Learn how to easily make the best salsa verde at home! This quick tomatillo salsa recipe only requires 8 simple ingredients and it’s incredibly easy to make in your food processor or blender! This green salsa is beautifully refreshing, bursting with bright flavors and always a huge hit at parties! After just one bite, you will never go back to store-bought salsa again!! (Healthy, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free)
Serve this salsa verde with chips, tacos and burritos, or use it to make easy Enchiladas Suizas and salsa salmon! Continue to read on for simple tricks and tips for making the best salsa! And, don’t miss the step by step photos and recipe video showing you exactly how easy this tomatillo salsa is to make from scratch!
Update: This post was originally published in June 2014. I made updates to the post below to include more information about green salsa. I also took new photos and added a recipe video plus step-by-step photos showing you exactly how to make chunky tomatillo salsa at home!
Hi friends! If you have been following this recipe site, you may know I absolutely love all things sauce related! Dips, salsas, dressings, vinaigrettes, aioli – you name it – I absolutely love them all! Essentially, it’s my firm belief that life tastes better when it is drizzled, dipped, smothered and covered with sauce.
So, today I am sharing one of my all time favorite Mexican salsas that doubles as a sauce, dip or dressing! Seriously, this green tomato salsa is seriously delicious and I always have it on hand in my refrigerator! It’s the perfect for snacking, but it’s also a great way to easily jazz up any dish (think enchiladas, taco salads, eggs and more!!)!
Salsa Verde Recipe: Overview
This Mexican green salsa is vibrant, bold and full of fresh flavor! Tangy, smoky, slightly spicy and 100% refreshing, it’s a million times better that the store-bought variety!
This recipe calls for roasting (or grilling) the tomatillos and jalapeños until just charred to really bring out their flavor. While you can absolutely use raw tomatoes and peppers in this salsa recipe, you will be missing out on the added depth of flavor.
Why you will love this recipe
- Incredibly easy to prepare! You can have the best salsa verde in just a few easy steps – simply roast the tomatillos and peppers and blend them up with a few basic ingredients!
- Simple, fresh ingredients! Only 8 super fresh, natural ingredients that are easy to find!
- So fresh and flavorful! This salsa is fresh, bright, tangy and just a touch spicy!
- Chunky texture! Those store-bought salsas are watery and totally lacking in the texture department! This salsa is chunky and totally irresistible!
- Versatile! You can use this green sauce as a salsa, dip, dressing or sauce! Try serving it as an easy dip with chips, use it in your favorite Mexican recipes or transform it into a dressing! (Scroll down to read about 14 different and delicious ways to use this salsa verde!)
What is salsa verde?
Contrary to common belief, salsa verde is not a salsa for chips. Rather, it is a category of is a uncooked (raw) green sauces that are typically served cold or at room temperature. Salsa verde literally translates in Spanish to ‘green sauce’.
Each country has their own version of salsa verde; however, the four most popular varieties are Mexican tomatillo salsa, Italian pesto, Argentinian Chimichurri and French sauce Verte. The ingredients and overall flavors vary greatly among each version of green sauce – ranging from vegetable and fruit dense tomatillo salsa to oil-forward pesto or vinegar-forward chimichurri.
This recipe is an easy, modern take on Mexican tomatillo salsa. It’s made with a fresh combination of roasted tomatillos and Mexican chili peppers, along with garlic, fresh lime juice, cilantro and onion.
What is the difference between this and regular salsa?
Both traditional (red) salsa and Mexican green salsa are cold, uncooked salsas made from fruit. However, there are a few distinct differences between the two.
- Color: Traditional tomato salsa is red in color while salsa verde is green.
- Fruit: Salsa verde uses ripe tomatillos instead of traditional red tomatoes.
- Taste: Traditional salsa is slightly sweet and can range from very mild to spicy in flavor. Tomatillo salsa is tangy and zesty in flavor with an underlying smoky green chile taste.
Why is Mexican tomatillo salsa green?
Salsa verde gets its vibrant green color from the fresh ingredients used to make it – namely, tomatillos, green chili peppers, cilantro and lime juice.
What’s salsa verde made of?
This salsa is bursting with flavor and totally addictive! This recipe relies on 8 easy to find, simple ingredients to create a vibrant, refreshing sauce that everyone will love!
Ingredients you need to make green salsa from scratch
- Mexican chili peppers: Fresh chili peppers provide a little heat! I like to use a mix of smoky poblanos and mild jalapeño peppers. Make sure you remove most (or all) of the ribs and seeds or your green salsa will be very spicy!
- Tomatillos: Fresh tomatillos are the star ingredient! Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes wrapped in a thin, paper-like husk.
- Onion: White onions have the crispest texture and provide a sharp zing of flavor.
- Garlic: Fresh cloves of garlic provide the perfect touch of robust, savory flavor.
- Cilantro: Fresh cilantro adds a ton of earthy flavor!
- Lime Juice: Freshly squeezed lime juice adds a bit of acidity. However, don’t use too much lime juice because tomatillos already provide a bit of tart flavor.
- Sweetener: Agave or honey provides a touch of sweetness and balances out the tart flavors.
- Spices: A combination of cumin, kosher salt and ground black pepper round out all the flavors.
Want to make a few changes or additions to this recipe? Fantastic! I encourage you to make this salsa your own! Get creative in the kitchen – add ingredients you love and eliminate the ones you don’t! Below are a few ideas to get you started!
- Peppers: Substitute the poblano and jalapeño peppers for serrano peppers for a spicier kick! Or try using green bell peppers if you prefer a very mild salsa!
- Green tomatoes: If you can’t find tomatillos, don’t fret! Turn this into a green tomato salsa by substituting green tomatoes for the tomatillos!
- Spices: Amp up the heat by throwing in a few pinches of cayenne pepper!
- Scallions: Toss in some fresh scallions (green onions) if you prefer an onion forward flavor!
- Cucumber: Tomatillos and cucumbers are an excellent pairing! Replace some of the peppers or tomatillos for a bit of cucumber for a super refreshing variation!
- Avocado: Transform this chunky salsa into a creamy one by blending in an avocado or two!
What is a tomatillo?
First things first – what exactly is a tomatillo? A tomatillo, pronounced “toe-mah-TEE-yo”, is known as the Mexican husk tomato. Tomatillos are small, spherical fruits that are part of the nightshade family (along with peppers, tomatoes and eggplants). They’re typically green in color (though they can be found in many colors ranging from yellow to purple) and covered in a leafy, papery husk. While they’re native to Mexico, they are also grown throughout the western United States.
How’s it different from a green tomato?
At first glance, tomatillos very closely resemble green tomatoes. And, while they are both members of the nightshade family, they are actually two very different fruits.
Tomatoes are red in color with a naturally sweet flavor. On the other hand, tomatillos are typically green with a vibrant, tart flavor.
What do they taste like?
Fresh tomatillos have a uniquely delicious flavor that is vegetal, tart and bright. Because tomatillos are quite tart, they are best cooked (through roasting, boiling or sautéing) prior to being consumed. After cooking, tomatillos natural sweetness intensifies and they lose some of their harsh tartness.
How to select and store tomatillos?
Tomatillos are the star ingredient in this salsa; therefore, it’s important you select the best looking ones a the grocery store of farmer’s market! Read below for a comprehensive breakdown on how to buy and store fresh tomatillos!
How to shop for tomatillos?
You can find fresh tomatillos in the produce section of most major grocery stores, Mexican food markets and select farmer’s markets. Selecting the freshest tomatillos is easy once you know what to look for!
- Husk: When selecting tomatillos, pick ones that are completely wrapped in their husk.
- Color: Gently peel back a small portion of the husk, make sure the tomatillos are bright green and vibrant in color.
- Touch: Fresh tomatillos should be firm to the touch, without any soft spots.
- Size: Try to select tomatillos that are smaller in size as they will offer the most flavor and sweet taste!
How to store them?
When you bring home your fresh tomatillos, do not peel back or remove their husks! Keeping the husks intact will help keep them fresh and free of blemishes and bruises. Place your tomatillos loosely in an unsealed paper bag and store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Properly stored, they will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 weeks!
How to make tomatillo salsa verde at home?
Homemade roasted tomatillo salsa is easy to make and loaded with fresh ingredients! Only 8 ingredients and 10 minutes of prep is required to make this Mexican staple!
- Roast the tomatillos and peppers (optional). Preheat grill to medium-high or oven to high broil. Toss the tomatillos and peppers with oil. Grill or broil until vegetables are charred and tender, about 8-10 minutes.
- De-stem and chop tomatillos and peppers. Cut the stems off of the peppers and remove seeds. Discard. Roughly chop the peppers and transfer to a food processor. Set tomatillos aside.
- Blend salsa. Add the onions and garlic to the food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add the tomatillos and pulse again. Add in the cilantro, lime juice and agave (or honey) if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pulse until the vegetables are broken down, but the salsa is still chunky.
- Refrigerate (optional). For best results, transfer the salsa to an airtight container and place in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to develop for at least 30 minutes. Enjoy!
Tips for the best homemade salsa verde
- When selecting tomatillos, look for ones with the paper-like husk still in tact. Tomatillos should be smooth and firm to the touch and green in hue.
- Always adjust recipes to your specific taste. If you like a thinner salsa, add water to the food processor until desired consistency is achieved. If the salsa is too tart for your taste, add agave or honey to taste.
How to make Mexican tomatillo salsa step by step photos:
What does salsa verde taste like?
Mexican green salsa is tart, tangy, zesty in flavor with a bright and refreshing taste. The level of heat, or spiciness, can vary greatly from recipe to recipe and can range from mild to hot.
Is it spicy?
While most tomatillo salsa incorporates green chili peppers (jalapeños, serranos or poblanos), each recipe or store-bought brand can range in spiciness from very mild to extremely hot.
The best part of making your own salsa? You are in control of the level of heat and can easily customize it to your specific taste!
- Spicy Salsa Verde: If you are a huge fan of fiery heat, I recommend leaving all the seeds and ribs in the chili peppers! As well, you can add a serrano pepper or two for even more heat!
- Medium Salsa: Do you prefer your salsa more moderate in heat? Make sure you remove and discard half of the seeds and ribs from the chili peppers before adding them to the blender.
- Mild Salsa: Love salsa but can’t stand the heat? No worries! Completely remove and discard all the seeds and ribs in the chili peppers before adding them to the blender. Whatever you do, don’t completely omit the peppers as they provide a layer of smoky flavor that is necessary for the best tasting salsa verde!
- Very Mild Salsa: Feeding someone with a sensitivity to any and all spicy heat? Follow the above tips for mild salsa and substitute the jalapeño pepper for an Anaheim pepper.
How to use salsa verde?
Salsa verde is a bright, versatile sauce that tastes delicious with everything! The most common way to enjoy green tomatillo salsa is with a bag of salty, crunchy tortilla chips. However, this green sauce is more than just a dip for chips! It’s also a great way to liven up boring, bland dishes and it tastes absolutely magical with just about everything!
14 delicious ways to use green sauce
- Dip: The most obvious use – use salsa verde as a dip for chips or raw vegetables!
- Chilaquiles: Use it as a base sauce to prepare breakfast chilaquiles!
- Scrambles: Toss it in scrambled eggs to add color and tons of flavor!
- Dressing: Use salsa as a light salad dressing. Or, mix salsa with yogurt, mayonnaise or sour cream to create a creamy, punchy dressing!
- Soup: Finish soup off with a generous dollop of salsa for fresh flavor!
- Meat toppers: Topping for meat – Drizzle it over grilled steak, chicken, pork and more!
- Seafood toppers: Dolloped on top of grilled seafood – think: scallops, salmon, shrimp, white fish, and more!
- Marinade: Brighten up meat, chicken and fish by using it as a marinade.
- Tacos: Drizzle tacos with a bit of salsa and sour cream to add fresh flavor!
- Nachos, Burritos, Fajitas and Taquitos: Ditch regular salsa for tomatillo salsa as a topping for Mexican food.
- Enchiladas: Skip the enchilada sauce and layer green salsa in enchiladas!
- Grains: Stir a bit of salsa into cooked rice or quinoa for a little Mexican flavor and flare!
- Vegetables: Liven up bland vegetables, such as beans or corns, with a bit of salsa!
- Mexican stir-fry: Use salsa instead of regular stir-fry sauce and create delicious Mexican chicken!
- Bowls: Drizzle or dollop a bit of salsa on top of vegetable noodle bowls and burrito bowls.
Tips for storing and freezing homemade green salsa
Food safety is important when it comes to food storage! Follow the simple tips below for properly storing your salsa!
How long will salsa verde last?
Store salsa verde in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly stored, homemade salsa will stay fresh for up to 1 week.
How to tell if salsa is bad?
It’s very easy to tell if salsa has expired by simply using your senses! Follow the easy tips below if you are worried your salsa has is spoiled.
Signs your salsa is expired:
- Mold: The most obvious sign of bad salsa – the presence of visible mold on the surface of the salsa. If you see mold, immediately toss the salsa!
- Sight: If your salsa has significant discoloration or a shriveled and darker appearance it needs to be thrown in the trash.
- Smell: Take a small sniff. If there is any change in smell, such as an off-putting scent or unpleasant odor, your salsa is bad.
- Taste: If you have tried all of the above and are still iffy, try taking a very small bite of your salsa. Older salsas tend to lose their fresh flavor and will taste mushy or “off” once they are past their prime.
Take-away tip: Still unsure if your salsa is bad after trying all the tips above? Remember this tip – when in doubt, throw it out!!
Can I make this in advance?
Absolutely! Homemade tomatillo salsa actually tastes best if made in advance! Allowing the salsa to sit in the refrigerator gives the flavors have a chance to develop, marry and meld! The bright flavors will actually intensify with time, which means this salsa just tastes better with time!
While you can enjoy this salsa right away, I recommend making it at least 1-2 hours in advance for the best taste. However, you can make it up to 4 days in advance.
Can I freeze my salsa?
You sure can! Freezing Mexican salsa is the perfect way to preserve the fresh taste! Plus, it’s the perfect sauce to have on hand in your freezer for easy entertaining or snacking!
How to freeze salsa
- Bag it: Transfer the salsa to a freezer-safe resealable bag.
- Headspace: Make sure you leave about an inch of headspace in the bag!
- Remove air: Gently press down on the bag to remove all the air before sealing.
- Freeze it: Transfer the bag to freezer and store for up to 3 months.
Fresh, flavorful and a million times better than the store-bought variety, you are going to love this homemade green salsa verde!!
Until next time, friends, cheers – to getting saucy!
Looking for more easy dip recipes?
If you love this dish, try one of these delicious dips next:
The best Tomatillo Salsa recipe plus step by step video 👇
Salsa Verde Recipe (Tomatillo Salsa)
- Food Processor or High Power Blender
- Oven or Grill (optional)
- 1 1/4 pound Tomatillos – husks and stems removed, rinsed & dried (about 9-10 small tomatillos) (SEE NOTES)
- 2 Poblano Peppers (SEE NOTES)
- 1 Jalapeno Pepper (SEE NOTES)
- 1 TBS Vegetable Oil , plus more for oiling grates
- ½ large White Onion – peeled & roughly chopped (SEE NOTES)
- 2-3 cloves Garlic – peeled
- 1/3 Cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves – loosely packed, or more to taste
- 1 ½ TBS Fresh Lime Juice or more to taste (see note)
- 1-4 tsp Agave or Honey – OPTIONAL (SEE NOTES)
- 1/2 tsp Cumin
- Kosher Salt & Ground Black Pepper
To Serve: Chips, Vegetables or use in your favorite Mexican dish!
- OPTIONAL FOR CHARRED SALSA: Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat (see note if using oven). Lightly oil the grates to prevent sticking. In a large bowl, toss the tomatillos, poblanos and jalapeno and with oil. Place the vegetables on the hot grill. Grill vegetables, turning often, until the skin is charred and the vegetables are tender, about 8-10 minutes. Remove vegetables from the grill and transfer to a plate. Set aside to allow to cool slightly. (Optional – If you don’t like a strong smoky flavor, use your hands or the back of a paring knife to scrape off some of the charred skin and discard.)
- Prep peppers and onions: Cut off the stems off the peppers and discard. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds if you want a mild salsa. Roughly chop the peppers. Set the tomatillos aside.
- Blend Salsa: Place the onion, peppers and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped (about 10 pulses). Add in the tomatillos and pulse again to roughly chop (about 8-10 pulses). Add in the cilantro, lime juice, agave and cumin. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pulse again until vegetables are broken down, but salsa is still chunky. Taste and adjust for seasoning with more lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper if desired. Continue to pulse if a thinner salsa is desired.
- Refrigerate: For best results, cover salsa, transfer to the refrigerator and allow the flavors to marry for at least 30 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy! Or, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Peppers: The spiciness or heat of your salsa is controlled by the amount of seeds and ribs you leave in the peppers. For a very mild salsa, completely remove all the seeds and membrane from the peppers. For a mild salsa, leave half of the seeds and ribs. For a spicy salsa, leave all of the seeds and ribs.
- Tomatillos: When selecting tomatillos, look for ones with the husk still in tact. Tomatillos should be firm to the touch and green in hue.
- Raw Onion: If you don’t like the bite of a raw onion, soak the chopped onions in water for 10 minutes prior to adding them to the food processor. Be sure to thoroughly drain and pat dry before using.
- Sweetener: The agave (or honey) in this recipe is entirely optional. I like to add a couple teaspoons to balance the tart flavor.
- Charring Vegetables: If you don’t want to use a grill, you can char the peppers and tomatillos under the broiler. Adjust oven rack so it is on the middle-upper shelf. Preheat oven to high broil. Add vegetables to baking sheet and broil for 6-10 minutes, rotating pan and flipping vegetables over as necessary to get an even char.
- Salsa Consistency: If you like a thinner salsa, add water to the food processor until desired consistency is achieved.
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