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Traditional Mexican Tomatillo Recipes

Updated on March 26, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty collects recipes from past generations among ethnic groups, the 13 Original Colonies, the American Civil War & the 19th century.

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Learning About The Taco And Tomatillo

Having no idea of the nature and content of Mexican dining as a world cuisine, I encountered American fast food "Mexican" at a Taco Bell restaurant in college.

The name of the chain was actually something else, but Taco Bell sprung up and then bought them out. Still, a taco here was only ground meat in a hard folded cornmeal shell, festooned with shredded lettuce and American cheese shreds, which fell out on the first bite.

This was neither convenient nor tasty, and as with most fast food dishes, it took too many to feel as if you'd had a meal. Greasy, too.

The Taco Bell "chilito" (now defunct), a flour tortilla wrapped with a white cheese and some picante sauce was something I liked and began to make at home, adding my own vegetables and seasonings. Occasionally, I would purchase a chilito through the drive thru, but not often.

The Breakfast Burrito was a good idea, which I copied at home, but breakfast at Taco Bell was short lived. Then, in about 2015, it came back with additional Americanisms like bacon and eggs.

Students of mine that travel to Mexico often have taught me traditional Mexican and Cuban cuisines, and this Hub is about the Mexican cuisine and features tomatillos.

The tomatillo was a favorite of the Maya and the Aztecs, long before Spanish explorers appeared.

Taco trucks are sure to serve foods containing the tomatillo. Both the trucks and the food item are gaining popularity.
Taco trucks are sure to serve foods containing the tomatillo. Both the trucks and the food item are gaining popularity. | Source

The Tomatillo In the Americas

Perdue University Extension Service tells us that this plant food is known by a number of nicknames: tomatillo, husk tomato, jamberry, ground cherry.

In Spanish this food item is called: tomate de cascara, tomate de fresadilla, tomate milpero, tomate verde, tomatillo (in Mexico), miltomate (in Mexico and Guatemala). It has been found in archaeological digs dating as far back as 950 BC.

While the fruit is not a tomato as we know it, the tomatillo is but one of many round fruits and vegetables that a group of Mexican/South American Native Americans (likely Aztecs) called "tomatl."

The tomatillo grows in Southern California (the Baja Peninsula), southwards, all the way down to Guatemala. We often find them in grocery stores in North America now.

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Chile Verde

Serves 4

The name of this dish means Green Chili. It contains pork shoulder in a sauce of tomatillos, which appear to be tiny green tomatoes but are not. Different families leave out the potatoes or use green tomatoes or use a combination of red and green tomatoes/tomatillos - whatever you have on hand.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 10 tomatillos
  • 2.5 pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican chicken bouillon powder
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half
  • 4 jalapeño chilies, seeded – save some of the seeds if you wish the dish to be hotter. Or use the New Mexico mild hatch chilis.
  • 3 potatoes
  • 1/2 Cup stewed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Flour Tortillas

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Remove wrappers from tomatillos and wash the vegetable.
  • In a blender, mix ¼ Cup stewed tomaotes, tomatillos, boullion, garlic, jalapeños, and onion. Add some pepper seeds if you want more heat.
  • Trim excess fat and cut pork into 1” cubes.
  • Wash potatoes and cut them to bite-size chunks.
  • Using a higher-sided frying pan or iron skillet or Dutch oven, place the pan on a burner and turn the heat to moderately high. Heat the pan.
  • Add the oil to frying pan and tllt pan to cover the bottom.
  • Fry pork cubes just until the outsides looks white, stirring constantly so that the meat does not burn.
  • Add remaining stewed tomatoes and stir, then add the blender sauce.
  • Stir well and cook for 40 minutes until the meat is somewhat tender.
  • Add potatoes and continue to cook until meat and potatoes are tender.
  • Heat tortillas and serve with garnishes of your choice.

NOTE:

1 pound fresh tomatillos = 1 (11-ounce) can of tomatillos.

Hatch chilis, a specialty of Hatch, New Mexico.
Hatch chilis, a specialty of Hatch, New Mexico. | Source

Hatch, New Mexico

A markerHatch, New Mexico -
Hatch, NM, USA
get directions

Tomatillo Relish

This recipe make a large amount of flavorful relish.

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 Cups chopped tomatillos
  • 3 Cups chopped jicama
  • 3 Cups chopped Spanish onion
  • 6 Cups chopped plum tomatoes
  • 2 Cups chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cups chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cups chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1 cup coarse salt
  • ½ gallon of spring water
  • 6 Tblsp pickling spices (Whole, not ground up)
  • 1 Tblsp crushed or ground red pepper
  • 6 Cups sugar
  • 6 cups cider vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Have 6 glass pint canning jars already clean and dry, with 2-piece (rim and flat covers) lids handy.
  • Remove tomatillo husks, peel jicama and onion and wash all vegetables, icluding peppers. Then chop in a blender to medium-fine, not too small.
  • Place chopped vegetables into a large saucepan.
  • Dissolve salt in the water in a bowl or the jug the weater came in and pour the solution over the vegetables in the pan.
  • Heat the pan until the mixture comes to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Remove pan form heat and drain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Lay all the pickling spices and red pepper on a double layer of clean sqaure cheesecoth 6 inches on a side. Tie corners with string to make a bag.
  • In a clean pot, stir together sugar, vinegar, and the spice bag. Turn heat on and bring to the boil.
  • Add in the drained vegetables and cook until the relish boils again. Then imediately turn the heat down to simmer and cook uncovered for half an hour.
  • Take out the spice bag and discard.
  • Fill the pint jars with relish, leaving ½-inch space below the lip of each jar.
  • Take out all the air bubbles in the jar by inserting a soda straw into the bubble to relase the air or by tapping the jars on the counter.
  • Wipe the lips of all the jars with a damp towel asnd place each two-piece metal canning lid on top.
  • Process in a boiling hot water bath in a soup kettle for 15-20 minutes. Remove the hot jars with tongs and sit on a towel on the counter and you will hear the lids pop as they seal and the tops of the lids dent down to indicate the seals. If you have too much relish, use a 7th jar or use it first, and when a jar does not seal, simply use it before the others and keep it refrigerated – it’s safe, because it’s pickled!

Tomatillos are sure to be in this delicious lunch!
Tomatillos are sure to be in this delicious lunch! | Source

© 2009 Patty Inglish

Experiences, Recipe Variations, and Fun

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Gee, I don't know, MickeySr. I've only used them together with other vegetables and in those dishes, they seem to remind me more of a mild pepper. One person in comments says to boil them 10 minutes before using, but I've never noticed any sticky residue of the kind they mention.

    • MickeySr profile image

      MickeySr 5 years ago from Hershey, Pa.

      I don't see it here, among the 'comments', but did I already ask you this;

      I love Mexican food (I grew-up in California), I cook Mexican food, and I've tried to use tomatillos twice - but think I don't know what I'm doing with them. I don't know if it's a matter of proper ripeness or if I got some goofy tomatillos, but both times mine tasted like raw potato, and I've never heard any chef mention them having a potato-like taste - so, what's up with that?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I hope you like them!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      I have often thought about buying tomatillos. Now I know what to do with them. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      tomatillolover 6 years ago

      I love your recipes!

    • profile image

      Michael 6 years ago

      Thank you for posting this. My friend and I were just discussing Mexican cuisine and I was trying to describe tomatillos to him and he couldn't wrap his head around the concept until I showed him this, so thank you again :)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Jack, I never heard of purple tomatillos until you mentioned them. I'll be looking for some, especially if they reseed. Thanks for the alert!

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 7 years ago from The Midwest

      We went from four tomatillo plants last year to 24 this year. Half are the traditional large tomatillos but the other half are something I haven't tried before... little bitty ones called "purple" tomatillos. My Mexican friends say they are much better tasting. One good thing about growing them... they reseed themselves every year so you only have to buy them once.

    • profile image

      Rebekah 8 years ago

      I love tomatillos, but planted a few too many in the garden this year. I actually like to make a fresh salsa with raw tomatillos, onions, jalepenos (or other hot peppers), cilantro, etc. I just through it all into my small food processor, and add some salt to taste. I know most people roast their tomatillos, but we prefer the fresh taste and texture. I'm definitely going to have to try this relish recipe, it sounds delicious and we have more tomatillos than we (and our neighbors ;) know what to do with!

    • profile image

      Laura 8 years ago

      The relish recipe sounds delicious! I haven't tried cooking with jicama and look forward to trying it. We've only had it prepared fresh! Now to use the relish-is it like a pickle relish condiment for used as an ingredient or is there a traditional recipe using as such over meat? Thanks for the great recipe! Laura

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      Pachuca213 8 years ago

      I make this dish at least twice a month...also making Green Salsa once a week...Tomatillos are good but you have to know how to prepare them just right. A tip of good advice...you are suppose to wash them really really good and then boil them at least 10 minutes to get soft and also to get the remaining sticky residue boiled off...then put them in a blender.=)

    • Herald Daily profile image

      Herald Daily 8 years ago from A Beach Online

      When I think of Taco Bell, I think instant heartburn. The tortillas that I had in Mexico were nothing like what is sold in this part of the world, that's for sure.

      Your recipes sound really tasty. I'm not much of a cook but I think it will be fun trying these.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Peggy - I become very excited over original recipes and cultures. It;s all fascinating,

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This really sounds good. Will have to give it a try sometime. Thanks for sharing this with all of us on hubpages.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      VioletSun - well, the relish is less fattening than the chili, I think. :)

      Heartaday - It is similar to the green tomato relish, but to me it is more tangy. Hope you like it. You'll have to tell us your opinions later about it. Thanks for visiting!

    • Heartaday profile image

      Heartaday 8 years ago

      We actually have tomatillos in our grocery store now but I haven't known what to do with them. I wonder if the relish is like the green tomato relish my mom makes.

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 8 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Oh, dear, every time, I am determined to lose some weight, the yummy recipes shows up in my mailbox. Just read Gamegirl's peanut and cornflakes clusters. LOL! Have saved this recipe to try it!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for all the comments -- the relish is realy superb! Of course, I like all kinds of relishes.

    • profile image

      MandM 8 years ago

      I had never heard about tomatillo yet. I have to search in supermarket to try it.

    • MellasViews profile image

      MellasViews 8 years ago from Earth

      Yum... this sounds awesome. TY for sharing it! I want to attempt to do the relish! : )

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      OH Man I must try the relish recipe...sounds wonderful...I love using Tomatillo's....Thanks my dear...G-Ma :O) Hugs & Peace

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I like the heat high enough that it causes my mouth to itch. :)

      I didn't think I'd like the tomatillo until I finally tried one and they are very good. The relish is one of my favorites and I hope you like both dishes.

    • profile image

      SirDent 8 years ago

      I love Mexican food. The heat that comes with my favortie dishes are the best part of some of them. We make a lot of mexican style sdishes here at home also. I will have to try these you have wriutten about here.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for visitng Gary! We've only had tomatillos here a few years and I'm glad to use them. I look forward to the recipes and methods you will share with us from yoru kitchen.

    • pvrust profile image

      pvrust 8 years ago from Carlsbad, Ca

      Great Tasty looking Recepie Patty,

      I was a chef for years in SF and will be looking forward to sharing cooking ideas with you. Tomatillos are an often overlooked ingredient and they add a great acidic and natural tart taste to any dish. I love your 2 recipes. Great job Patty!

      Gary Rust