Tomatillos

About

Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes (of which they are a distant relative) covered with a papery husk. They have a bright, lemon-like flavor perfect with spicy food or alongside grilled items. They can also add a nice hit of acid to stews and other heavy fare.

Tomatillos are small, round fruits harvested in late summer and into fall. They would ripen to yellow, red, or purple if we let them, but unripe – green – tomatillos, oddly, have more flavor.

To Use

Before using, peel off the husks and rinse to remove the sticky residue. Other than peeling off the husk, do not peel the green skin.

Tomatillos are traditionally used in three ways — raw, boiled/blanched, or roasted/grilled:

Raw - Uncooked tomatillos add a fresh, tangy citrus-like flavor and are often used raw in Mexican table sauces. Finely dice or puree them.

Blanching - Mellows the flavor. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the whole tomatillos (husks removed and rinsed) and boil for about 5 minutes, until soft. Drain and crush or puree as directed in a sauce recipe.

Fire roasting - Leaving slightly blackened skins on enriches a sauce with a smoky, woodsy flavor. Can roast under the broiler, with a propane torch, or over an open flame such as a grill or a gas burner. Make sure the heat is quite hot, otherwise the tomatillos will turn mushy before being charred.

Dry roasting - Produces an earthy, nutty flavor. Place the tomatillos in a heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron). Turn heat to low. Roast for about 20 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally, letting each side take on a rich, burnished golden color before turning.

Finally, tomatillos can be quite inconsistent in flavor, with some being intensely sour and others tasting mild and sweet. Some cooks use a pinch of sugar to balance the taste of very tart tomatillos.

To Store

Store tomatillos briefly at room temperature or for up to a week wrapped loosely in plastic in the fridge.

Recipes

Green Chile Tomatillo Soup

Fresh, roasted green chiles and roasted skinned tomatillos make a lightly spicy and luscious pureed soup all on there own. Add a bit of potato and/or cream to make this soup thicker or creamier as you see fit. This Green Chile Tomatillo Soup make s a great starter to any Mexican or Southwest meal, or a lunch or light dinner all on its own with a green salad and some toasted corn tortillas or corn tortilla chips.

*Makes 4 hearty servings

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 fresh mild green chiles, such as Hatch chiles

  • 8 fresh tomatillos
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp. salt plus more to taste
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and chopped (optional, it will make the soup thicker)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional, it will make the soup creamier)
  • Cilantro for garnish (optional)

PROCEDURE:

  1. Roast and peel chiles (use either the stove-top method or broiler method). Remove papery skins from tomatillos. With the stove flame or oven broiler still on, roast the tomatillos until lightly blistered. Set aside until cool enough to handle and peel off as much of the skin as possible.
  2. In a medium pot, heat oil. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chiles, tomatillos, broth, salt, and potato, if using. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes to thoroughly cook vegetables and blend flavors.
  3. Whirl, in batches if necessary, in a blender or food processor until very smooth (you can also use a hand-held blender if you have one). Add cream, if using. Add more salt to taste.
  4. Serve hot, garnished with cilantro, if you like.

Herbed Tomatillo & Grape Salsa

*adapted from Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini by Elizabeth Schneider

Ingredients:

3/4-1 pound tomatillos
1 to 3 small green chilies, such as Serrano or jalapeño, halved and seeded
1 garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
1/4 cup lightly packed basil or mint leaves
1/2s cup stemmed seedless green grapes
about 1 tablespoon lime juice

Procedure:

1. Barely cover husked tomatillos with cold water; cook very gently until gender, the time can range from 2 to 15 minutes, depending upon size and thickness. Check often to prevent bursting. Cool in liquid. 
2. In food processor container, combine 1 chile(or more to taste), garlic, salt, and half each of the cilantro and basil(or mint). Whiz to mince. 
3. Drain tomatillos if needed. Add to container, with grapes and 1 Tablespoon lime juice. Whirl to a chunky puree. Taste for heat and tartness, adding lime and minced chile to suit. Scoop into a bowl. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. 
4. To serve, mince the remaining cilantro and basil(mint). Stir into the salsa. Salt to taste.

Huevos Rancheros with Fresh Tomatillo Sauce

Serves 4

Warm, soft corn tortillas smothered with tomatillo sauce, black beans, and topped with a fried egg. Huevos Rancheros is a great breakfast… at any time of the day!

Ingredients:

  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup oil, for frying
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 15 ounce black beans
  • 5 ounces Queso Fresco cheese, crumbled
  • 1 pound tomatillos
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 4 ounce can diced (or fresh) jalapenos
  • 4 ounce can diced (or fresh) chiles
  • 1/2 bushel cilantro, chopped.
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. To prepare the tomatillos, peel away the husk and rinse off the stickiness under running water. Place all of the peeled tomatillos in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Drain off water and place in a large blender or food processor. Add chopped onions, jalapenos, chiles, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, cumin, garlic and onion powder to the tomatillos and puree until completely blended. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a small frying pan on medium heat. Place one corn tortilla at a time into the hot oil for 1 and a half minutes on each side. Place on dry paper towels on a flat surface to drain excess oil.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter (or use any other non stick method you would like to use) in a large frying pan on medium heat. Crack 4 eggs into the pan. Put a lid on the pan as so the heat will cook the tops of the eggs without having to flip them.
  4. Drain and rinse beans with hot water.
  5. Place each corn tortilla on plates and layer them with the tomatillo sauce, beans, eggs, and crumbled cheese. Enjoy!

Tomatillo Chicken

Serves 4


  • 2 pounds tomatillos (husks removed), washed and halved
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), cut into 10 pieces (wings reserved for another use)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped
  • 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 can (15 ounces) hominy (optional), drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh, cilantro
  1. STEP 1

    In a food processor, puree tomatillos; set aside. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to pot, skin side down. Cook until browned on one side, 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

  2. STEP 2

    Add jalapeños and onion to pot and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomatillo puree and hominy, if using; season with salt and pepper. Nestle chicken, skin side up, in sauce. Cover pot; simmer until chicken is cooked through, 22 to 25 minutes. Stir in cilantro; season with salt and pepper.