Smoky Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Christopher Hirsheimer

I’ve been smitten with chipotle salsa ever since the first time I tasted it on a crusty sandwich (cemita) in a Pueblan market stall thirty years ago. It’s three simple ingredients in perfect balance: the smoky spice of chipotle chilies, the lively sweet-edged tang of roasted tomatillo and the alluring complexity of roasted garlic. I like chipotle salsa spooned on practically everything except ice cream, though I’m particularly fond of it with grilled fish or chicken or beef I go again.

Riffs on Chipotle Salsa:

You can replace the tomatillos with roasted tomatoes (two 4-ounce plum tomatoes, toasted like the tomatillos, or half a drained 15-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes), but keep in mind that the tomato will tip the flavor toward sweet rather than tangy. A little cilantro, fresh thyme or parsley is always welcome, as is green or white onion – especially if it’s grilled. A splash of mescal (or the less-smoky tequila) makes a borracha (drunken) salsa that’s dynamite. Instead of pureeing the chiles, you can finely chop them and add them to the pureed (green) base; they’ll show up as a little red flecks, and the salsa will be less smoky.

Easy Chipotle Sauté:

In a very large (12-inch) skillet, sauté 1 sliced white onion with 1 to 1 ¼ pounds cubed boneless chicken breast, pork tenderloin, steak, shrimp or firm tofu until well browned. Add the salsa and stir-fry until everything is done as you like, dribble in a little water if the sauce is too thick for you. This is really good sprinkled with chopped cilantro.



Total Timeunder 15 minutes

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Occasiongame day

Dietary Considerationdiabetic, egg-free, gluten-free, halal, healthy, kosher, lactose-free, low calorie, low carb, low cholesterol, low saturated fat, low-fat, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian


Five Ingredients or LessYes

Taste and Texturegarlicky, hot & spicy, smoky, tangy, tart

Type of Dishsalsa, sauces


  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 medium (about 8 ounces total) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut in half
  • 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo (or more, if you like really spicy salsa)
  • Salt


Set a large (10-inch) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (if you don’t have a nonstick skillet, lay in a piece of foil). Lay in the garlic and tomatillos (cut side down). When the tomatillos are well browned, 3 or 4 minutes, turn everything over and brown the other side. (The tomatillos should be completely soft.)

Scoop the garlic and tomatillos into a blender jar or food processor, along with the chiles and ¼ cup of water. Process to a coarse puree. Pour into a salsa dish and cool.

Thin with a little additional water if necessary to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency. Taste and season with salt, usually a generous ½ teaspoon.


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Dear @jlese1, thank you so much for the kind words, and for your sharp reading! All best, Kara Rota Director

TYPO ALERT: Scoop the garlic and tomatillos into a blender jar or food processor, alone with the "Alone" should be along. This recipe looks awesome. Compliment: I really appreciate the nutritional info given with all recipes. I follow a low sodium food plan and need to know what is in what I eat.

Awesome, but cut the chipotle peppers measurement in half, to keep the salsa from being too hot. Used this salsa on pulled pork lettuce tacos, and it was spectacular. We cut the calories by using lettuce to wrap the tacos instead of flour tortillas, and the lettuce cooled off the bite of the chipotle salsa. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Great Cinco De Mayo salsa, or for that matter, for any day!!!


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