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Recipe: Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Raw Tomatillos, Purple and Green

We just got back from our Friday afternoon farmer’s market, loaded with goodies to roast over the weekend. Tonight we’re having fresh mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes and basil from the garden, plus some local bread, sliced lemon cucumbers, and juicy peaches and plums.

One of the things we’re seeing more of as the summer winds down are tomatillos. Last year we grew them, and our two plants were extremely prolific. We may plant them again next year, as the taste of homegrown tomatillos are divine.

Tomatillo Bush (the large one in center)

Tomatillos are in the same family as tomatoes, but grow much like ground cherries, goose berries, and huckleberries. Above is a photo of our tomatillo bush – it’s the center bush, about 3-4′ tall (click on the photo to make it larger – to the left are ground cherries). Tomatillos grow with a beautiful paper-like lantern-shaped covering around them (below).

Immature Tomatillo

When they’re ripe, they burst through that paper (below). We grew both purple and green ones, and didn’t find a whole lot of difference between them – except that the purple ones are very pretty and a tiny bit sweeter.

For salsa, many people say you should pick tomatillos before they’re quite ripe, so a little green yet. We liked having some ripe and some less than ripe mixed together – a little sweet, a little tart. It gave the salsa more dimension.

Mature Tomatillos

So if you’re at the market this weekend, and you see these little babies for a decent price, try them out. This salsa recipe is divine. It’s my own creation – I looked at a few recipes and then created from what we had, so feel free to do the same!

For those of you anxiously waiting for Part 2 of How to Grow A Four-Season Garden, I am writing it this weekend. I hear there are frost warnings in the Eastern US already, so cover your tomatoes and peppers with a sheet, blanket, or frost blanket overnight.  And then enjoy this summer treat!

Tomatillos, Purple and Green

Melinda’s Roasted Tomatillo Salsa


  • 4 lbs. tomatillos, husked and washed (to remove the sticky film they have)
  • 6 green cayenne peppers (or jalepeno, serrano), seeded
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1.5 medium-sized yellow onions, diced
  • 8 scallions, chopped in 1/4”-1/2” pieces
  • 4t salt


1. Preheat oven to broil, with the rack on the top shelf (a broiler would also work well, as would a solar cooker).

2. Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash them well. They have a natural soap-like coating you should remove.

3. Lay the tomatillos side by side in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. Broil until soft and darkened on the top (4-6 minutes), watching constantly.

4. Turn them over on the other side with a spatula, and broil until darkened on the top (another 5 minutes or so).

5. Remove the pan from the oven and let the tomatillos cool completely.

6. Dry roast the cayenne and garlic in a skillet or frying pan, constantly shaking the pan and turning them over, until both are soft and the outer layer is browned.

7. Remove the cayenne and garlic from the pan, finely chop them and set aside.

8. Dry roast the diced onions until slightly translucent and beginning to brown.

9. Dry roast the scallions until slightly browned (1-3 minutes).

10. Once cooled, place tomatillos and any juice into a blender, or blend by hand, just until blended but still chunky.

11. Pour all ingredients into a bowl, add salt, mix, and let sit for a few minutes, letting the flavors mingle and develop. Refrigerate unused portions – the taste will be even better the next day.

Makes 6 cups of salsa – enough for dinner, lunch the next day, and a lot more to freeze or preserve. It’s also easily adaptable to a smaller amount! Serve as you would tomato salsa: with tacos, as a dip, over roasted eggplant, for example.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

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34 comments to Recipe: Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

  • HMMMMMMMMM. Looks yummy. Now i know what to grow in the next growing challenge!

  • Hi Melinda,

    Tried growing them last year but got them established too late I think.. giving it another try this year nice and early.

    I would love to have some idea of what they taste like as its not something you commonly find grown in Australia.

    Kind Regards

  • Another crop that didn’t produce well this year….

    I love tomatillio salsa. They also make a really good soup.

  • You’ve been looking in my fridge! I came home with a huge bag of tomatillas on Thursday planning on making salsa verde this weekend to freeze. But roasting, yummm. I’m going to work as soon as I sign off. I actually have a couple of tomatillas plants in pots that are flowering beautifully but have yet to produce a single fruit. I even shook them like you and your Mom demonstrated. Nothing but lovely blossoms though which nourish my spirit instead of my stomach.

    I also noticed the tomatillas are really small this year. Have you also noticed that?

  • Rob, Excellent!! I loved growing them.

    Belinda, The taste is difficult to describe. Raw, they taste maybe a bit like a green tomato… sort of… a little bit. Cooked, they are tangy. The riper they are, the sweeter they are. Roasting also brings out the sweetness.

    I would think they would do very well in your Australian climate. They did very well in our Northern California backyard, even though I planted them from seed very late (July) last year.

    Deb G, yes! They do make a good soup. Excellent in tortilla soup, for example. We also added a few to our mostly tomato pasta sauce, and it added another level of complexity to the sauce.

    I’m guessing they didn’t do well here this year because they need heat and … we didn’t have it this summer. : ( I wonder if we could grow them here under a permanent row cover to protect them from the rain and keep in the heat.

    Katrina, Awesome! Well, now you have a recipe to try. ; ) I wonder why they didn’t fruit. I just did a quick look online, and found two tomatillo camps: one says they are self-pollinating, and the other says they need two plants to produce fruit, and are pollinated by bees. (This scientific article from Perdue seems to believe the later.) How many plants do you have?

    Other trouble-shooting: high temperatures during flowering result in poor fruit set, according to UC Davis. This could be why the tomatillos are smaller this year in your neck of the woods, where temperatures have been hot…. They look normal-sized at our farmer’s markets here.

    • hi belinda,
      wonder where i could get some seeds to try the tomatillos.
      i lñive in the south of spain so i think they will grow really well here.
      maybe i can sent you some seeds from spain and we can do an exchange.
      do you know amaranth??
      love anne

  • Ground cherries — I had never heard of them until 3 weeks ago, when I went to my school’s community garden. They have such a weird taste I think. Tomatillos — heard of them but never tried them. Someday. Will you still have this blog up in a few years so I can try this recipe when I have a kitchen? ;)

  • Stephanie, I hope I’ll have this blog up for a few years!!

    Ground cherries are unusual, eh? I love them, a cross between a grape and a pineapple in taste, I’d say. ; ) I had a difficult time figuring out what to do with them, but found that making them into a syrup worked really well, and I think next time I grow them I will make jam out of them.

    They are also absolutely fabulous dried. They can even be dried in their own paper, so they have a natural wrapping – perfect as a conversation starter at a get-together! (Here’s a photo from when I dried them last year.)

  • Hi. My one and only tomatillo plant is growing wildly, overcoming everything around it. HOWEVER, the flowers never set fruit. I have a multitude of flowers that never come to fruition. What do you suggest? I love salsa & planted this one plant with great hope. It seems to be thriving but why no fruit? BTW, I feel rather stupid asking this question since I’m a ‘Master Gardener’ & the person people usually ask questions off. I have fertilized the gageebers out of this plant & it responds with more greenery & flowers, but no fruit. I live in Las Vegas, NV. Thanks!

  • Nanette, Katrina has had the same issue (see her comment above & my response). I can only gather from your two experiences with otherwise healthy plants, that you do need two or more plants for pollination. In other words, they are self-incompatible. Last year our plants were incredibly prolific, but we had 2 or 3 plants, of two different varieties (purple di milpa and verde). Here is another good resource.

    P.S. No worries – LOL. I trained to be a Master Gardener, but did end up leaving the program before I finished. I left largely because of my cat’s run-in with pesticides, which happened on a Master Gardener class day where once again we were lectured about how wonderful pesticides are. I just couldn’t continue. Fortunately, not all Master Gardener Programs push these practices – I know that many tout the benefits of IPM and organic methods, for which I applaud them.

  • [...] bit off my fingers. For more on tomatillos and for an alternate tomatillo salsa recipe, check out Melinda’s post at One Green [...]

  • Hmm. A cross between a grape and a pineapple is a good way to describe them! I’m not sure yet if I like them. They’re so different.

  • I spoke too soon. My plants are setting fruit. I saw them tonight and hope there’s enough summer/warm autumn left for them to mature. Regardless, it’s very fun to see the first casings form to hold the fruits. It’s a miracle really. Thanks again for your input on them. It may have been my self polinating dance shaking the plants that did it!

  • Stephanie, LOL. I have decided I like them, but I don’t feel like I’ve found the perfect way to cook them…. yet. ; )

    Katrina, Awesome! I just looked at your first comment again, and realized you have more than one plant… hmmm… maybe this doesn’t disprove my theory yet! I’m absolutely sure it was the self-polinating dance that did it!! Heh. Make sure the plants stay warm, but they should be ok. We were harvesting them until late November last year.

  • [...] my thought is that maybe instead of huckleberries next year, we can do tomatillos and ground cherries, which are related. Audrey found them to be prolific here, so I’m thinking that might be better [...]

  • Mike

    I brought some back from S-Cal last year just to see if they would grow in the British climate. It’s been an awful summer here and not very warm. BUT…..did they grow. I have them climing everywhere and more Tomatillos than I know what to do with. I’m desperately looking for ways to preserve them so we can keep using them over the winter.

  • Mike, I realized I never responded to your comment. I’m so glad to hear that they’re doing well in your cool, wet summer – it’s much like here, so that gives me hope for tomatillos next year!!

  • angie

    In Minnesota we have wonderful luck with tomatillos. We didn’t even plant any new seeds this year they came up as volunteers. Would you believe we have them growing out of our ears. Tried making jam last night pretty good am going add raspberry jello this time.

  • Angie, Thanks for your comment. I’ve heard that tomatillos grow easily once you plant them once. Some people call them re-seeding annuals. ; ) I haven’t had the pleasure of having the same garden two years in a row, but hope to very soon have the burden of too many tomatillos!! Sounds nice.

    Jam – wow – and jello! Interesting. If you have the chance, please post the recipes or a link to them. Would be very interesting!

  • [...] October 25, 2008 in cookery, vegetables I cut the last head of garlic off my little braid today. I see I must grow much more garlic in later years. I bought some more from the farmer’s market to make up for it. Also peppers, four for a dollar; apparently this particular farmer wasn’t going to cover his crops anymore and was getting rid of them. Also a cabbage for making pasties for Eric. Also small sweet peppers and yams because why not? Also jalapenos to make roasted tomatillo salsa. [...]

  • [...] in our house it never lasts that long! Served here with local beans, greens, cheese, tortillas, and homemade tomatillo salsa for Taco [...]

  • Rachael

    I just stumbled onto this website while Google searching for a tomatillo salsa recipe – what luck! I will enjoy perusing your beautiful site!

  • [...] these from the growing rack. They all did well, and produced loads of tomatillos. We made an amazing salsa from them, and hope to plant them again this year. Apparently they are a reseeding annual, meaning [...]

  • tim

    My brother in-law gave me some plants he started from seed. The eight plants are growing like crazy. I have picked about a five gallon bucket full from each plant, and they are still producing more. My other tomatoes are not doing well ,it’s been to wet and cool.
    Most of the people here in PA have not heard of them. I’ve been giving them away to anyone who wants to try them.

  • Michelle

    I live near Nashville, TN, and was surprised while on a canoeing trip on the Harpeth River to find over a dozen “wild” tomatillo plants growing randomly on a gravel bank where we stopped to rest. No one else in my party knew what they were. Unfortunatey they were still immature, with the fruit only the size of marbles, so I let them be. As to how they got there, maybe someone dumped out or spilled some of their salsa while picnicking? Now that I know they grow well here I’ll be planting some next year, I love them!

    • Misty

      Hi Michelle,
      I live in Old Hickory and had several herbs in pots alongside my garden. My strawberry plants (potted) never sprouted but much later a beautiful plant started growing in that pot. I let it grow and ended up having the cool lantern blooms. I just realized today that there is actually a fruit in those lanterns that looks like tiny green tomatoes??? I am reading about them and 99% sure they are okay to eat?? I really want to eat them!! Do you know much about them?
      Thanks Nashville friend

  • [...] tomatillos and tomatillo salsa for the foreseable future.  here’s a wonderful recipe for roasted tomatillo salsa Our crop list: marjoram-dry and fresh parsley-dry and fresh basil-dry and fresh spearming-dry and [...]

  • Mike

    Once again we have an amazing crop of Tomatillo growing here near Oxford in southern England. Too bad no one else in this country knows about them. We are just staring to think about freezing them for the winter. Last year we roasted them just so the skins started to blacken as instructed in one of the salsa recipes and then froze in zip lock bags. That way we could make quick and easy salsa verde. We are also exploring other Mexican recipes that use them. One of our neighbours sheepishly admitted to peeking over the fence into our garden and asked what the heck we had been growing. Besides the tomatillos we also have Amaranth, quinoa, and a some unidentified asian squash we grew from saved seeds from an ethinc grocery store. No sense in being conventional!

  • PAM

    Surprised this recipe doesn’t have any cilantro. It looks good tho

  • Greg

    Just made it this recipe and it’s delicious. Had to guess on the poundage of tomatillos I had on hand; I ended up with too much onion. But who doesn’t love onion?

    Belinda — tomatillos taste like green tomatoes, but sweeter.

  • Oh my . . . we just completed our new greenhouse here on our farm in Costa Rica and I planted tomatillos and I have so many of them I don’t know what to do. But . . . I am going to try the salsa recipe tomorrow. But . . . we don’t have an oven so do you think I can toast them in a frying pan the same way that I toast the chilies and garlic? I am happy to know that you can use them both ripe and almost ripe. I will let you know how it comes out.

  • Dennis

    I am recently back into gardening and now have a huge garden and a backyard orchard of 15 trees. I am learning all the time (such as using nemotodes to control apple maggot). This new garden is a challenge because it is mostly clay with soil amendment (compost) and the area is known for strong wind and desert hot temperatures in summer. I grew tomatillos (green) propagated from seed and transplanted in the garden. They grew like a weed. Whereas other planted are bothered by wind these weren’t. I did have two to three plants in two different parts of the garden. I’m going to try the purple variety next year. The biggest challenge is keeping up with it all.

  • Alan Q

    How long will roasted tomiltia sauce last in refigerator without freezing once made.

  • susan Ley

    I live in the far west of cornwall UK in a windy place 100meters from the Atlantic.I have grown black tomatillos this year with great success-I have more than I can cope with!The plants seem impervious to wind or pests and look pretty as well!Can you tell me they will overwinter like chili plants if given some frost protection?Or should they be grown from seed each year?Thanks Sue Ley

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