Seasonal Chef: Tomatillos


I’ve been noticing tomatillos are popping up at the farmers markets these past few weeks. But what are they? Pronounced toe-mah-TEE-oh, they are a member of the nightshade family, which includes eggplant, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes. Tomatillos look like little green tomatoes, but in actuality, they are not. Their flavor and structure is very different allowing them to be perfect for sauces, salads and salsas.


They are native to South America and are a staple of Mexican cuisine. Slice in to one and you will find a dense center with miniscule seeds and a bright, tart flavor. They are not a typical mainstream ingredient, but are certainly on the rise. At one time you could only find them in Latin grocery stores, but now they can be found at almost every grocery store, in the produce area near the avocados. Look for brown crisp husks and take note if the fruit is firm to slightly ripe. Pull back the husk a bit and check the color. They should be a nice vibrant green. Black husks, yellow-ish colored, bruised or shriveled tomatillos are a sign that they have been hanging around too long.

Prepping them could not be easier: simply remove the husk and give the tomatillo a good rinse. If you have trouble removing the husk simply soak it in warm water for a few minutes. You also want to rinse the sticky reside off before chopping. If not using right away keep the husks on and place in a paper bag, in the fridge for about a week. For longer storage remove the husk, rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Place in a re-sealable bag and pop in the freezer.

My first experience with this tangy little ingredient was in a super easy enchilada recipe from Tyler Florence. The tomatillos are roasted and then pureed. The flavor of his sauce is just divine and the beauty of the recipe is you can make it as mild or spicy as you like.


After spotting them at the White Plains farmers market I decided to give them a try raw, in a salsa with avocado, onion and lots of lime juice. This bright green salsa is stunning on the table with chips.

tomatillo salsa, Seasonal Chef, Maria Reina

Taking the salsa a step further I decided to add it on top of my fish taco. This recipe could not be easier: I seasoned a nice piece of salmon with one of my favorite spice blends from Penzeys called Arizona Dreaming. (This piece is about 1/3 of a pound and made enough tacos for two people.)

Roasted Salmon for fish taco: Seasonal Chef Maria Reina

After a quick sear on the seasoned side I finished cooking the filet in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes. (Actual cook time could be a little more or less depending on the thickness of the filet.)

Salon Fish Taco topped with Tomatillo Avocado Salsa, Seasonal Chef, Maria Reina

Flake and serve with a soft tortilla topped with the Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa and sour cream. All in all, a 30 minute dish, start to finish – fish and salsa!

Whether using it as an appetizer, a topping or cooked sauce you can’t go wrong with this ingredient. Pick a few up the next time you see them at the store!

To see me making this bright tangy salsa click this link: to watch my how-to video.

Buon Appetito.



About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

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