When you eat a taco, the taste that feels truly genuine to Mexico lies mostly in the tortillas and the salsa. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into some hole-in-the-wall in Florida or a cool little joint in Texas that looks and smells of Mexico, where I grew up, only to find out that the tortillas are bland, like generic U.S. grocery-store tortillas, and the salsa is all watered down and tasteless.
I love Mexican salsa and I always keep a can of Herdez or La Costeña Chipotle peppers and pickled jalapeños in the pantry, but I have yet to find a good salsa in a can.
There are probably hundreds of salsa recipes, from earthy, chile-infused concoctions from Southern Mexico, to chunky, mango–cilantro–habanero dipping sauces found in fancy restaurants in the Southwest U.S. So, I will tackle the issue one salsa at a time.
Here’s my take on the green tomatillo salsa that I love almost as much as I love my own son. Whenever I make it, I strive for the fresh taste of the salsita I used to add to my quesadillas at the Salon Corona in downtown Mexico City.
My recipe for salsa verde
The ingredients are simple: tomatillos (green tomatoes) cilantro, white onion, serrano or jalapeño peppers (not to be pronounced Ja-la-peen-o but Ja-la-pain-yo).
Boil the tomatillos, (about four-six depending on size). Then, throw them in the blender with three or four peppers, a handful of cilantro, a quarter of an onion and a little salt. Blend, and you’re good to go!
Unfortunately, tomatillos are not the most common ingredient at many grocery stores in the U.S. If you’re lucky, you may find boiled tomatillos by La Costeña which sells an 820-gram can that works pretty well as a substitute for fresh tomatillos.
Just the other day, I was craving some green salsa, but my usual grocery store was out of tomatillos and didn’t stock the canned variety. I bought a jar of Ortega green sauce and added my own fresh cilantro and about four serrano peppers and a quarter onion. The sauce turned out great. I made chicken enchiladas and I couldn’t tell the difference between that sauce and the one I usually make from scratch.
Some people like to add a little lime or garlic or even chicken stock to their green salsa. I’ve tried all these options, and it doesn’t seem to change much, so, I stick to the basics.
About the salt: Keep in mind that your salsa is going to be served with food, so when tasting for salt, make sure you do it with a tortilla or a chip or whatever it is will accompany the magic of the green tomatillo salsa.
What is your favorite Mexican salsa?