Mexico Life
Salsa verde, or green sauce, is simple to make. Salsa verde, or green sauce, is simple to make.

You can use salsa verde on all kinds of dishes and it’s easy to make

Top chefs use it on scallops, poached eggs, roasted salmon and all kinds of grilled meats

I love salsa verde.

Whenever I can, I order it: in huevos divorciados (although I ask for juevos juntos con salsa verde, which always elicits a laugh), with chilaquiles con pollo, on every kind of taco, with chips and nachos.

Top chefs around the world use it on seared scallops, poached eggs, grain bowls, roasted salmon and all kinds of grilled meats.

At some point I decided to try my hand at making it. How hard could it be? Indeed, it is quite easy and once you’ve done it a couple of times it becomes second nature, like making pancakes. That said, I will admit that I do keep a jar of Herdez salsa verde in the cupboard just in case.

Tomatillos are the foundation of salsa verde, literally “green sauce.” You’ll find piles of them in every market, grocery store and tiendita. Inside the trademark papery husk the cute round fruit should be bright green, firm to the touch and free from blemishes. Look for tomatillos that fill or have split the husk; that means they’re ripe. And yes, like their tomato cousins in the nightshade family, they’re fruits customarily used as vegetables.

Fresh tomatillos, the foundation of salsa verde.
Fresh tomatillos, the foundation of salsa verde.

Now I’d been told by several local farmers that tomatillos are actually called tomates, and that the “regular” red fruits we know as tomatoes should be called jitomates. But nobody seemed to do that so I’d forgotten about it until I started researching this article.

The backstory is that in Náhuatl that’s the case (tomato is jitomate, tomatillo is tomate) but in common usage not so much. Other names for the tomatillo are husk tomato, Mexican ground cherry and in Guatemala, miltomate.

Like so many vegetables, roasting tomatillos brings out the best flavors. To make a basic tomatillo salsa, toss a quartered onion, a pound of tomatillos, quartered, a few garlic cloves and half a jalapeño (or more, your call) with a little olive oil. Spread on a sheet pan and bake at 400 F until veggies are soft and starting to brown. Let cool a bit then blend with a big handful of cilantro. Add a sprinkle of salt, a squeeze of lime and you’re done. For a twist, add two Roma tomatoes to the mix.

Roasted Salmon with Citrus Salsa Verde

  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced into rings
  • Finely grated zest from 1 orange, divided
  • Finely grated zest from 1 lemon, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. plus ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. salmon fillet
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • Fresh juice from 1 orange

Preheat oven to 250 F. Combine shallot, half of orange zest, half of lemon zest and 1 Tbsp. oil in a small baking dish just large enough to fit salmon. Season salmon with salt and coat with zest mixture. Bake fish until fillet is just opaque in the center and flakes with a fork, 30–35 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix cilantro, parsley, garlic, paprika, remaining zests and ½ cup oil in a medium bowl. Stir in orange and lemon juice and season with salt just before spooning over fish. -bonappetit.com

Slow-Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken

Eat as a stew, with warm tortillas, or serve as a taco, quesadilla or enchilada filling.

  • 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1½ cups salsa verde, fresh or jarred
  • 1 (4-oz.) can chopped mild green chiles
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 scallions (green and white parts), thinly sliced
  • Fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems finely chopped (about 1 heaping cup)
  • Salt
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Rice, tortillas, avocado, queso fresco and crema or sour cream for serving

Combine chicken thighs, salsa verde, green chiles, garlic, jalapeño, onion and cumin in a 6 to 8-quart slow cooker. Stir to evenly combine. Cook on low until chicken is tender, 5 to 6 hours.

Using two forks, coarsely shred the chicken. With the heat on low, add scallions and cilantro; stir to combine. Season with salt and lime juice. Serve with rice or in tortillas with avocado and crema.

Classic enchiladas made with chicken and salsa verde.
Classic enchiladas made with chicken and salsa verde.

Classic Chicken Salsa Verde Enchiladas

  • 1 tsp. olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½-1 jalapeño, seeded and minced fine
  • 2 cups salsa verde
  • ½ cup crema or sour cream
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped, plus more for serving
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 cup shredded Chihuahua or Jack cheese
  • 6 corn or flour tortillas

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat and cook garlic about 1 minute. Stir in jalapeño and salsa verde and cook until heated through, another minute more. Remove skillet from heat, stir in crema or sour cream and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste and more sour cream if needed. Set aside about 1 cup of the sauce for assembling the enchiladas. Stir shredded chicken and half the cheese into the sauce left in skillet.       

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish and spread a little of the reserved sauce on the bottom. Add chicken filling to the middle of each tortilla and roll into a cylinder. Repeat, lining up tortillas tightly with seam-side down in the dish. Spread reserved sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake about 15 minutes until heated through. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes more until cheese is melted. Remove from oven, let stand 5 minutes, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Chicken Soup with Salsa Verde

Really easy and really delicious.

  • 1 cup shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans pinto, black or other beans
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup salsa verde
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Toppings: avocado, cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro

Sauté onion in butter for about 5 minutes. Add all other ingredients and carefully bring to a boil. Turn down to low and simmer about 10 minutes. Serve with warm corn tortillas, crusty bread and lots of toppings.

Janet Blaser of Mazatlán, Sinaloa, has been a writer, editor and storyteller her entire life and feels fortunate to write about great food, amazing places, fascinating people and unique events. Her work has appeared in numerous travel and expat publications as well as newspapers and magazines. Her first book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, is available on Amazon. Contact Janet or read her blog at whyweleftamerica.com.

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