Quick-Cooked Tomatillo-Chile Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This everyday Mexican salsa verde is green from a delicious native berry (tomatillo) that frequently bears the name of its very distant relation the tomato. The walnut-size fruit in the papery husk makes a traditional sauce with an especially fresh, tart taste.

Mexican salsa verde is prepared by cooks in most of the Republic. Some of them will put it on the table for diners to add al gusto, or they’ll use it for Chicken Enchiladas. It’s always put together in the same general way, though some like to add a big sprig of epazote while the sauce is cooking.


Total Timeunder 1 hour

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, high fiber, lactose-free, low carb, low cholesterol, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Taste and Texturehot & spicy, savory, tangy, tart

Type of Dishsauces


  • 1 pound (11 medium) fresh tomatillos, husked and washed
  • OR two 13-ounce cans tomatillos, drained
  • Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 3 chiles serranos or 2 chiles jalapenos), stemmed
  • 5 or 6 sprigs fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
  • 2 cups any poultry or meat broth (depending on how the sauce is to be used)
  • Salt, about ½ teaspoon (depending on the saltiness of the broth)


  1. The tomatillos: Boil the fresh tomatillos and chiles in salted water to cover until tender, 10 to 15 minutes; drain. Simply drain canned tomatillos.

  2. The puree: Place the tomatillos and chiles (raw ones if using canned tomatillos) in a blender or food processor, along with the coriander, onion and garlic; if using a blender, stir well. Process until smooth, but still retaining a little texture.

  3. 3. The sauce: Heat the lard or vegetable oil in a medium-large skillet set over medium-high. When hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle sharply, pour it in all at once and stir constantly for 4 or 5 minutes, until darker and thicker. Add the broth, let return to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes. Season with salt.


  4. Blender Tricks: In blending in gredients of such different consistencics to an even-textured puree, make sure that (1) harder items are chopped before blending, (2) the mixture is well stirred before blending, and (3) the blender is first pulsed, then turned on low. Blending should never take more than about 20 seconds.

    Timing and Advance Preparation

  5. The sauce can be made in ½ hour. It keeps, covered and refrigerated, up to 4 days.

    Contemporary Ideas

  6. Herby Tomatillo Sauce: Puree the drained tomatillos, 1 large chile poblano (roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped), 3 cloves garlic (roasted and peeled) and 10 large leaves fresh basil. Fry and simmer as directed in Step 2. For a more Mexican balance of flavors, replace ½ the basil with a few leaves of epazote (or mint) and sprigs of fresh coriander.

    Kitchen Spanish

  7. In Mexico, the tomatillo may be called anything from tomate, to tomate verde, miltomate, or tomate de cascara (“husk tomato”), not to mention fresadilla in the northeast and tomatillo in the northwest.


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