Tomatillo Salsa Verde (Green Salsa)
This easy recipe for Tomatillo Salsa Verde (Green Salsa) combines tomatillos, jalapenos, onion, and garlic and is great with chips or use it as a condiment too!
I could share with you that this recipe for Tomatillo Salsa Verde (Green Salsa) has been on my blog for a long time but I promise you, I doubt any of my readers have ever seen it. It was one of those recipes that I loved and added as a text file when I first started a recipe blog, no photo at all, and the truth is I don’t need the recipe to make it so I totally spaced it was even included here.
So you could say what’s old is new again, but this would be more like raising something from the dead!
Tomatillo Salsa Verde is a type of spicy, green sauce in Mexican cuisine based on tomatillo and green jalapeño chili peppers. The tomatillo-based Mexican salsa verde dates to the Aztec Empire, and was documented by the Spanish physician Francisco Hernández. It is very distinct from the various medieval European parsley-based green sauces.
This ‘sauce’ takes quite a veer from those. First things first. Tomatillos aren’t baby tomatoes. Even though the Spanish name translates to “little tomato,” they are something else entirely. What are tomatillos then?
These little fruits (yes, like tomatoes and cucumbers they are fruits) are native to Mexico, but because of their resistance to disease, more and more American farmers are growing crops of tomatillos. Sometimes called ‘husk tomatoes,’ they do look very much like unripe green tomatoes but for the dry, paper like husk that wraps around them on the outside.
While some might confuse them with green tomatoes, the color of the fruit is a beautiful bright green when ripe. Tomatillos are also slightly more acidic and have a less sweet flavor than ripe and unripe tomatoes, and importantly, they are ripe when they are green. Can you make this salsa with green tomatoes? You can, but make sure to add the lime juice, they will need that extra citrus punch.
To prep a tomatillo, you simply remove the husks and discard. The fruit itself has a sticky feel to it that is easily removed from the surface with warm water. Truthfully I have never eaten them raw, I always buy them to use for this salsa, but they do have a bright, acidic flavor that would be a nice addition to a fresh garden salad.
I imagine you could make salsa with raw tomatillos but I prefer to roast the tomatillos, jalapeño, onion, and garlic to bring out their flavor; it will mellow the acidity in the tomatillos too and makes for a deeper more robust salsa.
If you look closely you might see some flecks of red in this green salsa. All my fault because I didn’t get to this salsa quite quick enough after purchasing ingredients, but I actually loved it. Jalapeños are a lot like Green Bell Peppers. What we normally use are vegetables that are not yet ripe. I had these peppers on my counter a bit too long it seems…and a couple of them ripened! I decided to try using a combination of the green and red varieties and it might be my preference.
The jalapeño, like most peppers, increase in heat the more they ripen so I didn’t actually want to throw caution to the wind. This recipe calls for six jalapeños; I changed that up for myself to be 4 green jalapeños and two ripened red ones. Yes it is a bit spicier so do the same if you like your salsa a bit hotter. Still not a ‘burning can hardly eat it’ hot, just a touch spicier.
I love the foods inspired by our neighbors down south in Mexico. When I first moved to Denver, my kids were little and we ate few spicy foods; we had moved from North Carolina and were in more of a Southern food mode. But in Colorado, you eventually do as Coloradans do and add a fair amount of Mexican food to your diet.
Still, I hesitated with jalapeños for a very long time; I have a visceral reaction to green bell peppers so the poor jalapeño, poblano, serrano, and my favorite, Hatch green chiles, suffered. I mended my ways and while the bell pepper remains my nemesis I have learned to love the spicy varieties.
I love adding a simple preparation of nachos to a meal; they are as easy as piling some chips with cheese, either cheddar or a combination of Mexican cheeses, some chopped onion and cilantro and several dollops of the Tomatillo Salsa Verde on top. They are not a big effort with lots of ingredients; it means the salsa really shines. Perfect with this icy cold margarita when I’m in the mood to go one hundred percent Amigos!
My daughter Emily first introduced me to Tomatillo Salsa Verde when she stayed with me for a week several years ago and it was the first time I had ever seen a tomatillo; not sure where she had picked it up in her travels to Australia via Nebraska and Connecticut, but I’m glad she did.
Since then I’ve made a modification here and there; even this week I added some lime juice and yes, I’ve decided that is worth of including in the recipe. A bright citrus note is always a good thing in a dish like this!
I had just never bothered with listing ingredients and changing that old version so I decided the time had come to define it better and share it with the world. It is so simple and the results from those efforts are worthy. Here’s all you need (complete recipe and instructions at bottom of post):
- 2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed & washed
- 6 jalapeños
- 4-6 garlic cloves
- 1 medium-large onion
- 2/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 teaspoon salt
I remember so clearly when I first tried this salsa; Emily had also used it to make a dish she called Tomatillo Chicken. She even had a blog she had posted it on. That was years ago and not something she has done for a very long time. She has a full time job with Continental Tire that in non-Covid times takes her to Germany and Mexico, she has a new baby, she sings with a local choir…what do you mean you don’t blog anymore!
Such a slacker (no she’s not) but now I’m determined to try my hand at using this with some chicken and cheese and seeing if I can create my own Tomatillo Chicken; hopefully soon!
Anyway, thanks to Emily I now have this Tomatillo Salsa Verde blog-ready and it’s a great recipe…thanks sweetie!
PIN IT! ‘Tomatillo Salsa Verde (Green Salsa)’
Tomatillo Salsa Verde
- 2 pounds tomatillos husks removed & washed
- 6 jalapeños
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 medium-large onion
- ⅔ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- Juice of one lime See Notes
- 2 teaspoon salt
- Chop the onion in half, crush the garlic, and leave the jalapeños and tomatillos whole. Roast on a baking sheet in a 400°F oven for about 15 minutes, turning all halfway over through roasting time.
- Peel the garlic, remove the seeds and rough chop the jalapeño, and peel and chop the onion.
- In a food processor, add all roasted ingredients, plus cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pulse until all ingredients are chopped and desired consistency is reached. I like it best left a little chunky.
- I processed about half at a time and then blended everything together in a big bowl.
This is a perfect spring snack! I love this dish.
I love this stuff — SO good. And so many great ways to use it. Or just eat it by the spoonful, as I usually do. 🙂
I could and do too John! 🙂
This sounds great. Two questions… Have you ever made this with green tomatoes? (I have a bunch out in the garden), and can you process and can this recipe?
Thanks. I love your blog. When I see it in my email in box it’s the first thing I read! And I usually save the recipe or, in the case of many of your cocktails, try immediately!
I would think you could use green tomatoes but not being certain I phoned a friend who has a big garden and loves spicy Mexican foods, hoping she could fill me in…and she did! She
She said they work well as a substitute. Before you use green tomatoes in your dish, taste the tomato to check its tartness. Sometimes, green tomatoes are not as tart to the taste. Her suggestion was to add some lime juice to the mixture, since I’ve already included lime juice as I like that bit of tart…you might not even need to do that.
As for canning? I wish I could help but I’m no canning expert and success is a combination of things, including the relative acidity of your food. So I did a Google search and found lots of information. If you have a country agricultural extension office they might be able to help but also simply Google ‘canning tomatillo salsa’ and ‘canning green tomato salsa’ for lots of examples. It seems the tomatillo salsa uses roasted veggies like I did and the green tomato salsa combines fresh ingredients in a saucepan without that step. Hope this helps!
And I LOVE that you enjoy the blog; you made my day! 🙂
Awesome recipe. This is very similar to a recipe we used for our “house marg” at one of my previous cocktail bars. For the orange liquor, I generally recommend Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao. The dash of OJ is an interesting twist! Love it!
Isn’t it fun to be getting those cool-looking tomatillos from the store? I just started making my own roasted salsa verde within the last year and it’s so much better than the jarred stuff! I do still buy jarred salsa verde for everyday, but it’s so nice when I get organized and make my own. I haven’t yet fine-tuned and quantified my recipe for my blog. It’s really a great part of food blogging, how it gets you to do that, it’s really improved my cooking and made my recipes more repeatable.
I saw them for years before I decided to use them. They are weird…and tasty!
I often make tomatillo salsa but I never thought of roasting before. I will have to try this!
I love it, but I’ve never made tomatillo salsa, so this is great, thanks for sharing.
It’s so easy…and of course, I think better than anything you could buy…so do make it sometime. And share better than I did!
I am a very big fan of tomatillo salsa verde and made some just last week. I need to make big batches and bottle it for over the winter when it’s not available..
I adore tomatillo salsa! This really looks fabulous!
It is! Luckily my almost ate the whole thing moment passed but this combined with blue corn tortillas, it was hard!
This looks fantastic. I actually ate some salsa verde today while in Ann Arbor…I guess now I can make my own. I love that photo!