Tomatillos may look like they’re just little green tomatoes, but that’s not exactly correct. They come from the same family as tomatoes, and their name means “little tomato” in Spanish, but tomatillos have a quite different texture and flavor from a standard-issue tomato. They’re tarter, more acidic, with almost a citrusy taste that you will recognize from some of your favorite Mexican dishes, like enchiladas verdes.
Once available mostly in specialty markets and in Texas, tomatillos are now pretty widely available throughout the U.S., as our taste for authentic Mexican cuisine has grown. (The CDC has even named them veggie of the month for April, through an education program that encourages people to add new and interesting vegetables to their diet.)
Even if you’ve never bought fresh tomatillos, you’ve almost certainly eaten them. They are a main ingredient in green salsas, and their tart, bright flavor goes especially well with sour cream, cheese, tortillas and other creamy or blander foods that cut their acidity. And like tomatoes, they are low in calories and high in nutrition – a whole cup of fresh tomatillos is just 40 calories, but provides 30 percent of your day’s Vitamin C.
To select fresh tomatillos, look for those that are firm to the touch and still have a light brown, fresh, papery husk attached. If the husk is shriveled or looks dry or crumbly, the tomatillo may be past its prime. You will need to remove the husk before using, but if you are storing them for a few days, leave the husk on, and keep them on the counter or in the fridge’s vegetable drawer.
This is a classic tomatillo salsa. Serve it alone with chips or as a taco or burrito sauce. Or you can cut it with sour cream and use it in place of your favorite enchilada sauce for green chicken enchiladas.
6 cups tomatillos, whole (about two pounds)
3 cups onions, roughly chopped (about 1.5 pounds)
3 jalapeno peppers, whole
6 cloves garlic
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Place tomatillos, onions, jalapenos and garlic in a large pot with enough water to cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer 5 minutes. Drain and place on a sheet pan and put in refrigerator to cool.
When mixture has cooled, place in blender along with cumin, cilantro, salt and pepper, and pulse to combine. Slowly add lime juice, a little bit at a time, until the desired acidity level is reached. Taste and add additional salt if desired.