaten, or just pop this in your mouth and allow the flavors to melt together?

    • Rachel May 5, 2018, 3:33 pm

      Hi Debbie, the seeds cannot be eaten. Best, Rachel

  • Elisse August 30, 2015, 7:38 pm

    On a recent month-long trip through Vietnam I “discovered” tamarind candy in the market in Saigon while on a “foodie” tour- and almost went out of my Mind- it is SO AMAZING! But we live in the mountains of southern West Virginia, a place where tamarind candy does not exist! A friend went hunting for me and found this page with your recipe, and I did the “Snoopy Happy Dance”! LOL I put a link to it in my blog post on the subject: http://southernwestvirginia.blogspot.com/2015/04/vietnamese-herbs-and-tamarind-candy.html
    I can’t get fresh tamarind here, BUT I have a jar of Tamarind Paste, and I’m going to try to make it with that!
    (I planted the seeds from the Vietnamese tamarind candy and they sprouted, so I now have 6 tiny little tamarind trees growing in pots!)

    • Rachel August 30, 2015, 8:42 pm

      You’d be surprised where you can find fresh tamarind if you’re looking for it! I even found some at a Wal-Mart in Louisiana :) Love that you are growing your own!

  • Jezmynne May 20, 2013, 1:36 am

    I make this for us as a paleo treat. I just replace the sugar with stevia, doing one tablespoon each. So yummy!

    • Carsten Nielsen December 5, 2016, 10:54 pm

      But do you not blend the stevia or sugar with the tamarind and then coat it with chili and more stevia or sugar? I forget how we used to eat it in Thailand, but I think this was the way we made these grat balls of fire.

    • Carsten Nielsen December 5, 2016, 10:55 pm

      correction: Great balls of fire

  • Bee, Rasa Malaysia June 7, 2012, 10:16 am

    OMG, I almost forgot about this candy. We have these in Malaysia, too. Love them when I was little and my late grandmother loved it, too.

  • Hope June 1, 2012, 2:26 pm

    What a coincidence finding this recipe. I just saw some tamarind in my military commissary today, and wondered what it was and how it was used. If you have commissary privileges, you might check where you shop. My commissary is at Fort Rucker, AL. Good luck!

  • myfudo May 26, 2012, 1:12 am

    I can say that Thai tamarind is the best in the whole world. I am lucky if I can find sweet tamarind here in our area. Really difficult to find.

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