Salsa Verde — Green Chile Sauce

One Classic Mexican Recipe and Two Not So Classic Recipes, But Very, Very Good


Salsa Verde — Green Chile Sauce — is just as common in Mexican cuisine as  Salsa Roja, made with tomatoes and chilesThe classic recipe for Salsa Verde is made with green chiles and tomatillos (known as tomate verde in Mexico). This Mexican native has a papery husk which is removed before cooking. Tomatillos impart a tangy, acid flavor which provides a counterbalance to the sweetness of corn tortillas.


Just describing this salsa is causing my mouth to water. Its aroma has filled the house, causing an early anticipation of lunch. There is a quart of Salsa Verde, the result of my time in the kitchen this morning, sitting on the counter. I think I’m going  to make a plate of enchiladas. Right now. Excuse me.

I’m back. What an easy and delicious lunch! (Nope, that wasn’t a lame writer’s artifice I just used — I really did just have a great plate of enchiladas.) Using fresh corn tortillas, still warm  from our local tortilleria one block away, I filled each with a few slices of cheese we bought at a mountain ranch. Cuca, the rancher’s wife, makes cheese every day with fresh milk. She calls this type of cheese queso adobero and recommends it for enchiladas and quesadillas. Adobero is from the Spanish word for brick, and that is the shape of this cheese. But wait, I digress. Back to the salsa….

Salsa Verde is delicious if you like the tangy taste. I do, but for those who don’t, could this taste be moderated by using roasted poblano chiles? I pulled out all my Diana Kennedy cookbooks for some quick research on Salsa Verde and tomatillos. Not one recipe called for poblanos and tomatillos, but it was worth trying.

First I made the classic recipe using only tomatillos, with toasted serrrano chiles, garlic, onion, salt and Mexican oregano. Next, I made the same recipe, using roasted, peeled poblano chiles instead of tomatillos. Very good, but not tangy, a salsa some may prefer for that reason. Finally, I combined the two recipes. This resulted in a salsa with moderate tang, plus the fresh toasted chile flavor of poblanos.

Salsa Verde

makes about 2 cups

  • 1 lb. (454 grams) tomatillos
  • 3 serrano chiles
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons mild oil, such as canola or safflower

Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse in water to remove stickiness. In a small pot, cover tomatillos with water and simmer until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the tomatillos.

While tomatillos are cooking, toast serrano chiles until blackened in a heavy skillet lined with foil.

Serranos just beginning to toast

Peel chiles, cut in half lengthwise and de-seed, using the blunt point of a butter knife. Wear gloves for this operation if you have tender skin. (See note below.)If you want extra heat, leave the seeds in. Chop chiles. Toast oregano in a dry, hot skillet for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Do not allow to brown.

Put drained tomatillos and all other ingredients, except oil, in a blender. Blend until mostly smooth, leaving small pieces for texture interest. Be sure to hold the lid on very firmly whenever hot ingredients are blended to avoid being burned by splashes. Hot liquids in a blender have a way of expanding and  popping the lid off.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet. When hot, pour blender contents into pan and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. The salsa will thicken slightly. Taste and adjust for salt.

Classic Salsa Verde with tomatillos

Salsa Verde with Poblano Chiles

makes about 2 cups

  • 3 large poblano chiles, toasted, peeled and seeded
  • 1-2 serrano chiles, toasted and seeded (amount you use depends on heat of serrano chiles)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoon oil

Roast poblano chiles and serrano chiles over a flame, on a grill or in an oven until blackened and blistered. Remove skin, stems, and seeds. Chop.

Toast oregano in a hot, dry skillet for 30 seconds. Do not allow to burn.

Combine chiles with remaining ingredients, except oil. Add water. Blend until almost smooth, with some chunks remaining.

Heat oil in skillet. When hot, add contents of blender and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. The salsa will thicken as it cooks, and may need more water added for a thin sauce consistency. Adjust salt. This makes a very fresh tasting, very green salsa.

Classic recipe, but made with poblanos instead of tomatillos

Nuevo Salsa Verde with Poblano Chiles and Tomatillos

makes about 2 cups

  • 1/2 lb. (227 grams) tomatillos
  • 2 small to medium poblano chiles
  • 2 serrano chiles (amount you use depends on heat of poblano chiles)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons water, or more

Remove husks and wash tomatillos. Cover with water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

Blister poblano and serrano chiles. Remove stems, peel and seeds. Chop.

Put all ingredients, except oil, in a blender and process until almost smooth. Small pieces add interest, so be sure not to purée until smooth. Add water if necessary for a thin, sauce-like consistency.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet. Add chile mixture and cook over a medium-hot flame 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water if sauce thickens too much. Adjust salt.


Notes:

This salsa is wonderful over enchiladas or for making chilaquiles, one of my favorite breakfast dishes.

I did not use gloves when handling the chiles, and I’m now paying for it. My hands are tingling very slightly, though I almost can’t notice it. I did notice it when I rubbed my eye. Gloves are recommended.

I always use olive oil for cooking salsas. A traditional Mexican cook probably would not, but I turn to olive oil as my main cooking oil.

Mexican oregano and Greek oregano are two different plants. Their flavors vary, so substituting one for the other is not recommended.

Lunch

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  1. #1 by Kathleen on April 10, 2010 - 9:11 pm

    I'm glad you made it! I hope you try chilaquiles, also. That is my favorite way to eat salsa verde.

  2. #2 by s albert on October 8, 2010 - 7:38 am

    Love Mexican food!
    ..nice site.

  3. #4 by Amy on March 20, 2012 - 2:54 pm

    Thank you for providing this great recipe! I’m planning on making the Classic Salsa Verde as part of a surprise spread for my husband’s visiting family. I wanted it to be as close to authentic as possible. My husband’s going to get a kick out of this. Thank you!

    • #5 by Cooking in Mexico on March 20, 2012 - 4:42 pm

      You are welcome. I hope your husband and his family enjoy salsa verde and your other dishes. Food is so wonderful for bringing families together at the table.

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