Tomatillos – All About this Key Ingredient in Mexican Cuisine

Tomatillos are the fruit of a plant in the Nightshade family and a staple in Mexican dishes. Even though they look similar to green tomatoes, they are from an entirely different plant that is actually called a tomatillo plant. Also known as the Mexican husk tomato, these small, green fruits have a lot of heritage – they’ve been cultivated since pre-Colombian times. They are essential in many famous Mexican dishes, including fresh salsa, chile verde, salsa verde, green sauce, and enchiladas.


What Do Tomatillos Taste Like? Frontera Salsa Med Tomatillo

Tomatillos have a bright, lemony flavor that complements spiced foods perfectly and can be cooked alongside other grilled items. Adding them to stews and chilis also provides a nice hit of flavor to the dish. They also make delicious salsa!


Choosing the Perfect One

Burpee Gigante Tomatillo

Unlike most fruits, tomatillos have the most flavor when they are green and unripe. Choose one that is green, firm (but not rock-hard), dry, and lightly attached to the husk. Avoid a ripe tomatillo that is yellow, soft, or sticky. Though the husk can be split open, you want to choose ones with more or less intact husks with a minimum of handling.

Tomatillos are generally available in the summer and early autumn, though they can be found all year round in some stores.


Storing Tips

Tomatillos can be stored at room temperature for one or two days. They can be stored for up to a month in the refrigerator in a paper bag with the husk still on. If you want to store them for even longer, you can remove the husks and freeze them in a plastic bag or container. Sometimes the husks may not come off easily, though – simply wash the fruit to soften the husks and then dry them before storing them.


Cleaning Tips

Tomatillos’ papery husks are pretty but must be removed before cooking them. The fruit underneath the husk may be a bit sticky, so simply rinse and clean under running water and pat dry. They are then ready to be cooked.


Cooking Tips

Easy Tomatillos Cookbook: A Tomatillo Cookbook Filled with 50 Delicious Tomatillo Recipes (2nd Edition)

Tomatillos are incredibly versatile. They can be eaten raw, sauteed, grilled, or chopped and added to soups, stews, or sauces. Different recipes call for different cooking methods.

If you are eating them raw, they pair nicely with sweet flavors in salads. They are called for in salsa verde, a zesty and fresh Mexican side dish. Cooked tomatillos are delicious, especially when you sautee them over medium heat with onion, garlic, olive oil, fresh cilantro, and a bit of salt and pepper.

Frying them on their own and serving them with salsa, avocado, or sour cream is similar to a fried green tomato. Adding them to a sauce, soup, or fresh salsa will provide a fabulous background note to the dish.


Try This Yummy Little Tomato

FARAON Tomatillo Whole, 11 Ounce (Pack of 12)

Tomatillos provide your dishes with an authentic twist that will evoke the rich history of this Latin American nation.

Discovering a new ingredient like a tomatillo is one of the most pleasurable things about cooking.

Head down to your local grocery store for some fresh tomatillos, or get some canned tomatillos. Then start your adventure into a new world of deliciousness.


Mexican Slow Cooker Chicken

Freshly made Mexican rice and beans

This Mexican slow cooker chicken recipe is super easy to make and goes perfectly with a side of tomatillos. Enjoy!


Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Chicken

Prep Time 15 minutes


  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 10- oz. cans Rotel fire-roasted diced tomatoes & green chilies undrained
  • 2 15- oz. cans black beans rinsed and drained
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper finely diced
  • T. hickory-flavored liquid smoke
  • 2 t. ground cumin
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1 t. smoked paprika
  • 2 t. dried oregano
  • 1 t. cayenne pepper
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 limes quartered
  • ¼ c. fresh cilantro chopped


  • Unroll and add chicken thighs to bottom of a 5 or 6-quart slow cooker crock. Top with tomatoes, black beans, garlic, jalapeno pepper, liquid smoke, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Stir to combine, making sure the chicken thighs are coated and submerged in the liquid.
  • Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. 30 minutes before done cooking, remove lid and shred chicken while in the slow cooker with two forks. Stir to combine shredded chicken with other ingredients. Cover and cook for remaining 30 minutes to allow chicken to absorb the flavors.
  • Remove lid and squeeze fresh lime juice into the crock. Add cilantro and stir to combine. Season with additional salt and black pepper, if desired.


Why Are Tomatillos Sticky?

Tomatillos have a natural sticky substance on their surface, which protects them against insects and other threats. It’s completely normal and harmless. You can simply wash it off with water before using them in your recipes.


Should Tomatillos Be Refrigerated?

Yes, they should be stored in the refrigerator to prolong their freshness. Keep them in a well-ventilated produce bag to prevent moisture build-up, and place them in the crisper drawer. They can last for up to three weeks this way.


How To Tell When Tomatillos Are Ripe

Ripe tomatillos have a bright green color and a slightly firm texture. The husk should be tight, fitting closely around the fruit. It may be overripe if the husk is loose or the fruit is very soft.


How To Pronounce Tomatillo

It is pronounced, “toh-mah-TEE-oh.”


Is Green Tomatillo Sauce Spicy?

Green tomatillo sauce can be mildly spicy or quite hot, depending on the type and amount of chili peppers used in the recipe. You can adjust the heat level to your preference by using fewer or more peppers.


How To Peel Tomatillos

To peel tomatillos, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the outer husk.
  2. Rinse under water to remove the sticky residue.
  3. Pat dry with a clean towel.

Now, your tomatillos are ready for cooking or chopping.


How To Chop Tomatillos

  1. Peel and rinse the tomatillo as described earlier.
  2. Place it on a cutting board.
  3. Slice off the stem end with a sharp knife.
  4. Cut it in half from top to bottom.
  5. Lay the halves flat on the cutting board and cut them into slices or dice, depending on your recipe.


Why Are My Tomatillos Turning Yellow?

This can be a sign of over-ripeness or exposure to too much sunlight. Try to harvest them when they are still bright green and firm for the best flavor and texture.


How Many Tomatillos In A Pound?

On average, there are about 8-12 tomatillos in a pound, depending on their size. However, this can vary, so it is best to weigh them when purchasing them for a specific recipe.

Written by Laurie Graves

Laurie is a 50-something wife and boy mom, who loves to share easy recipes, DIY home ideas, and food hacks. She truly believes that with a little inspiration, anyone can make their home and meals feel special.