Chili Verde Salsa is, as it sounds, a green chili sauce made with roasted fresh green chilies (jalapeno, serrano, Sandia), garlic, tomatillos, onion and cilantro. This sauce, or a version thereof, is offered in almost every Mexican restaurant in the country. To ease spiciness, remove the seeds and pith from the chilies before adding them. Jalapenos are traditional, but serranos are also widely used. I prefer my chili verde with spice, so I leave the seeds and pith. Char the ingredients before processing the sauce in a blender or traditional molcajete to bring full flavors to the salsa. When you remove seeds from any pepper, always wash your hands thoroughly afterwards to remove the chili oil. Do not touch your eyes or any sensitive skin. It will burn and the pain will linger.
Green Tomato vs. Tomatillo
In this recipe I’m adding 1/2 charred green tomato which is optional. I have green tomatoes available to me this spring, so I experimented adding them in. The taste and appearance was great. Often, in recipes poorly translated from Spanish to English, a tomatillo is often referred to as a green tomato. Tomatillos are not proper tomatoes. While they are both in the nightshade family, tomatillos are the fruit of a completely different plant, and have a papery covering on the outside. Green tomatoes are unripened regular tomatoes. Both are very tart, but the green tomato can become sweeter when cooked.
A Word On Charring
An efficient way to char these vegetables is to split them in half, and char both sides at the same time. In the case of the tomatillos, if they are too small to split, you can roast them whole and turn them over half way through the charring process. You can and should remove the skins from the green chilies, but don’t spend too much time getting every little piece of charred skin off. A bit of charred skin left on will add to the rustic flavor. Additionally, pre-fired roasted green chilies can be purchased. These work great if you don’t want to go through the hassle of doing your own, but they are not always available (typically they are found in the Mexican frozen food section of grocery stores). Do keep the charred skins on the onions. This adds great flavor! However, be sure to remove the papery husks from garlic after roasting the cloves. This is easy to do since the cloves soften up after roasting.
Salsa Verde or Mexican Chili Verde Salsa
- 2 whole jalapenos or 3 serrano chilis charred and peeled
- 5 whole garlic, charred and peeled
- 1 whole onion, charred
- 4 whole tomatillo, charred and peeled
- 1/2 whole green tomato, charred and peeled (optional/non traditional)
- 1/3 bunch cilantro, chopped
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 whole lime juice
- 1 tsp salt
- Preheat the broiler in the oven and move the oven rack to just under the heating element. The rack should be close to the heating element but the ingredients should not be touching it. If they are, move the rack to a lower option.
- Place a sheet of aluminum foil on a safe baking surface. The foil will allow for quicker clean up.
- Cut the stems off the fresh green chilies. Salsa verde is traditionally a little spicy, but if this is a problem for you can remove half of the seeds or all of them according to your taste.
- Prepare the onions by cutting off the root and top end, then halve into two large pieces.
- Break a whole garlic bulb down to individual cloves. Leave the skins on as this will protect the cloves and allow them to get soft during the charring process.
- Remove the papery husk from the tomatillos.
- Leave the tomatoes whole and drizzle all of the ingredients with a small amount of olive or vegetable oil.
- Once the broiler is up to temperature, place the ingredients in the oven and check often. The process of charring will happen quickly in most ovens (just under 10 minutes). Keep an eye on the oven.
- Once the ingredients are well charred, remove from the oven and allow the items to cool, about 5 minutes. Remove most of the skins from the chilies and the garlic.
- Set up a blender and add all of the ingredients. Process until all the ingredients are emulsified. Add a pinch of salt to suit your taste.