Tomatillo Salsa

This was a process of discovery for me. Do you have a Mexican food restaurant that has green salsa? We have about 100 within 10 miles. That is a slight exaggeration but not by much. And it makes me a blessed person.

And while I’ve certainly made my share of red salsas and pico de gallos, I have never tried to tackle green salsa. However, I have gained quite an affection for green salsa and for its main ingredient, tomatillos. Recently I posted a Chicken Tomatillo Casserole that is a favorite of mine. Prior to working on that recipe I had never worked with fresh tomatillos, and now I think I’ll be playing with them for the rest of my life. One reason is that I think they are beautiful little fruits. I am captivated by their dying husks and how such a plump and firm fruit is underneath it. I must have taken 300 photographs of this bowl of tomatillos.

As I set about trying to crack the code to my favorite green salsas, I discovered that good green salsas are not only personal but exist on a continuum. You can make the very easiest and fresh version and you can stop. Or, you can go a little further and cook it. And, then you can go a little further and make tomatillo guacamole, if you choose. Or, you can put an avocado in the food processor with the salsa and make a smooth and creamy salsa, which was the favorite in my house.

This particular road of discovery started similarly to many of mine, when my neighbor Linda went on and on about a green salsa that she and her co-workers had encountered at a little spot called Los Arcos. They are on a mission to try as many of the…I don’t want to say “dives” but shall I say “less obvious and well known” establishments in Dallas. I am a fan of this endeavor, especially when Linda puts her intestinal fortitude on the line before I have to do so. She was my canary in the coal mine on this venture. Pitts and I called her this week and had her take us to Los Arcos and she was right. They have great green salsa, really excellent beef enchiladas, and extremely nice servers. I had to go home afterward and take a nap. It was one of those stupor inducing pig outs. But the salsa was great and it caused me to add the final step to this recipe which you should really try. If you double the recipe, you will have enough for all four permutations and you can have your own taste test.

Tomatillo Salsa
Recipe type: Appetizer
Tomatillos are a beautiful fruit. The papery exterior and sticky green surface yield to a tangy, odd, and wonderfully flavorful ingredient.
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
  • 1½ serrano pepper, seeded
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded
  • 1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks removed and fruit rinsed, and cut into quarters
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 4 green onions, sliced, whites and light green parts only
  • 0 or 1 or 2 avocados, depending on your end use
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped (for the final sauce)
Basic Tomatillo Salsa
  1. To make the basic fresh tomatillo salsa, place the peppers, tomatillos, lime juice and green onions in a food processor and process until you are happy with the consistency. I chose a somewhat smooth texture. Season the salsa with salt.
Cooked Salsa
  1. To make a cooked salsa, which is just a bit smoother tasting without the raw bite (which I like very much, by the way...I'm simply drawing a comparison) place the raw salsa in a saucepan and simmer it gently for about ten minutes. You will notice that the color will change from bright green to a more dull shade of green. Adjust the seasoning with lime juice and salt, if necessary.
Tomatillo Guacamole
  1. To take it another step and make tomatillo guacamole, simply dice a ripe avocado and spoon in about one quarter of a cup of the salsa. I used the cooked version of the salsa for my guacamole. Mash the avocado and salsa together. Adjust the seasoning with lime juice and salt, to taste. I added a little extra lime juice at this step to ensure that the avocado stayed a nice color.
Avocado Tomatillo Salsa
  1. And, to go the final step, to an avocado tomatillo salsa, you simply change the proportion of avocado to salsa and add some garlic. In the bowl of the food processor, add 1 cup of cooked salsa for every half of an avocado. I used one half avocado, 1 cup of cooked salsa, and one chopped clove of garlic. Process until completely smooth.

Everything about this salsa is green and lovely. Some dishes are just prettier to make than others.

There is no reason not to try all four of these ideas and decide where on the spectrum your taste buds like to reside. You might even come up with your own twist. If so, share it with us.

If you are planning to make a meal out of this, you could serve it with chips alongside my Black Bean Enchilada Casserole, Chicken Tomatillo Casserole, or (love these!!) Black Bean Tacos.

Please remember that my Serrano and your Serrano (or Jalapeno) could be very different in flavor. I have had peppers from the same grocery store, but one week apart, range from mild as a bell pepper to inedibly hot. Please taste your peppers and use more or less of the Serrano and Jalapeno based on just how hot they are. You can always add more…you cannot take it out.





  1. says

    Wonderful! I can only buy green salsa in a can at Walmart. But I did — and I put it in my first ever white chili. I’m not sure if that’s what made it fabulous or not, but it sure was good. Now I can make the salsa, you say! Great! (Our Walmart occasionally even has tomatillos.)

  2. Amy Bush says

    You have sparked my taste buds with this post. I LOVE salsa verde, and if it’s on the menu, I’m ordering it. ZuZu’s in Dallas has good fresh green salsa (I think this is still there on Abrams), and I must plug Fuzzy’s since they have a cooked version poured over enchiladas and also a fresh version to accompany their awesome breakfast plates. Now for another version, I will share my favorite with a devoted foddie,like yourself. I wish I could take ownership on this one, but Tyler Florence has 2 great recipes for a fresh and a roasted version of salsa verde. Both of the recipes call for tons of cilantro (love it), and fresh lime juice. Roasting the tomatillas with the onions, garlic and peppers brings out a unique flavor. After roasting, add fresh lime juice, ciltantro, salt etc. and blend away. Check out Food Network for the complete recipes. They are good. Please pass on other “finds” for us to try if I ever make it east of Ft. Worth.

  3. Kelly says

    Thank you so much! I’m kind of crazy about that photo (and pretty much all salsas too, for that matter).

  4. Linda says

    Love giving food gifts in those little jars too. This year I was thinking a jar each of the Cranberry Salsa and the Tomatillo Salsa (version one). Do you know the shelf life of either? Thanks and love your photos – they even got my son got interested.

  5. Kelly says

    Linda, I’m always a little skittish about holding these things for more than 4 to 5 days, especially the “uncooked” versions, but that is just me. I need to look into this further. I know that with the cranberries, the flavor was optimal on day 2 and 3, again…to me. I suspect you could extend the life by canning on the tomatillo salsa, but I don’t know about the cranberry. Let me ponder it a bit and I’ll get back to you. My instinct is to say, it is best as fresh as possible. But, freezing is an option, too. I would just need to experiment with that. But, I’d be you could make a big batch, and freeze it in ziplocs or even in the jars, and just thaw it for a day before gifting it. Hmm. I’m still thinking.

  6. Linda says

    Thanks, Kelly – I was thinking a few days also. I have time for a little testing – I like the idea of freezing – I’ll try it. Happy Thanksgiving!


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