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This roasted tomatillo salsa is my go-to recipe when I want something fresh and flavorful. The roasting brings out the sweetness of the tomatillos, and the jalapeño pepper adds just a touch of heat. You can adjust the spiciness to your taste by adding more or less jalapeño. Serve with crisp corn tortilla chips, on your favorite tacos, or over enchiladas and chilaquiles verdes.
Sharing one of my all-time favorite sauces: a roasted tomatillo salsa verde recipe. It's easy to customize the flavors to your liking, and you can make a big batch for all your summer parties and Taco Tuesdays.
Homemade salsa verde is a big staple in our home. Growing up in South Florida, if you serve food without some type of salsas you're getting the side eye.
One of our favorite taquerias, Bien Chido (which is right next to one of our favorite sushi place, hence our sushi-taco date nights) always gave us a beautifully mild salsa verde to cool down the spicy orange taquera sauce that went with all our tacos.
And when we lived in San Antonio when we first got married, we even found that Whataburger would dish out little sides of spicy salsa verde...though there's nothing better than fresh salsa verde, in my opinion.
This post and recipe will show you exactly how to to make the best salsa verde that you can with fresh tomatillos, green chile peppers, bright cilantro, and plenty of aromatics.
What are tomatillos?
Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes, covered in papery husks, but they're actually not tomatoes. They're a part of the nightshade family like tomatoes, but they're more like a cousin of the tomato...they're not even in the same plant genus.
Native to Mexico, tomatillos (also known as Mexican husk tomatoes) are used in a ton of Mexican dishes, especially in salsas. They have a bright, tart flavor when raw, and they're full of antioxidants and vitamins.
When using tomatillos, always remove the stem, husk, and any leaves. They are poisonous to eat. After you pull those off, there will be a sticky film on the skin of the tomatillos, give them a good ole rinse and get that off.
How to shop for fresh tomatillos
Because tomatillos are now being cultivated in American farms, they're easier to find in the U.S. now more than ever! If you can't find them at your local grocery store, check out the farmers market or make a run to your local Hispanic or Mexican market instead.
When buying fresh tomatillos at the grocery store, you want to find smaller ones with a husk that you can peel back. Smaller tomatillos have a more subtle sweetness than the larger ones. Look at the fruit and see if they are bruised or mushy. They should be bright green and firm; if they're not, don't buy them.
What is salsa verde?
While the typical red salsa you're used to is made with tomatoes and red chiles, salsa verde is a type of green salsa that is made with tomatillos, green chiles, fresh lime juice, garlic, onion, and fresh cilantro. It is typically served as a dip or condiment, but is also used as enchilada sauce.
This roasted tomatillo salsa recipe is a great example of a delicious and authentic salsa verde: because of it's delicious bright flavor, subtle sweetness, and a little smokiness from roasting all the ingredients. I like getting a nice char on the onions and peppers, not just the tomatillos.
For an authentic-style salsa verde, the ingredients are first blended together and then 'fried' in a saucepan to reduce the water content and give even more depth of flavor, but that is an optional step. The salsa is still delicious without being 'seasoned' with that second cook.
Roasted versus Boiled Salsa Verdes
The traditional way to make salsa verde is to boil the tomatillos to lessen the tartness of them. But the roasted tomatillos have a more complex flavor, their sweetness comes out, and they have a fantastic charred, smoky taste.
Fresh tomatillos. I'll buy a lot of tomatillos to double batch and put some in the freezer for later!
Jalapeno pepper. Depending on how spicy you like your salsa, you can use poblano peppers (for very little spice), jalepeño peppers (for little to mid spice), or serrano peppers for a nice, spicy-spice kind of salsa.
White Onion and Garlic Cloves. I like throwing these under the broiler with the chiles and tomatillos because roasted vegetables = great flavor.
Cilantro. It brings a bright, fresh herbiness that all salsas need.
Fresh lime juice. Another layer that gives that tangy bright flavor your taste buds are looking for.
How to Make Salsa Verde
Peel the husks off your fresh tomatillos and give them a gentle rinse and scrub with warm water.
Slice the tomatillos in half and place them onto a rimmed baking sheet cut-side down.
Decide how spicy you want your salsa before you start cutting up those peppers. We aren't a spicy house, so we deseeded and removed the membrane from the jalepeño. This means we get just a bit of spicy and all the flavor from the jalepeño without dying.
If you like it extra spicy, go ahead and throw in the whole serrano peppers (just cut off the stems first) onto the baking sheet.
Quarter the onions and halve the head of garlic if you're garlic fanatics like us, otherwise leave the cloves you're using off the baking sheet. The cloves soften up in the skin so they pop out with ease.
Roast the veggies in a single layer under your hot broiler to get that char, then take them out and blend in a high powered blender or in the bowl of a food processor with the cilantro, salt, and lime juice. Blend to your desired consistency; if you like big chunks of tomatillo go for it. it's your salsa.
Now, you could stop here. This beautiful green sauce is perfect as is as a salsa on your tacos and burritos or dipping those tortilla chips in.
But here's the optional part: if you want that deeper, more complex flavor, give the salsa a 'fry' in vegetable oil. Some houses do this, some don't, but the ones that do call it 'seasoning' the salsa. And if you know anything about me, I like seasoned food. So if you've got the time, give it a little sizzle over medium heat.
Put the salsa in a serving dish and chill in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
Make Ahead Instructions
You can make salsa verde up to 5 days ahead of when you need it! Keep it in the fridge in an airtight container. I honestly think making the salsa ahead of time makes it taste even better since the flavors have time to get together and intensify.
Our favorite foods to eat with Salsa Verde
Salsa verde is always on the table for Taco Tuesday. My favorites lately have been street tacos, which are smaller tacos with corn tortillas that are easier to hold and eat.
I have recipes for crispy carnitas and delicious chipotle-copycat barbacoa street tacos that are just begging to have some salsa added into the mix. They're perfect when you have guests over or are having a big summer party, since they're so easy to walk around with, too.
Want it mild? Use a deseeded poblano pepper. This is great if you've got kiddos who can't do spicy.
Want it really spicy? Use serrano peppers, seeds and all.
If you want a creamy dip-style salsa verde, add some avocado into the blender after roasting the vegetables!
Storing and Freezing
Salsa verde can be saved in the fridge in an airtight container for up to one week.
To freeze the salsa, place it in freezer-safe containers or flattened out in freezer-safe zip top bags and keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Let the salsa thaw in the fridge or at room temperature before digging in.
More Latin Recipes
- Easy Guava Mojitos
- Fresh Restaurant-Style Salsa
- Carne Asada + Marinade Recipe
- Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce
- Birria Tacos con Consomé
Tools I Used in this Recipe
- Boos Cutting Board, I absolutely love how sturdy these things are!
- Chef Knife, this is my favorite one.
- Large Baking Sheets, you want ones that won't warp on you under the heat
- Blender, I swear by my Vitamix. This thing pulverizes everything!
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- 7 medium tomatillos, husks removed and washed
- 1 jalepeño pepper, deseeded and cut in half
- 1 medium white onion, peeled and quarter
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
- Juice of 2 limes
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, leaves only no stems
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Adjust oven rack to 6 inches from the top and preheat your oven's broiler on high.
- Cut tomatillos in half and add them to a large rimmed baking sheet along with the deseeded jalepeño, quartered white onion, and halved garlic head, cut sides down.
- Broil the vegetables for 5-8 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through broiling to ensure there's no burning.
- Once the vegetables have a bit of char, take them out of the oven. Then add the roasted vegetables to a high powered blender or the bowl of a food processor. Make sure to squeeze the garlic from their skin, we don't want the skin in the salsa.
- Add the fresh lime juice and cilantro, then pulse until everything is puréed. Taste for salt, and add kosher salt to your tastes; I used around ½ teaspoon to ¾ tsp.
- Transfer to storage containers and let cool.
- OPTIONAL: 'Season' your salsa verde by heating vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat, adding the salsa to it and cooking it to reduce the liquidity. This is great if you want to use the salsa verde for enchilada sauce.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 42Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 59mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 1gSugar: 6gProtein: 1g
All nutrition facts are estimations. Please see a physician for any health-related inquiries.
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.