Amchur powder is a spice made from green mangoes that have been dried and ground. It is bursting with tart and sour taste which makes it popular in Indian dishes including vegetables, meats, fish, and curries. The flavor does a great job of balancing out hot and spicy food but can also work well as a meat tenderizer.
Unlike some of the more common spices that can be found in the supermarket, amchur isn’t as easy to source in the United States. You can try specialty spice stores, Indian grocers, or buy a pack online. But if you can’t find the spice in store and you don’t have time to wait for an online order then you’re going to need an amchur substitute. We’ve put together a list of our favorite replacement options which will allow you to finish any recipe that calls for the original ingredient. They may not perfectly mimic the taste of amchur powder but they certainly won’t be out of place in any Indian or Southeast Asian dish.
What can I use to substitute amchur powder in a recipe?
If you need to replace amchur powder in cooking then your best options are lemon juice, tamarind powder, citric acid powder, anardana, loomi, or sumac. Each of these ingredients is useful for adding a citrusy, tart flavor to meals. Keep reading to find out more about each of these options.
1. Lemon juice
An everyday fruit that can be found in any supermarket, lemons make a good substitute for amchur. The juice can quickly overwhelm a dish, so moderation is the key. To replace a teaspoon of amchur you’ll only need one teaspoon of juice. During cooking, do a quick taste test and if necessary, add a little extra. If you’ve ever squeezed too much lemon juice into gravy, then you’ll understand how bad food can taste when you overdo it.
When using lemon juice, add it towards the end of the cook as its flavor can degrade during prolonged heating. Keep in mind that using lemon juice will add more liquid through the recipe, so you may need to make allowances for this; in most cases though, one or two teaspoons won’t have a major impact on the dish.
Tamarind fruits can be dried and processed into tamarind powder and are popular in southern parts of India and Southeast Asian cuisine. The spice is very sour on its own but makes a delicious addition to vegetable curries and fish.
Tamarind powder will generally work as a better amchur substitute then lemon juice because it is a powder. Also, it has a subtle sweet undertone similar to amchur powder.
The biggest problem with tamarind powder is that it isn’t readily available in stores and can be a challenge to find in countries like the United States. If you manage to get your hands on some, use it sparingly as the powder can quickly overwhelm a meal. As a rough guide, use 25% less tamarind powder than you would use amchur and test before adding any more.
Tamarind paste can also be used in place of amchur, but you’d only use it in a pinch. This ingredient has a fruitier, less neutral flavor and also adds yellowish-brown color to the food which may not be ideal. Reduce the amount by 50% if you decide to use the paste.
3. Citric acid powder
Citric acid is commonly used as a preservative in canning, but it can also work as an excellent souring agent. Also known as sour salt, it is this acid that gives citrus its tartness. When purchased as a food-grade powder it tends to have a neutral taste without any fruity notes – it is pure sourness.
Depending on the brand you buy, citric acid could come in crystal form rather than a finely ground powder like amchur. If you’re using it for a spice blend such as masala then grind it up using a mortar and pestle or spice mill. Check out our article on how to grind spices to learn more.
In some parts of The United States, you may have difficulty finding citric acid in mainstream supermarkets. Search in the baking section and if you have no luck try a Home Goods store in the canning jars aisle. Otherwise, you might have more luck at an Asian grocer or simply buy online.
Anardana may sound quite exotic but it is actually dried pomegranate powder. Although not so popular in western cooking it is revered in Indian cuisine as a fantastic ingredient for adding tangy flavor to curries.
If you can’t find this product in-store then you can use the dried seeds from a fresh pomegranate and grind those up into a powder. Anardana will have more sweetness than amchur powder so remember to use it in small quantities to avoid overpowering the dish.
Loomi, or limoo amani, is a popular ingredient in Persia and other parts of the Middle East. It is made from Persian lime that is boiled in salt and then dried. The drying process and salt turn the lime’s flesh black. Loomi has the same sour punch that amchur has with a fruity, citrus undertone. If you decide to use loomi then you’ll find it replaces amchur effectively in seafood, lamb, chicken, and vegetable dishes. In other words, the spice is versatile in the kitchen.
Sumac is a vibrant red spice that is made from wild sumac flower berries that are first dried and then ground. It is acidic and tangy in flavor, a lot like lemon juice. You can use sumac for adding astringency two chicken, meat, fish, and also for dressings. Use this spice sparingly as a useful alternative to amchur if you’re in a pinch.
Related reading: check out our article on the best sumac substitutes.
Fast facts about amchur
- Other names for the spice include amchoor, aamchur, raw mango powder, and its botanical name is Mangifera indica.
- The word “aam” means mango while “choor” means powder in Hindi.
- Amchur gets lumpy in storage so it is best to crumble any lumps before using it in cooking.
- Amchur has many applications in Indian cuisine including stews, flavoring fillings in samosa and pakora, pastries, curries, pickles, chutneys, and dals.
Amchur is a spice that is made from grinding green mangoes and is popular for brightening heavy meals with acidity. If you don’t have any, your best options as a replacement are lemon juice, tamarind, citric acid powder, anardana, loomi, or sumac. Although they all have a slightly different flavor, if you’re making a curry or stew the difference shouldn’t be noticeable. Remember to use substitutes in small amounts and test the food if you can before adding more. This step will reduce the chance of ruining the dish with unpleasant, awkward flavors.