Salsa verde (roasted tomatillo salsa)

Salsa verde is a green salsa that is made with green tomatillos rather than red tomatoes. Let me tell you a little secret about salsa verde – it is absolutely delicious! Salsa verde tastes fresher and zestier than tomato salsa and it goes great with anything that is crispy or fried. This recipe for salsa verde is made entirely of whole foods and it is gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, egg free, nut free, dairy free, and paleo. In addition to being all of these things, it is also super healthy and super easy to make!

salsa verde (roasted tomatillo salsa)

What is the difference between salsa verde and salsa?

The main difference between salsa verde and salsa rojo (standard red salsa) is the ingredients that are used as the base of the salsa. Salsa rojo is made with tomatoes and red chili peppers whereas salsa verde is made with green tomatillos and green chile peppers. If you are not familiar with tomatillos, they look like small green tomatoes that are partially covered in a papery husk.

Another common question that comes up when comparing salsa verde to salsa rojo is which salsa is hotter. Salsa rojo is generally a little spicier than salsa verde. This is because the red chilis that are traditionally used in salsa rojo are hotter than the green chiles used in salsa verde. Of course, this can vary depending on who is making the salsa and what ingredients they decide to put in it.

What does salsa verde taste like?

What does salsa verde taste like? The short answer to this question is that salsa verde tastes like a zestier and more tart version of red salsa. The long answer is that the taste of salsa verde can vary depending on how you prepare the tomatillos. In this recipe we roast the tomatoes in the oven prior to mixing them with the other ingredients, but you can also make salsa verde with raw tomatillos. Tomatillos are naturally very tart so if you make salsa verde with raw tomatillos the salsa will be very tart. Roasting tomatillos will dull the tartness so that your salsa verde will taste more fresh and zesty than tart.

salsa verde (roasted tomatillo salsa)

What to eat salsa verde with

There are so many things you can eat salsa verde with! Anything you can think of topping with red salsa you can also top with salsa verde. I am going to start out by giving you a list of my absolute favorite dishes to use salsa verde with then I will provide a list of other popular uses for salsa verde. 

Salsa verde is fresh and zesty so it goes great with dishes with a thick and crispy fried shell. Here are some of my favorite meals to eat salsa verde with. 

And as I promised, here are some other dishes that are commonly topped with salsa verde. You might recognize some of these as dishes you commonly see topped with red salsa. 

  • enchiladas
  • chilaquiles
  • gorditos
  • tacos
  • burritos
  • quesadillas
  • nachos

salsa verde (roasted tomatillo salsa)

How to make salsa verde less watery

I will start out by saying that salsa verde is supposed to be fairly watery. Of course not everyone likes that consistency and there are ways to make salsa verde less watery and more chunky. If you want to make your salsa verde less watery you should deseed your tomatillos before you make your salsa. A lot of the liquid in salsa verde comes from the seeds and surrounding area of the tomatillos.  

How to select ripe tomatillos

First I will start off with some tips on where to find tomatillos at the grocery store. They are found in different places at different grocery stores but there are a few places where they show up most often. I generally find tomatillos next to the tomatoes at my grocery store but sometimes they are in the same section as chili peppers. If you do not see tomatillos next to the chili peppers or the tomatoes, there may be a separate section in the produce aisle for ‘ethnic’ foods. These kinds of aisle contain a seemingly random mishmash of things but some other items that might show up in this section include plantains, coconuts, pineapple, jicama, yuzu, lychee, and dragonfruit.  

Hopefully by now you have located the tomatillos and are ready to pick out the best ones. The easiest way to pick out good tomatillos is by feeling them and assessing the firmness. You should pick tomatillos that are firm but not rock hard and you should avoid tomatillos that are overly soft. The appearance of the husk also gives a clue as to how ripe a tomatillo is. When tomatillos ripen their husks start to become more tan in color (as opposed to green) and the husks start to develop small tears.

Preparing tomatillos for salsa verde

You might have some questions about preparation if you have never worked with tomatillos before. One question I see asked frequently is whether you should remove the tomatillo husks before cooking with tomatillos. The answer to that question is absolutely yes! Tomatillo husks and stems are not edible and you should remove them before cooking the tomatillos. After you remove the husks, you should wash the tomatillos. I will warn that tomatillos can have a slightly sticky feeling even after they are washed. This is okay as long as you have washed them well, it is just due to the texture of their skin. 

Salsa verde

This zesty salsa makes a great companion for any Mexican dish!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Mexican
Diet: Gluten Free, Low Calorie, Low Fat, Low Lactose, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword: gluten free, paleo, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 2 cups


  • 6 tomatillos
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1/2 lime
  • 2 stalks green onion
  • 1/8 tsp salt


  • Remove the husks of the tomatillos and clean the skin
  • Cut the tomatillos, jalapeno, and onion piece in half and broil on high for 3-5 minutes until the skin starts to char
  • Allow the tomatillos, onion, and jalapeno to cool for 5 minutes then blend all of the ingredients


  • There is one major substitution you might want to make the base recipe which involves swapping out the green onion with cilantro. Some people have a gene that makes cilantro taste like soap and I happen to be one of those people. As if eating out with celiac disease wasn’t hard enough already, right? Based on what I have seen in other recipes, I would recommend swapping the green onions with a quarter cup of lightly packed cilantro leaves.
  • If you want to make your salsa verde more creamy, try adding in half of a large avocado! 
  • If you want to make your salsa verde more sweet, try adding in half of a red mango!

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Gluten free vegetarian pineapple black bean quesadillas

We said that salsa verde goes well with quesadillas and we were not lying! Try adding some salsa verde to this recipe for cheesy pineapple quesadillas!

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