Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

August 17, 2009(updated on October 14, 2021)

tomatillo composite

Just after I graduated from college, but before I moved to Philadelphia, I spent a period of four months working as a personal assistant for a very wealthy woman who lived in Portland’s west hills. I sort of tumbled into the job, in the synchronous way that I typically do (true thing, I rarely look for jobs, for better of for worse, they just appear) and while it wasn’t always a rousing good time, I picked up a slew of useful life lessons. One thing I saw demonstrated again and again was the fact that money is rarely the key factor in a joyful life.

My boss, who lived in a gorgeous home, had a doting husband and everything she could possibly want (in the material sense) spent her days in misery. When she wasn’t actively unhappy herself, she was doing everything she could to stir up dramas among her friends and spread a sense of unease and insecurity in others. In stark contrast was her maid. Teresa was working for her on a tourist visa from Mexico and spend her days scrubbing that 7,000 square foot house from top to bottom (about every third day, she came to the end and then turned around to start the process again) and cooking food for my boss and her husband. In the evenings, she sat alone in her room, watching TV and working on needlepoint.

And yet, she was never anything but completely cheerful. We spent a lot of time together during the four months I was there. She didn’t speak any English and all I had to offer was my high school Spanish. And yet, we became friends. She taught me how to find my way around the house, a handful of new words and how to be happy no matter what the situation. And she taught me how to make this tomatillo salsa.

Sometimes she blanched the tomatillos and sometimes she roasted them. I liked the roasted salsa better. We’d eat it quesadillas, with a bit of shredded chicken and pepper jack cheese. So delicious. She never used exact proportions for the salsa, instead she just cooked by feel and adjusted the seasonings at the end to make sure everything was balanced.

With tomatillos showing up in abundance at my local farmers markets lately, I thought this might be a good recipe (and story) to share. I also thought we could all use a break from the boiling water canner (I know I need a short rest from chopping, picking and jamming).

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Roasted Tomatillo Salsa


  • 1 pint tomatillos de-husked, washed and halved
  • 1 onion cut into chunks
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 1-2 jalapenos
  • a handful of cilantro
  • 1 lime


  • Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.
  • Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and lay out the tomatillos and half the garlic and onions on it. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • When it's roasted and cooled down enough to handle, squeeze the garlic out of their skins and pour the whole roasted mess (tomatillos, garlic and onions) into a blender. Add the rest of the raw garlic, the other half of the onion, a handful of cilantro, a pinch of salt, some jalapeno and a bit of lime juice. Blend until it's all combined and taste. It might need a pinch of sugar to balance the tartness.
  • Delicious (and it just gets better after it sits for a little while) on burritos or chips.

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42 thoughts on "Roasted Tomatillo Salsa"

  • YUM! I made this recently with some lemon basil in place of half the cilantro (which I don’t like but I want to learn). Small amount of vinegar and some bottled lime juice instead of fresh. It was fantastic.
    We made enchiladas with the last of a roasted chicken, plus diced pattypan squash (of which we have a profusion right now). I mixed the chicken and the squash together with sour cream, grated cheese, some vinegar, and salt & pepper to make a sort of spreadable chunky paste, which I smeared on the tortillas and then rolled and put in the pan and topped with lots and lots of sauce and more cheese, then baked. SO YUMMY. I love tomatillos.

  • I love a good tomatillo salsa! Great idea about roasting them. I grew up eating very tasty Mexican food because I had a nanny from Mexico who I adored going up (both my parents travelled for work and I was an only child). She used to make the best cheese tacos. Just mexican white cheese rolled into homemade corn tortillas. I really was spoiled at an early age.

  • Add this to the list of things we have in common. I too worked as a personal assistant to a super rich woman post college for a few months. This lady lived upstairs from Jerry Seinfeld and Downstairs from John McEnrow, that’s how loaded she is, and she also seemed abjectly miserable. Unfortunately so did her maids because she was always firing them. I didn’t even get a good recipe out of the deal. At least now I have yours!

  • Is it possible to can tomatillo salsa? I would love to take advantage of the low cost and freshness of tomatillos at this time of year.

    1. Sarah, I too have canned tomatillo salsa according to the Ball Blue Book recipe. My family clamours to get a jar every year. It is outstanding!

  • Sarah, it is possible to can tomatillo salsa, although you can’t process this particular recipe. Check out this one, which is a very slightly adapted recipe from the Ball Blue Book.

      1. Processing jars is the act of putting them in a boiling water bath canner for the length of time the recipe instructs.

  • Thanks so much for posting this. I was feeling a bit pizzy today about some things happening in my life and your message helped bring me back into focus. What’s important? Enjoyment of each and every day, that’s what.

  • Hi Marisa,
    Found your blog via Gluten-Free Girl. Your blog is wonderful, I love your commitment to empowering people to can. I love canning and your blog is a wealth of helpful information. I tried to send you an email at the address suggested but somehow can’t send it . . . I am wondering if you have ever canned hot fudge sauce and if so, could you pass on suggestions, tips and times for a pressure canner. I would love to can my own hot fudge but can’t find any information on how to safely can it.

  • Holy mama, this looks delicious! Thanks for the inspiration–I’ve got a bag of toms rolling their eyes at me in the fridge. Yerm.

  • I also make roasted tomatillo salsa but I roast the jalapenos as well and just start removing things as they get blackened. Otherwise my recipe is very similar. My tomatillo plants are doing very well this year (finally!) and I’d like to can a bunch of salsa. I noticed that you directed a commenter above to a different recipe for canning. I’d really like to can the roasted salsa – it has such a nice, smokey, distinct flavor. How do I find out if it’s acidic enough? I add a lot of lime juice and I’m guessing tomatillos are pretty acidic anyway, so I’d think it would be okay but I can’t seem to find a recipe that agrees with me. Any thoughts? Thanks so much!

  • I’ve seen tomatillos around the greenmarket lately and wanted to grab a few, but had no idea what I’d do with them. I’ll definitely be picking some up on my next visit so I can whip up a batch of this salsa. Lovely story–thanks for sharing!

  • I’ve got the same question as Jess–is there any way to estimate how much lemon or lime juice would need to be added to this delicious recipe to make it acidic enough for canning? This roasted recipe looks way more yummy than anything in Ball’s… Any ideas?

  • Thanks for putting this up. I am a hardcore salsa enthusiast, having lived in Chicago for several years, and in the process, soaked up as much info as possible about the local Mexican cuisine. Salsa is also providing my first foray (and it’s a big one) into canning: I’m about 25% through canning 200 jars as wedding favors for my December nuptials.

    I’m doing three varieties: a roasted tomatillo & tomato guajillo chili salsa (mild), a salsa verde (medium – I have yet to devise my recipe), and a roasted tomato chipotle salsa (hot).

    I’ve been making salsa like this for a long time now, and I really have it down cold. I’d be happy to offer anyone suggestions!

  • While you can’t can this salsa using the water bath technique, you can certainly do so with a pressure canner.

    I’ve been canning my own salsas, as well as many other fruits and vegetables from my garden for forty-some years and except for pickles and high acid food, or jams and jellies with high sugar content – and which have been cooked for a prolonged period and work well in a water bath, I use the pressure canner for everything.
    In 1989 the USDA dramatically changed some of the guidelines for pressure canning and advised to not use open kettle canning for all but a very few items.
    This site has excellent, easy to use charts with all you need.–1396/canning-temperatures-and-processing-times.asp

    One important point! A pressure “cooker” is not a pressure “canner” and really cannot be substituted for one. There are dual use canner/cookers and they will state so.
    This is not the place to try to use a cheap alternative.

  • I should have added, in my previous post that I do not guess at the acidity levels in foods or in my homemade vinegar, etc., I have and always use a PH meter.
    These used to be very expensive but there are several brands that are reasonably priced. Saves a great deal of angst.

  • I’m confused… Is it the raw ingredients or the lack of acid that makes this salsa unsuitable for canning? If I add vinegar to the mix will that make it safe?

    1. Kirsten, it’s simply that it’s not a recipe that was developed for home canning. I didn’t follow a tested recipe and so don’t know if the finished salsa is acidic enough for boiling water bath canning. Without knowing what the pH is, I can’t tell you how much vinegar you need to add to make it safe.

      1. Boo. Why must there be so much science in the art that is cooking?? I added a large slosh of vinegar the first time I made this in July (combining a few different recipes) and did can it. But happily, it was so good that none of it lasted long enough to put its safety to the test.

        1. Update since last year: at a canning class here in NC, I learned that on Amazon, there is a supplier that sells litmus paper in short ranges — including the range that has the proper acidity for canning as its upper limit! So now my canning equipment includes litmus paper, and this summer’s edition of this recipe was, indeed, safe for canning. Hooray!

  • Stupid question…I am new to canning, and freezing prepared foods. Is this salsa something that would freeze well?

    1. You certainly could freeze this one. Make sure to leave at least an inch of headspace though, so that as the salsa expands, it doesn’t break the jar.

  • Made this tonight (a double batch) for taco night with friends- it turned out really, really well. I also roasted 2 seeded jalapenos and a seeded poblano for a bit of heat. I prefer tomatillo salsas to tomato-based ones and this one is so, so good.

  • I love Salsa Verde and am looking forward to canning my own this year. Here’s my question: Is there a reason I couldn’t use the recipe in your book except roast the vegetables before I combine everything else and boil? I’ve seen a few other roasted recipes for canning but yours is the perfect amount and just looks better. šŸ™‚

  • I just made this and it tastes so delicious…can’t wait for my kids to come home from school so I can make a quesidillo for them…. Thanks!

  • I am new to making salsa and although this recipe turned out delicious, the salsa is crazy thick! As in, holds a shape thick! How do I thin it down to make it pourable without ruining the flavor? Add lime juice? Vinegar? Water?