Tamarind-Glazed Chicken That’s Like a Samba

I’m in the midst of a food fling. I’ve been making roast chicken for years, usually on top of carrots, onions, and potatoes; occasionally, I’ll throw in an apple or two. The cavity gets stuffed with lemons and butter and herbs are slipped under the skin. It’s an open-and-shut case of classic roast chicken.

It’s comforting. Consistent. Like the girl next door. And then, in walks the girl (read: chicken) from Ipanema. Bronzed, exotic, and as alluring as any bird could possibly be. (I want so desperately to throw in tall, tan, young, and lovely but such descriptors just don’t fit for poultry, try as I might.) Anyways, when you eat it, it’s like a samba.

Don’t get me wrong, traditional Sunday-style roast chicken is wonderful. It’s just that I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut and so a simple roast chicken would simply not do. Yet, with this trade comes certain risk.

It’s a much flightier bird. The tamarind glaze could easily become too thick and sweet too fast on the stovetop. The heat of the serrano pepper could really sting. But the tamarind paste and resulting glaze that follows is worth the risk. It adds a haunting, soul-satisfying depth.

Tamarind itself has a special lure all its own. The paste is deep—almost black—garnet in color. It’s slightly sour, without being bracing; its fruit hails from a tree in the tropics. And it’s rumored to be given to elephants to make them wise. This quirkiness, coupled with its exotic appeal, tugs at my heartstrings.

And it was likely the magic behind the best roast chicken I’ve ever made. It almost feels like cheating. So I’m shacking up with a saucy new chick for now. People may talk. But the tamarind speaks louder.

Tamarind-Glazed Roast Chicken
1 red onion, cut into thick wedges
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut roughly into chunks
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
3-4 pound whole roast chicken
~1 tbsp butter
a few springs of oregano, thyme, or any other herbs you fancy
1 large orange, cut into quarters

1/3 cup tamarind paste
1/4 cup honey
2-4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
Juice of 1 juice orange (or small orange)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 serrano pepper, finely minced

Preheat oven to 425. Place the onions and carrots into a large roasting pan. Toss with olive oil (enough to coat and make the vegetables shiny) and season with salt and pepper. Place roast chicken on top of vegetables. Gently coax the top of the skin of the chicken away from the meat; rub butter underneath and add herb sprigs.

Insert orange quarters into cavity of the bird. Season top of bird with salt and pepper and add a little more olive oil to rub into the top of the bird. Tie legs together and place in the oven.

About 30 minutes after the bird has been roasting, boil about 1/2 cup water in a small sauce or saute pan; add tamarind paste and whisk with water until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and cook on medium heat until mixture has thickened (about 5-10 minutes), whisking occasionally to prevent burning and tasting and adjusting for salt or additional brown sugar, as needed.

When paste is ready, take the chicken out of the oven and brush on tamarind glaze. Place back in the oven until the bird is fully cooked or registers 165 degrees (about 1 hr and 30-45 minutes). (You'll want to occasionally check to make sure the glaze isn't burning; if it starts to get a little charred simply cover the top with foil)

Makes 1 whole roast chicken, plus roasted carrots and onions

-I used Tamicon tamarind concentrate that I found at Whole Foods.


  1. I remember being offered fresh tamarind when I lived in Thailand, eek! So sour! I love it in sauces and things though - I'm about to post a tamarind lemonade recipe. I can imagine how lovely it is on chicken, I'm going to give it a try - I have to use up my brick of tamarind in 3 weeks before I leave for New Zealand.

  2. I am so not exaggerating when I say that is the most delicious looking roast chicken I have ever seen. Roast chicken is my go to taste of home comfort food and this one is going to top my list.

  3. Wow. I mean, wow. I seriously want a piece of that crispy glazed chicken skin!

  4. That looks wonderful. I love Portuguese chicken "frango" which is a bit like Tandoori, very spicy and crispy. A great book I've been using lately is "Bird in the Oven" by Mindy Fox. It's got some easy and terrific recipes.

  5. I can totally hear the tamarind calling out to me, too. I absolutely love tamarind and this glaze sounds like it would also work well with tofu and fish.

  6. Note to self: Find some tamarind paste NOW! That chicken looks fantastic. I'm always looking for new ways to roast chicken just to change things up and this looks perfect. I'm drooling here.

  7. I have to say, I have one lonely thigh left in the fridge. Tomorrow will be a sad day ...

    Sonia, thanks for that book tip, I'll have to check it out.

    Happy eating everyone!

  8. i got a tan like that once. it hurt.
    on a happier note, serious tasty poultry preparation! :)

  9. I grew up eating tamarind (in the Philippines) but never would think of using a tamarind glaze for roast chicken! Brilliant idea :)