How To Make Fresh & Easy Salsa Verde (Just 5 Ingredients!)

updated Jun 19, 2023
How to Make Salsa Verde

A simple combination of tomatillos, garlic, cilantro, chile pepper, and onion turns into a vibrant and tart salsa.

Serves8

Makesabout 1 1/2 cups

Prep15 minutes

Cook6 minutes

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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Whenever I go to a restaurant that has a salsa bar (always a plus in my book), I skip over the chunky pico de gallo and roasted tomato salsa and head straight to the salsa verde. This tart, slightly spicy salsa always makes whatever I’m pouring it onto so much tastier. It can be slightly harder to find at the store, but it’s actually one of the easiest salsas you can make at home! You just need five ingredients: tomatillos, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, and salt. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

A Classic Mexican Salsa Verde

There are actually two kinds of salsa verde: a Mexican one and an Italian one. The Italian version is an uncooked sauce usually made with parsley, olive oil, garlic, capers, vinegar or lemon juice, and sometimes anchovies. Mexican salsa verde is completely different; it’s a tart, vibrantly green sauce with a base of tomatillos, chiles, and cilantro that can be cooked or raw. We’re making a roasted Mexican salsa verde here that’s full of bright flavor and extremely versatile.

What’s the Difference Between Salsa and Salsa Verde?

Salsa is a very broad term for sauce in Mexican cuisine. In My Mexico City Kitchen, Chef Gabriela Cámara says, “A salsa can be cooked or raw, blended or chunky, made with fresh chiles or with dried ones that you soak and blend.” Tomato-based salsas are very popular, but salsa verde translates into green salsa, with the green coming from the tomatillos.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

What Ingredients Do I Need for Salsa Verde?

At the heart of salsa verde is the tomatillo. Tomatillos look like little green tomatoes, usually sold still individually wrapped in a thin, paper-y husk. When picking tomatillos, choose firm, smooth ones that aren’t too loose in the husk. Small tomatillos, labeled miltomatoes, are more flavorful, so nab those if you see them. Remove the husks and rinse off the sticky residue before using.

For the fresh chile pepper, choose between a jalapeño or serrano. Jalapeños will be milder and serranos spicier, so go with your desired spice level. Regardless of which pepper you buy, remove the ribs and seeds in the middle or your salsa verde will be too spicy. I made a batch of this salsa with a whole serrano, seeds and all, and the spiciness was way over-the-top for me!

The last ingredients are garlic and onion for deep, savory notes, and chopped cilantro for freshness. Unlike other salsas that usually need some acidity from lime juice, the tomatillos have plenty of tart flavor, eliminating the need for another sour element (and keeping this ingredient list nice and short).

Credit: Joe Lingeman

How to Make Salsa Verde in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Broil the tomatillos, garlic, and pepper. Broiling the tomatillos, garlic, and chile pepper for a few minutes tames their bite, adds some delicious char-roasted flavor, and softens the tomatillos a bit so they blend easily.
  2. Rinse the onions. To tame the bite of raw onions, rinse them under cold water first.
  3. Blend. The nice thing about this salsa is that the blender does all the hard work —meaning there’s not a lot of precise chopping involved. In goes the broiled veggies, the rinsed onions, cilantro, salt, and a splash of water (salsa verde thickens up when chilled, so the water keeps it at a good consistency). Blend it the way you like it — totally smooth or still a little chunky.

How Do I Serve Salsa Verde?

The simplest way to enjoy salsa verde is with a bag of crunchy thick-cut tortilla chips, but I also love spooning it over tamales or drizzled on scrambled eggs. Here are a few more ways we love to use salsa verde.

Credit: Joe Lingeman
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How to Make Salsa Verde

A simple combination of tomatillos, garlic, cilantro, chile pepper, and onion turns into a vibrant and tart salsa.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 6 minutes

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Serves 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 pound

    tomatillos (about 12 medium)

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 1

    medium serrano or jalapeño pepper

  • 1/2 cup

    diced white onion (1/4 medium)

  • 1/2 cup

    coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons

    water

Equipment

  • Rimmed baking sheet

  • Aluminum foil

  • Chef's knife

  • Cutting board

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Blender

  • Tongs or flat spatula

  • Fine-mesh strainer

Instructions

  1. Heat the broiler. Arrange an oven rack to the top position and heat the broiler. Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and prepare the vegetables.

  2. Prepare the tomatillos. Peel off any papery husks from 1 pound tomatillos. Rinse off the sticky coating and any dirt under cold water, then dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Halve the tomatillos and place cut-side down on the baking sheet.

  3. Prepare the garlic and pepper. Peel 3 garlic cloves and smash with the flat part of a chef’s knife. Place on the baking sheet. Trim the stem from 1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, then halve lengthwise. Cut out the membranes and seeds. Place cut-side down on the baking sheet.

  4. Broil until charred in spots, 5 to 7 minutes. Broil until the tomatillos and pepper skins start to blacken and blister, checking every few minutes and rotating the baking sheet as needed, 5 to 7 minutes total. If the garlic is charred before the tomatillos are ready, remove it.

  5. Cool to room temperature and rinse off the onions. Set the baking sheet aside until cooled to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, dice 1/4 white onion (about 1/2 cup). Place the onion in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold water. Drain well. Coarsely chop 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems.

  6. Blend the salsa together. Transfer the tomatillos, garlic, and pepper to a blender. Add the onion, cilantro, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 2 tablespoons water. Blend into your desired consistency.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.