Culinary Arts

Easy Salsa Verde Recipe and Tips

Written by MasterClass

Feb 26, 2019 • 4 min read

The popularity of salsa verde in Mexico has been compared to that of Heinz ketchup in the US. Sweet and tangy, both condiments add acidity to any dish that needs it. But unlike ketchup, salsa verde is incredibly easy to make at home—and homemade salsa verde tastes miles better than the shelf-stable stuff.

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What Is Salsa Verde?

Salsa verde—literally “green sauce,” in Spanish—is the ubiquitous tomatillo salsa that adds tangy sweetness to tacos and countless other Mexican dishes. It’s made with tomatillos, seedy green fruits that resemble small green tomatoes covered in thin, papery husks.

Though they’re known as tomates verdes in Mexico, tomatillos are not the same as green tomatoes; they’re actually close relatives of ground cherries. Mexican salsa verde is often referred to as tomatillo salsa stateside, to avoid confusion with the other salsa verde, a parsley-caper sauce indigenous to Italy.

Classic Salsa Verde Ingredients

There are many different versions of salsa verde, tomatillos being pretty much the only essential ingredient, but most recipes also include cilantro, jalapeños (or other peppers), and garlic. Popular additions include white onion, lime, and avocado. Classic salsa verde is always gluten-free.

What Do You Serve Salsa Verde With?

Though most famous as an accompaniment to tacos and tortilla chips, salsa verde is essential to all kinds of Mexican food, such as enchiladas verdes and chilaquiles. It’s fabulous with eggs—scrambled, poached, or fried—and adds tang to cooked meats, such as tri-tip.

8 Tips for Making Perfect Salsa Verde

  • When shopping, choose firm, bright green tomatillos bulging from their husks.
  • Purple tomatillos milperos are smaller than the green kind, with a sweeter flavor. They can be used interchangeably.
  • Rinsing the tomatillos will make it easier to peel the sticky fruits away from their papery husks. Rinsing a second time after peeling ensures no papery bits will end up in your salsa.
  • Although salsa verde can be made with raw tomatillos, cooking the tomatillos—by boiling, broiling, or charring in a dry skillet—softens them and makes them easier to blend. It also yields a milder flavor.
  • Tomatillos are high in pectin, so salsa verde will thicken as it cools. If it gets too thick, try thinning out with water, lime juice, or chicken broth.
  • If you prefer your salsa with the kick of raw white onion, roughly chop about ¼ cup, rinse under water, and stir into blended salsa verde. (Blending raw onions releases their natural defense chemicals, which have an unpleasantly harsh, sulfuric flavor.)
  • Tomatillos have plenty acidity on their own, but a splash of lime juice can brighten up a salsa verde that didn’t turn out as tangy as you like.
  • For added flavor, try “frying” your salsa verde after blending: Heat about 1 tablespoon neutral oil, or enough to coat the pan, in a large skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, then serve.

How Do You Store Homemade Salsa Verde?

The acidity and pectin in tomatillos make homemade salsa verde an extremely popular choice for canning. The National Center for Home Food Preservation and Ball Canning have tested recipes for salsa verde specifically for canning safety. Alternatively, you can prolong the life of homemade salsa verde by freezing it in jars—just remember to leave an inch or so of headspace, since the salsa will expand as it solidifies in the freezer.

Classic Salsa Verde Recipe

Ingredient Checklist

Total Time 10 min | Serves 2 cups

  • 1 pound tomatillos (about 12)
  • Salt
  • 1 jalapeño pepper or serrano chile, seeded and sliced
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  1. Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse. Place them in a medium saucepan with enough water to just cover. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium and simmer until slightly soft, about 4 minutes. Drain, reserving cooking liquid.
  2. Add ½ cup cooking liquid to blender or food processor along with jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, and cooked tomatillos. Blend or pulse briefly, until a coarse, chunky sauce forms. Taste for salt and add more if needed.

How to Make Red Salsa Verde

To make salsa de tomatillo roja, or red tomatillo salsa, toast five dried red chiles, such as guajillo or árbol, in a dry pan until fragrant. Remove stems and add to the blender with the rest of the ingredients.

Red salsa

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4 Easy Variations on Salsa Verde Recipes

  • Spicy: Add an extra jalapeño, serrano, or habañero pepper (or two, or three!) to the above recipe to up the heat.
  • Roasted: To make roasted salsa verde, heat the oven to 450°F. Toss husked, halved tomatillos, chiles, and garlic in a bowl with enough neutral oil to coat. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Roast until softened and slightly charred, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, grill whole husked tomatillos, chiles, and garlic, toast in a dry skillet, or broil briefly, until slightly charred.) Transfer to the blender or food processor and with cilantro and water or chicken broth in place of the tomatillo cooking liquid and blend or pulse until a coarse sauce forms.
  • Raw: Follow the above recipe, but skip the boiling. Quarter the tomatillos so that they’re easier to blend, and use water or chicken broth in place of the tomatillo cooking liquid.
  • Creamy: Add one mashed ripe avocado to the blender with the rest of the ingredients for a creamier salsa verde.