Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos

Salsa Chipotle con Tomate Verde Asado

I've been smitten with chipotle salsa ever since the first time I tasted it on a crusty sandwich (cemita) in a Pueblan market stall 30 years ago. It’s three simple ingredients in perfect balance: the smoky spice of chipotle chiles, the lively sweet-edged tang of roasted tomatillo, and the alluring complexity of roasted garlic. I like it spooned on practically everything but ice cream, though I'm particularly fond of chipotle salsa with grilled fish and chicken or beef or… here I go again.

By Rick Bayless
Serves 1 1/4 cup

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 medium (about 8 ounces total) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut in half
  • 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo (or more, if you like really spicy salsa), stemmed
  • Salt

Set a large (10-inch) non-stick skillet over medium-high heat (if a non-stick skillet is unavailable, lay in a piece of foil). Lay in the garlic and tomatillos (cut side down). When the tomatillos are well browned, 3 or 4 minutes, turn everything over and brown the other side. (The tomatillos should be completely soft.)

Scoop the garlic and tomatillos into a blender jar or food processor with the chiles and 1/4 cup water. Process to a coarse puree. Pour into a salsa dish and cool.

Thin with a little additional water if necessary to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency. Taste and season with salt, usually a generous 1/2 teaspoon.

Riffs on Chipotle Salsa: You can replace the tomatillos with roasted tomatoes (two 4-ounce plum tomatoes roasted like the tomatillos or ½ drained 15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes), but keep in mind that the tomato will tip the flavor toward sweet rather than tangy. A little cilantro, fresh thyme or parsley is always welcome, as is green or white onion—especially if it’s grilled. A splash of mescal (or the less-smoky tequila) makes a borracha (drunken) salsa that’s dynamite. Instead of pureeing the chiles, you can finely chop them and add them to the pureed (green) base; they'll show up as little red flecks, and the salsa will be less smoky.

Easy Chipotle Saute: In a very large (12-inch) skillet, sauté 1 sliced white onion with 1 to 1 ¼ pounds cubed boneless skinless chicken breast, pork tenderloin, steak, shrimp or firm tofu, until well browned. Add the salsa and stir-fry until everything is done as much as you like. Really good sprinkled with chopped cilantro.

Mexican Everyday cookbook by Chef Rick Bayless

Recipe from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless.