Recipies · Staples

Tomatillo Salsa (aka: magic green sauce)

May I begin by saying, I love tomatillos!  Don’t fear them, fellow Gringos.  These lovely little green and yellow gooseberry cousins have a refreshingly savory, lemony flavor that goes well with so many dishes.  In the summer when they first ripen, I love them chopped into salads, dropped on top of nachos or a cold summer soup.  They are the basis for any “Salsa Verde” and are known for their paper lantern coverings and little internal seeds.  If you have room in your garden, try growing them next season.  They take very little care and will provide you with hundreds of little green bites!

Shamelessly borrowed this image from the kind folks at so you can see the papers.

While I love them fresh (so sweet and savory!), there are just too many of these versatile fruits to eat before they go bad. The first season I grew them, I was so overwhelmed with the harvest that I decided to try making a salsa for fish tacos – one of our faves.  I had zero time and creativity so I just threw them in a baking dish with something else I had too much of, walla walla onions and baked them up.  And thus, my favorite home made sauce was born!  We add this to EVERYTHING.  Pescados, Mexican pantry casserole, enchilasa, pasta, soup – whenever you need a dose of savory flavor, use this sauce.  It’s so simple, here’s how.

Get some tomatillo.  You can often get them year ’round at the Latino markets, but they are riper and cheaper if you find them locally in the summer time. Try and get some from the farmers market.  They come in big and little, just make sure the fruit fills – or better yet OVERfills – the paper wrapping.  They won’t be sweet if they aren’t ripe.

It doesn’t matter how many you get.  You’ll just have more or less sauce when you’re done.  I processed about two pounds in this example.  Grab a few Walla Walla or Vidalia onions while you are at the market.  Any onion will work for this recipe, but the sweet onions really complement the flavor of the tomatillo.

Peel the tomatillo and rinse the stickiness and dirt off well.

It’s October here so the walla wallas are beginning to turn bad. The sweet onions just don’t keep well, they are a summer-only item.  That said, don’t throw them out just because they start to sprout!  You can often still use most of a sprouted onion.  Here are a couple of guidelines.

Here’s a cross section of an onion that is starting to sprout, but is still okay to use.  See that last outer later?  It’s translucence means it is starting to break down.  If you see it on your onions, peel it off and discard before using.  I use the center green parts as long as they aren’t too woody.  You can peel them out if you don’t like them.
This onion LOOKED okay from the outside, but once cut into is clearly bad.  None of this onion is usable.
Tomatillos drop from their vines when they are fully ripe, sometimes they sit on the ground for a while before they are picked.  They often crack this time of year so they can start to rot if left too long.  These, from my mom’s garden, are SUPER ripe, but there were a couple moldy parts that needed trimming.
Sliced off the mold and they rest looks just fine!
Toss equal parts tomatillo (whole) and onion (rough chop) in olive oil, add generous pinch of salt and bake at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes.  Don’t cover, stir or touch 🙂
You’ll know they are done when the tops of the tomatillos are browned and the onions are very smushy.
Let the mixture cool for a while, then use an immersion blender (or a real blender) to break down the pieces into a creamy texture.  I like mine very smooth so I blend it a lot, if you like it chunky, don’t pulse much.
When the texture if how you like it, portion it out and freeze it.  This batch made about five cups – four ziploc storage containers worth – I put one in the fridge for dinner and the others in the freezer.

There you have it!  Super easy salsa.  I have also added citrus in the past, but really… the tomatillos have enough citrus flavor on their own.  That said, lime juice really agrees with this magic sauce 🙂

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