Wedang Asem: Tamarind & Palm Sugar Herbal Drink (Vegan)

Wedang asem is a healthy drink made with tamarind and two types of sugar. Sweet, sour and refreshing, it's also a great weight-loss recipe.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

Wedang asem is a traditional herbal drink made of tamarind juice and a mix of granulated and palm sugar. Refreshingly sweet and sour, the drink is often served as a sweet reward after consuming horrendously bitter medicinal potions; this is a time-honoured jamu ritual you can read more about in the recipe for Jamu Kunyit Asam.

The instant version of this drink is widely available in Indonesia. It’s usually referred to as Sari Asam or tamarind essence, and is marketed as a small ready-to-drink tetra-pack. It can easily be found in any convenience store.

Native to Africa, tamarind, or asam in Indonesian, is a fruit harvested from asam tree (tamarindus Indica). It’s a long-lived, majestic tree with evergreen leaves, and grows well under full sunlight. It has pod-like fruits with fleshy, juicy, and acidic tamarind pulp inside. For cooking purposes, the pulp is usually extracted and sieved before using, and all the fibers, membranes and seeds are discarded.


Tangy tamarind is commonly used in spice mixtures and as a souring agent in many Indonesian dishes. The fruit lends tartness and is an important component for dishes such as sayur asam, asem-asem buncis, plencing Solo, and many more. It’s also useful for removing the fishy smell when preparing seafood.

Preparing the tamarind

In Indonesia, fresh tamarind pods are often available in the market, but just like anywhere else around the world, tamarind pulp blocks, wrapped in see-through plastic packaging, are much more common. Tamarind pulp blocks are fairly easy to find outside Indonesia and it’s usually available in Asian grocery stores. 

For this recipe, I use the tamarind pulp block. Fresh, mature tamarind pods can also be used if available, but will require extra work as the hard shell needs to be cracked open, and the flesh prepared. When buying the pulp, choose one with a rich brown colour to obtain a lovely hue. For a better flavour, avoid using liquid tamarind concentrate.

Health benefits

Delicious and refreshing, wedang asem is packed with many health benefits. It’s high in antioxidants, maintains blood pressure, purifies the blood, has antidiabetic properties and promotes weight loss — to name a few. The drink is great when served warm and is irresistible when served cold with some additional ice cubes, especially on a hot day!

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Wedang Asem: Tamarind & Palm Sugar Herbal Drink (Vegan)

Wedang Asem: Tamarind & Palm Sugar Herbal Drink (Vegan)

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Drinks
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Vegan


Wedang asem is a healthy herbal drink made with tamarind, palm sugar, and granulated sugar. It’s sweet, sour and refreshing, and helps with weight-loss and blood pressure.


  • 200 gr tamarind pulp
  • 200 gr granulated sugar
  • 100 gr palm sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 lt water


  1. In a cooking pot, knead the tamarind pulp with a little bit of water to form a smooth tamarind paste. 

    knead the tamarind pulp

  2. When done, add the granulated sugar, palm sugar, pinch of salt and water.

    Add in all the ingredients

  3. Heat the ingredients over medium high heat, and once it boils, lower the heat to medium low. Boil for another 15 more minutes.
  4. Cool and strain the tamarind drink.
  5. Serve hot or cold.

    Serve the Wedang Asem


  • This recipe yields a somewhat thick and intense sweet and sour flavour, great for the cold version one as additional ice cubes will kind of dilute it.
  • If preferred, the amount of tamarind and sugar can be slightly reduced, or alternatively, for the warm version, a small amount of hot water can be added.

Keywords: Healthy, Quick & Easy, Sour, Sweet

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