Tangy Tomatillo Salsa

Tangy Tomatillo Salsa

Since I’ve taken a gander at the posts I have looming ahead over the next couple of weeks and have somewhat measured their sugar content, I decided to keep my commitment of posting a few of the Rick Bayless recipes I’ve been enjoying.  And since I’m a huge fan salsa fan, that seems to be a good place to start.

This Tangy Tomatillo Salsa is a breeze — especially if you’re someone who enjoys great salsa.  Well, now that I’ve said it, I have to qualify it.  Great salsa actually has the flavor of the ingredients and not so much salt and heat that you can’t taste anything else.

I’m not opposed to heat, but at some point, what’s the point?  Is there a point?

To be a great salsa, a few qualifications need to be in order:  1) It’s perfect with tortilla chips whose only purpose is to scoop large quantities of it into one’s mouth; 2) It has lots of texture; 3) It tastes great with eggs, chicken, pork, fish, or beef; and 4) When nobody’s looking, you can eat it with a large spoon.  No sharing.

Not very scientific, but that just about covers it, don’t you think?

The nice thing about this particular recipe is that you can alter it however you like.  And I probably have, but may not be able to tell you exactly how.  I don’t do this on purpose to torture anyone.  If anything, it’s simply to promote the idea that you don’t have to make anything exactly like it was written.  Well, unless you’re baking.  That’s a whole different solar system.

Bayless uses this salsa with many of the dishes featured in Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen.

Tangy Tomatillo Salsa


1 lb tomatillos (about 10-12, husked and rinsed)
Fresh serrano chiles (about 5 depending on your desired level of heat)
2 lg. garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 small white onion, chopped
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
Salt (to taste)
Sugar (to taste, about 1 tsp to balance flavors)


  1. Under your broiler about 5 ” from the heat source, roast tomatillos by cutting in half, and arranging cut side down on a baking pan either oiled or lined with parchment. When the skins blacken and blister, turn them over and continue to roast on the cut side,  about 4-5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool completely without removing them from the pan.
  2. In a dry iron skillet, roast the garlic cloves in their skin, and the whole chilies until blackened in spots about 10 minutes.  Cool and then remove garlic skin, as well as the chili stems (and seeds if you wish).
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, pour the tomatillos and all their juice on the baking pan, along with the garlic and chilies.  Pulse until well mixed, but still coarse in appearance.
  4. Scrape into a bowl, and if desired, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water to thin.  Stir the onion into the salsa and add the cilantro, stirring to blend.  Season with salt and sugar according to your taste.

Recipe Notes

  • I didn’t make this exactly as the Bayless recipe dictated.  You’re surprised, right?  I though so.
  • If you’ve never worked with tomatillos (which are not green tomatoes…), then the outer husk and stickiness of the fruit may seem strange.  You want to choose fruit that is bright green and with green husks.  If left to sit, the husks will begin to brown and the fruit to shrink.  “How does she know this?” you may ask.  You are learning that I have a problem with having food around and waiting in line to be cooked somewhat like planes in a holding pattern above a busy airport, yes?  It’s a problem.  Actually, it’s important to know because at the market, often, the husks are already brown and papery, and although this isn’t horrible, the tartness when the fruit is at its peak is what you’re looking for.  After removing the husk, wash the fruit with water and gently rub.
  • I usually have dried chilies around, and didn’t have fresh serranos (which are pretty spicy by the way…) so used 2-3  Chilis de Arbol instead.  They’re pretty easy to pick up at regular grocery stores and come in plastic bags packed with enough to keep yourself in salsa for the rest of this century.  I split them and pressed them into the skillet to roast alongside the garlic, keeping the seeds, discarding the stems.  I didn’t hydrate them like you normally would.  Sitting in the salsa softens them up.
  • I didn’t add the water.  I love chunky salsa.  I should have tried it, but I just felt that it would thin the flavor too much.  When I make tomato salsas, I use either lemon or lime juice.  Never water.  The tomatoes make their own juice.
  • I used fresh green onions because I enjoy their flavor more than that of white onions.  I also enjoy their texture in salsa in general.
  • I used about  1/2 cup of cilantro, because I’m crazy about cilantro.  Love.  It.
  • If you’re still not one to enjoy spicy food and are completely paralized about the concept, then you’ve not even read this, but for what it’s worth, use red jalapenos.  Use fresh ones, roast under your broiler or on the open burner of a gas stove until black, wrap in a towel for about 10 minutes, then peel, split, remove all seeds, membranes, and stem, then chop and only as much as you can enjoy in the salsa.  Chilis are extremely good for your body, so give them a try.
  • I served this salsa on chicken tacos and it was very good!

I have a bowl of tomatillos sitting on my counter right now, just dying to be this salsa…And a fresh bag of tortilla strips.

Now, all I need is a margarita.

Oh, and if you’d like to try another version of a tomatillo salsa, I made this Salsa Verde for the yummy Grilled Fish Tacos my friend made at our recent Mexican Feast.  It’s good, too, but I like the version above better.  The Grilled Fish Taco recipe is excellent!