How to Identify a Tamarind Allergy

Tamarind is a pod-like fruit that contains seeds and edible pulp. The pulp takes on a sweet, tangy flavor as the pods ripen. Tamarind is often used to heighten the flavor of sweet and savory cuisines worldwide.

Because it is a member of the legume family, which consists of nuts, seeds, and beans, people with legume allergies may have an increased risk of being allergic to tamarind.

This article will discuss the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of a tamarind allergy.

Tamarinds
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What Is Tamarind?

Tamarind pods come from the tamarind tree, which is native to tropical Africa. It also grows in other tropical regions, including India and Australia.

In appearance, tamarind looks similar to a peanut, its distant relative. The inside of the tamarind pod contains large seeds covered in a dark, sticky pulp. It has a date-like texture and a sweet and sour flavor.

In the United States, it's commonly found in pad thai and Worcestershire sauce. Traditionally, tamarind was used to treat:

Nutritional Benefits of Tamarind

Tamarind is filled with nutrients that can improve your health. It contains micronutrients called polyphenols that may help protect against heart disease by reducing inflammation in your body. It is also reasonably high in B vitamins, vitamin C, and magnesium.

Symptoms

If you have an allergy to tamarind, symptoms will appear shortly after consuming tamarind or foods that contain it. Reactions can range from mild to severe.

Possible symptoms include:

  • Stomach cramps or diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Facial swelling
  • Hives (urticaria)
  • Dizziness

In severe cases, a person may experience anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that can cause difficulty breathing and send the body into shock. Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention.

Diagnosis

A tamarind allergy diagnosis often begins with a visit to an allergist, a specialist trained to test for and diagnose food allergies.

To make a diagnosis, your allergist will ask detailed questions about your symptoms and medical history. They may also order a skin prick test or blood work.

You may also be asked to complete an oral food challenge to confirm your test results.

Treatment

The best way to treat a tamarind allergy is by avoiding foods that contain tamarind.

Because tamarind is a common ingredient in many foods, carrying an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) is important. This is especially true if you have experienced a severe allergic reaction.

Epinephrine should be used immediately if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Hives
  • Tightness in your throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A combination of several symptoms from different body areas (ex: rash or hives coupled with nausea or diarrhea)

What to Avoid

If you have a tamarind allergy, you may react to other foods in the legume family. However, cross-reactivity among legumes is relatively uncommon.

What Is Cross-Reactivity in Food Allergies?

Cross-reactivity in food allergies occurs when proteins in one food are similar to those in another.

The best way to know if you have an allergy to another legume is by taking an oral food challenge under the guidance of a board-certified allergist. Additionally, you'll want to know how to read ingredient labels to ensure you do not come into contact with the allergen.

Unfortunately, because it is not one of the most common food allergens, tamarind is not protected by labeling laws. This means the food label does not have to warn that it is present. However, it still has to be listed on the ingredient list.

Tamarind is often found in:

  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Pad thai
  • Chutneys
  • Curries
  • Other Asian dishes
  • Mexican dishes
  • Caribbean dishes

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you experience unpleasant symptoms immediately after consuming tamarind, it's important to visit your healthcare provider. A medical professional can run appropriate tests or refer you to an allergist who can properly diagnose your condition.

Summary

Tamarind is a legume that can cause some people to have an allergic reaction. Although it is rare, it is possible. You may have a tamarind allergy if you experience abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, wheezing, or break out in hives shortly after consuming tamarind.

While it is uncommon, if you are allergic to tamarind, you may also react to eating other legumes, such as other nuts, beans, and seeds. Because allergic reactions can be life-threatening, you must visit your healthcare provider if you suspect you have an allergy to tamarind.

A Word From Verywell

A tamarind allergy can be frustrating, especially if you enjoy Indian, Mexican, or Thai cuisine. The best way to avoid unpleasant symptoms or a potentially serious reaction is by eliminating tamarind from your diet. The good news is that you can substitute other ingredients for tamarind in many dishes and still be able to enjoy your favorite meals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How common is a tamarind allergy?

    A tamarind allergy is very uncommon. The most common allergenic foods that belong to the legume family are chickpea, lentil, lupin, peanut, pea, and soybean.

  • What are the side effects of eating tamarind?

    Individuals sensitive to tamarind may develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, hives, abdominal discomfort, or lightheadedness after eating it.

  • What does tamarind taste like?

    Tamarind has a bold flavor. Depending on its ripeness, the taste of tamarind can range from sweet and acidic to sour and tart.

  • Is tamarind part of the legume family?

    Yes, tamarind is a part of the legume family, which contains nuts, beans, and seeds.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Hussain T, Tan B, Yin Y, Blachier F, Tossou MCB, Rahu N. Oxidative stress and inflammation: what polyphenols can do for us? Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:7432797. doi:10.1155/2016/7432797

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  6. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Cross-reactivity.