While this is a pretty classic salsa verde Mexicana, pretty much every culture has a green sauce of some sort.
Elsewhere on this site I have a German green sauce and an Italian salsa verde, both with fish. I like both sauces, but they’re not this one. This is what most Americans think of when you hear the words salsa verde. It’s a Mexican classic, and a good thing to know how to make.
The recipe below is one I’ve tinkered with over the years, after eating lots of them and trying recipes from all over Mexico. What I like most about this version of salsa verde Mexicana is that almost everything is grilled or charred, and that adds a ton of flavor to the final salsa.
As with most recipes, the quality of what you put in and your technique determine the quality of the final dish. Yes, there are perfectly authentic salsa verde recipes where you boil everything first, and there is also a completely raw salsa verde Mexicana that I do like a lot, but the smoke and char of this version wins, to my mind.
If you can make this salsa verde on a smoky grill, it will be surpassingly good. My next choice would be an iron or steel comal or flattop. Directly over a gas burner would work, too, as would a broiler — but I honestly don’t love the broiler for this salsa. But if that’s all you have, go for it.
I prefer to use the tiny, “wild” tomatillos for this recipe, which are known as milpa in Mexican markets. But really any tomatillo will work. Just don’t use the purple ones, as they’re too ripe for this. You want the acidity of green tomatillos, especially if you are canning. I happen to have them growing uncontrollably in my garden. How they got there, I have no idea.
I also like to use New Mexican Hatch green chiles here, too, which are Anaheim chiles when grown somewhere else. They’re cheap, plentiful and will often grow pretty straight, making them easier to roast and peel. Chilaca or poblanos are excellent, too. You could use jalapenos or even a regular green bell pepper if you had to.
My rendition of salsa verde Mexicana uses epazote, too. Not much, but just enough of this powerful herb to let you know it’s there. Cilantro is the primary herb here, though.
How do you use this salsa verde Mexicana? Well, with tortilla chips, of course. But also as a base for chile verde with pork, chicken, pheasant or whatever. And like all green sauces, it’s fantastic with fish. One classic recipe that uses this salsa is chicharron en salsa verde.
This recipe can be canned, with a couple minor alterations I detail below. Since you need to do a lot of charring and roasting to make it, it’s a good idea to whip up a big batch and can or freeze what you don’t eat straight away.
Tomatillo Salsa Verde Mexicana
- 1 to 2 pounds husked tomatillos, preferably the little milpa tomatillos
- 1 1/2 cups poblano or Anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 4)
- 1/2 cup jalapenos, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 3 to 5)
- 4 cups white or yellow onions, sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped epazote (optional)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Lime juice to taste
- Fruit Fresh or other source of citric acid (only if canning)
- If you don't have your green chiles and jalapenos prepped, follow these directions for roasting peppers. Arrange the tomatillos, sliced onions and the garlic cloves on a cooking sheet (or two) and set under the broiler until they are a bit charred.
- Once you have all the vegetables prepped, peel the garlic and put it and everything else into a food processor and pulse to make a rough salsa. You're done if you don't want to can your salsa. Kept in a covered container, it will keep a week in the fridge.
- If you are canning, add 1 teaspoon of the Fruit Fresh (citric acid) to each pint jar; the jars should be sterilized beforehand. Pack the salsa into the jars, and use a knife of chopstick to remove as many air pockets as you can find. Leave about 1/2 inch headspace. Seal the jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
- When the jars are ready, lift out of the boiling water and let them rest until their lids plink. Once they've cooled to room temperature, the salsa will keep in the pantry for more than a year.