Roasted tomatillo salsa base with basically no rules

Tomatillo salsa

Do you have fresh tomatillos? Access to a broiler? A couple of heads of garlic, some various peppers, onion-ish bulbs and maybe 20-25 minutes? Then you’re well on your way to Salsa Town, and that’s about all the direction we can give you.


We’ve been making this salsa base for many years now, freezing it in one-cup batches for the occasional taco night or a try at chilaquiles—adding salt, cilantro and lime after defrosting since we found their tastes disappear once frozen. We must have begun with some sort of recipe, but now all we care about is getting a good char on the ingredients, which is where the broiler comes in. We spread whole tomatillos, peppers and onions on a foil-lined baking sheet, then stick it under the heat, turning the vegetables until they’re blackened all over and the tomatillos have collapsed into oozing, charred husks. The only thing to watch out for is the garlic, which becomes bitter when blackened. Steve finds that tucking the cloves under pepper and onion pieces keeps them from burning.

Roasted tomatillos

It generally takes only about 15-20 minutes to blacken a whole bunch of tomatillos and stuff (on a recent batch Steve deployed a couple of red and green tomatoes along with the very last cayenne and banana peppers from this year’s garden). When it’s good and roasty, take the pan out and let everything cool down. Purée in the blender and your base is ready to be salted, cilantro-ed and limed—or frozen if you’re like Gourmandistan and want to wait on your next fiesta.


  1. Love that there are no rules for this great salsa and I’m with Raymund, (the white bean dip) in my fridge is looking pretty lackluster right now! Tomatillo’s are something I am yet to try, I absolutley love tomatoes and i love fruity type salsa’s so I know it will be up my alley!

    • They make a really tasty salsa, Alice, so I hope you can find them one day. They used to be rare here. We’d order plants for the garden through the mail. But, now, they seem to be everywhere, likely due to the large influx of Mexicans and other Central Americans—which has greatly improved what they stock in the grocery stores and elsewhere!

  2. You know what, Michelle? I think I’ve just been waiting for permission to do this. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic–with all of them I’m completely comfortable flying free (no recipe), but throw a few tomatillos into the mix and I start to hesitate. This is great. Thanks. Ken

  3. I picked up a purple variety of tomatillos at the market last week, and I’m planning on a sauce so I’m glad to have this recipe! I was told they are sweeter than the green variety, but this will be my first time using them.

  4. Yum. We do the same thing—Paula and I make roasted tomatillo salsa all the time, and in nearly the same way; we also add one green jalapeño pepper, de-seeding it at least partially to keep the salsa from being too spicy. We also blend in a TON of fresh cilantro into the salsa. I’ve never tried using cayenne or banana peppers, but that’s a great idea!

    • Isn’t tomatillo salsa delicious? I agree, it merits a TON of cilantro! We’ve found that when you freeze it, as we generally do, the cilantro becomes totally neutralized. So, we add it after thawing.

        • You lucky folks in California (that’s where you are, right?) can get tomatillos all year long. Here, we’re always thinking of the long, long winter. Ugh. Double ugh. It’s great to pull out a bit of summer from the freezer when there’s snow on the ground.

          • Oh you’re right! I completely (am spoiled and) take that for granted now! (And yes, I’m living in Santa Barbara, California—in the central coast area.)

            And to think, I spent 18 years growing up in Wisconsin and never once saw a single tomatillo there…

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