Wonderful as a dip or sauce for grilled meat or fish
Ready for some bright, tangy flavor? Just dish up the Salsa Verde.
This dish, which is made with tomatillos, takes just minutes to whip up. It’s equally good at room temperature or chilled, so you can prepare a batch at the last minute while you’re grilling meat or fish.
Best of all, it will turn your next ordinary meal into a fiesta.
Recipe: Salsa Verde with Roast Tomatillos
Salsa is great with raw veggies or chips, of course. But we also find it makes an enticing sauce for grilled meat, poultry, and fish.
Tomatillos are the backbone of Salsa Verde. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re husk-wrapped small green globes that look a lot like green tomatoes.
You can make Salsa Verde without roasting the tomatillos, but we like to roast because it deepens their flavor. We pan roast the tomatillos for this recipe, but in the Notes we provide instructions for roasting them in the oven, boiling them, and even using them raw.
Chile peppers also provide major flavor in this dish. We like to use jalapeño peppers because we love their flavor (and they’re always available at the supermarket). If you want a hotter pepper, you could try serranos. When Hatch chilies are in season, they also make a wonderful addition, as would Poblano peppers. (We like to roast both of those before using.) We specify about a quarter cup of chile peppers for this recipe, but that quantity is very much subject to taste – use less or more, depending on your tolerance for chile heat.
Prep time for this dish is about 15 minutes. You can serve it immediately or refrigerate it in an airtight container for an hour or two.
This recipe makes about a cup of sauce.
- ~1 pound tomatillos
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves (to taste)
- ~¼ cup green jalapeño peppers (2 or 3, to taste; see headnote for suggestions on substituting other peppers)
- ~½ cup cilantro
- water to taste (¼ cup or so)
- ½ small white onion (very optional)
- salt to taste (maybe ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us, but see Notes)
- Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos. Rinse and dry the tomatillos, then cut them in half. Place the tomatillos cut-side down in a large skillet (preferably nonstick).
- Peel the garlic cloves and add them to the skillet.
- Place the skillet on medium stovetop heat. Roast the tomatillos uncovered until the cut sides are well browned (4 or 5 minutes). Turn over the tomatillos and garlic and roast them for another 3 to 5 minutes (until everything is well browned, and the tomatillos are softened).
- Remove the skillet from the heat and add the contents to a food processor or blender. Allow the tomatillos and garlic to cool to room temperature in the food processor. Meanwhile, wash the jalapeño peppers and cut them lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the ribs and seeds (be careful, the oil on these is hot; keep fingers away from your eyes). Chop the jalapeños roughly and add them to the food processor. Then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the hot jalapeño oil from your skin.
- Wash the cilantro, chop it roughly, then add it to the food processor.
- Pulse the food processor until the ingredients form a coarse purée. Add water to thin the mixture slightly, then pour the contents of the food processor into a small bowl.
- If using the onion, cut it into fine dice and add it to the bowl. Mix in. Add salt to taste, and additional water if needed, then mix well.
- Serve and enjoy.
- How long should you pulse the salsa in Step 6? That depends on what sort of texture you prefer. Pulse longer for a very liquid texture, less for a chunkier one.
- If you want to make the salsa more than an hour or two ahead of time, we suggest preparing it through Step 4. Skip Step 5 (adding the cilantro), and instead pulse the tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeño pepper as directed in Step 6. Refrigerate the mixture. When ready to serve, chop the cilantro (and onion if using), and stir them into the salsa. Why do it this way? Because the flavor of cilantro and onion is much better when they’re fresher.
- Some people like to add lime juice or vinegar to Salsa Verde. If you’d like to try this, start with a tablespoon or so.
- If you add too much lime juice or vinegar, a touch of sugar will help tame the tart flavor.
- Sugar can also help mask hot spicy flavors. So if you’ve added too much jalapeño pepper, a bit of sugar will help with that too.
- To oven roast tomatillos: Husk and wash them, then cut them in half. Place them cut-side down on a baking sheet (we usually line the sheet with foil for easier cleanup). Place the baking sheet under the broiler for 5 minutes or so to blacken the skins of the tomatillos. Then proceed with the recipe.
- To boil the tomatillos: Fill a 4-quart saucepan half full with water, then bring it to a boil. Add the tomatillos. Simmer for 5 minutes, then drain the tomatillos and proceed with the recipe.
- You can also skip cooking the tomatillos altogether and make Salsa Verde Cruda. Just husk and wash the tomatillos, then add them to the food processor and go from there. This is the fastest version of all (you can mix up a batch in about 10 minutes).
- As noted, you can use almost any green chile pepper when making this dish. Most cooks probably use jalapeño peppers, but feel free to experiment with other chilies (or a mix of peppers).
- We use kosher salt for cooking. It’s less salty by volume than table salt (because it’s coarser). If using regular table salt, use about half as much as we suggest. But, as always, season to your taste, not ours.
- Once you know how to make one salsa, you essentially know how to make them all. You need a base ingredient (tomatillos in this case), an aromatic (like garlic, onion, or shallots), a fresh herb (cilantro in this case, but parsley and mint also work), usually a bit of acid to balance the mixture (we don’t use acid in this case because the tomatillos are rather tart, but it’s common to use lime juice or vinegar), a “ping” ingredient (jalapeño peppers in this case), and salt (plus sometimes black pepper) to add the final tone to the dish.
Hunger is the Best Spice
“Tangy!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “One of your best salsas, ever.”
“We do make a lot of salsa, don’t we?” I said. “Love our classic Tomato Salsa. Or tomah-to, if you will.”
“That’s particularly wonderful with tortilla chips,” said Mrs K R. “Though I go loco for your Plum Salsa.”
“Yeah, that one is plum fun,” I said. “I’m also really keen on our Peach Salsa. Love it with chicken.”
“That’s nice and spicy,” said Mrs K R. “But not as spicy as our Chipotle Cherry Salsa. Love that chipotle heat. It’s dyn-o-mite.”
“Of course, our Strawberry-Chipotle Salsa with Jalapeño may be our hottest stuff,” I said.
“And berry good it is,” said Mrs K R.
“Nice to have so many spicy salsa choices,” I said.
“Yup,” said Mrs K R. “Spice is the variety of life.”
You may also enjoy reading about:
Strawberry-Chipotle Salsa with Jalapeño
Chipotle Cherry Salsa
Salsa and Picante Sauce
Chipotle Sweet-Potato Salad
Or check out the index for more recipes