Introduction: How to Make, Serve and Store a Semi-authentic Salsa Verde

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The feisty jalapeno pepper and placid tomatillo team up with kindred ingredients to make tortilla chips look better and taste great, especially with beer.

Step 1: Motivation

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This is my very first Instructable, and I have it on good authority that some in the Instructable's community want to know why a project is selected. I selected this project because I actually learned it in a live Instructable many years ago in Mazatlan, Mexico. The picture of the beach is probably gratuitous, but I had it and didn't really know what else to put here. I had eaten a late lunch one day and had this salsa for the first time. I told my waiter, who spoke pretty good English, how much I liked it and that I wished I could learn how to make it. He invited me back into the kitchen to watch one of the cooks prepare the sauce for that evening. The cook spoke hardly any English, and I spoke hardly any Spanish, but he showed me each step, just as we do in Instructables. He was preparing a lot more salsa than we will here, but the ratios and ingredients remain the same, as does the method.

Step 2: Introducing the Ingredients

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The tomatillo is the primary ingredient. They look like bright green tomatoes (although they are not) in a dull green husk. They are native to Mexico, but I have found them in markets as far south as Panama, and as far north as Montreal and the city of Quebec, which is as far north as I am inclined to travel. Tomatillos are widely available in Latin markets and most supermarkets in cities and towns with large Latin American populations. I do not know for sure if they would be available in places like Montana or North Dakota or Iowa or online.

Jalapeno peppers are better known than tomatillos and more readily available. There are a lot of different types of green peppers, but this is the right pepper for this salsa; use it.

Cilantro is a leafy green herb also known as coriander or Chinese parsley, and shows up in many Latin American and Asian dishes. It is sold in bunches.

Garlic and limes (Persian, not Key) are the remaining forms of plant life involved.

Step 3: Gathering Ingredients

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I was taught to use a ratio of 2 jalapenos to 3 tomatillos, so for this batch of salsa verde I gathered 12 tomatillos and 8 jalapenos. We will also need a few cloves of garlic (4 to 6, depending on sizes) about a half a bunch of cilantro, 2 limes, salt, and 4 or 5 ounces of tequila. I am using Sauza here, but this is NOT an advertisement! You can use whichever brand you most enjoy.

Step 4: Gathering Equipment

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You will need a pot suitable for boiling stuff, a cutting board, a sharp knife, a relatively large spoon, and a blender. And, of course, a stove. I usually play music while I cook, and when I make this, I frequently play my Santa Esmeralda Greatest Hits CD. This is optional, but the Instructable on Instructables says to tell a little bit about myself, so there it is.

Step 5: Preparing Ingredients

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Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash them. I use a little soap because there is a slightly sticky and invisible film between the husks and the skin, and anything that feels that yucky needs to go. Do not cut or puncture the tomatillos. Then cut the tops off the jalapenos, slit them in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. There is an Instructional on cleaning peppers, and also, some people wear rubber gloves when they clean them. But I just cut twice and scrape twice per pepper. I use a sharp knife, move along pretty fast, and rinse off my hands afterwards. Rinse off the knife too, and then cut one of the limes in half.

Step 6: Cooking the Ingredients

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Place the tomatillos and jalapenos in the pot, cover with water, and turn on the heat. Squeeze the lime into a "rocks" glass with a few ice cubes in it, and toss in about three jiggers of tequila. As the pot comes to a boil, sip the tequila. Do this for about 10 minutes, and at the conclusion of that time the tomatillos should be soft and a dull green color, and the tequila should be gone. You may think that the tequila consumption step is superfluous, but that is the way I was taught to do it, and if you elect to admit this step, you do so at your own risk.

Step 7: Uncooked Ingredients

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While you are cooking the tomatillos and jalapenos, and drinking the tequila, cut the stems off the (washed) cilantro, peel the skins off the garlic cloves and cut the remaining lime in half. It is advisable to do these cutting tasks while drinking only the first, or top, jigger or so from the "rocks" glass of tequila. Leave the salt right where it is for now.

Step 8: Retrieving the Cooked Ingredients

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Using the large spoon mentioned earlier, remove the tomatillos and jalapeno parts from the hot water. The tomatillos will be quite soft, so a spoon will be a better option than tongs. Lay the cooked ingredients out on a cutting board and let them cool just a bit (these were snapped right after I removed them and are still steaming). You can cut some of the larger tomatillos in half, but it is not absolutely necessary, since they will offer no resistance during the next step. Save the cooking water for the time being.

Step 9: Toss It in the Blender

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Throw in the tomatillos, jalapenos, cilantro and garlic first. I have done it here in two batches, throwing in about half of each ingredient, then blending, then throwing in the rest and blending. Mix it up fairly well, taste it, and add lime and salt to suit your taste. If it is too thick, add a little bit of the cooking liquid you saved from the previous step. It is unlikely that the salsa will ever be too thin; you want it to be viscous enough to stick to a chip.

Step 10: Store It in Glass

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This is the way the salsa was stored at the restaurant at which I learned this process, in empty glass tequila bottles, in the refrigerator. This is the same bottle featured in Step 6. I had one half of a lime leftover after adding lime and salt to taste, and rather than let it get dried out, I decided to soak it in another glass of tequila. I liberated the bottle, washed it out, and filled it with salsa. This is a 1.75 liter bottle, so the ingredients used in this batch produced just under a liter of salsa. It will keep nicely in glass, refrigerated, for about three days.

Step 11: Serve It With Chips

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Large corn tortilla chips work, and taste, best, and I prefer to serve the salsa slightly chilled, the way it was served when I first tasted it. But if you heat it up, it also makes an excellent green enchilada sauce; far better than anything that has ever been in a can.

Step 12: Better Yet, Serve It With Chips and a Friend

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If you are serving Salsa Verde as an appetizer, it is always nice to provide two choices. Pico de Gallo goes well with tortilla chips too, and everything on the plate goes great with a Mexican beer, especially a lager, in a chilled glass with a wedge of lime, assuming you, unlike me, still have any limes left.


angelmi (author)2008-12-12

Just made a couple of batches. Your recipe still works!

raccoon (author)angelmi2008-12-13

Glad it did =)

AzureEyes (author)2008-09-19

hi there! good instructable, love the cute pepper lights!

raccoon (author)AzureEyes2008-09-25

Thank you. It's best to separate pepper lights from the peppers in the salsa =).

I Am An Evil Taco (author)2008-06-17

Great work. Ever marinade chicken skewers in this stuff and grill them? Heaven on a stick, right there.

I have not tried this (I assume you mean marinating the chicken and skewers together, since the skewers have to be wet anyway) and could kick myself for not thinking of it. I make yaki torri pretty often using essentially the same method with a different marinade. Next time it's yaki torri verde!! All tacos are good.

Thanks for the tips, but I think pigs will fly before I lick the inside walls of the peppers (one by one). I have made this salsa using cherry tomatoes rather than tomatillos, and it turned out pretty tasty. You have to put the tomatoes in the hot water about half way through the time the the peppers are boiling. Of course, it tastes nothing like this salsa verde, but that might suit you just fine.

oncex (author)2008-06-04

I hate salsa verde because I don't like the taste of tomatillos but your salsa looks petty good (not that I'm willing to try it ;). I would like to suggest that you should lick the inside walls of the peppers (one by one) just to see how spicy they're... If they're are too spicy you might want to limit the amount of peppers you add. Tips: I usually buy shiny and smooth peppers (mild spicy) mixed with older, darker and stripped peppers (very spicy). Oh, tomatillos sometimes look ugly and as long as they're not saggy and feel firm you can use them. AND if you wear contact lenses DO NOT handle the peppers with your bare hands or you will cry later when you touch your eyes... use a fork and knife to cut them. Pico de Gallo: Tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, white onion, cilantro and some salt. AND if you add some chopped avocado you can have a type of guacamole that tastes petty good.

neubaten (author)2008-01-14

Im in New Zealand, we dont seem to have tomatillos, but you said its similar to goosebreeies, which we do have, could you use them as a substitute? this looks damn tasty....

raccoon (author)neubaten2008-01-14

I'll have to admit I've never had gooseberry on my shopping list, much less bought or tasted one. But if you can buy them, you might give it a try. They are supposed to be more tart than tomatillos, so you should go easy on the lime until you've had a taste. If you do this, please let me know how it turned out.

neubaten (author)neubaten2008-01-14

gooseBERRIES I mean...

raccoon (author)2007-10-10

Well, thank you very much! I do try to be entertaining, but I think "brilliant" might be a bit of a stretch. Still....if you say so. I'm not familiar with Peg, but will try to remember to check her out some time. I'm pretty much of an outdoors person and do most of my cooking on cold and/or rainy days (as was the case when I did each of these). I'm also much better with a knife than a camera, so the picture parts are a bit daunting. Maybe I'll try another one after the first hard freeze.

cloaked woodsman (author)2007-08-09

Excellent instructable Raccoon; both entertaining and educational! You're pretty much the Man. Just thought I'd let you know.

raccoon (author)cloaked woodsman2007-08-13

Thank you, cloaked. Actually, I'm pretty much a girl, but flattered nonetheless. Have you made either ?

cloaked woodsman (author)raccoon2007-08-13

Hey hey now; girls can be the man too. And seeing as you're a girl and still the man, you're even more the man in my book. If that makes any sense. Anyhow, It's been droughting pretty hard in Michigan this summer, and my tomatillos are not looking so very hot. I live in the middle of po-dunkia, so I'm a bit out of luck as far as obtaining some locally... However, I do have your instructable favorited and I will definitely see the recipe through to completion in the near future!

Blaine (author)2007-07-02

mmmm i made this today and its frikkin awesome. could be a bit hotter though so next time i might use a few more jalapenos or add a habanero maybe?

raccoon (author)Blaine2007-07-20

Hey...I accidentally deleted my comment to you last time I checked in...I was actually trying to ad a comment. Anyway, it's raining cats and dog right now so I've decided to do some cooking (to include some salsa) and wanted to pass on one more hint. If I follow my usual procedure, even with a hab, and it's not hot enough to suit me (because I like it, and everything else, very hot) I add a few dashes of El Yucateco Chili Habanero Salsa Picante Roja. You can add a little at a time until you get the sauce to suit you. Start slowly. It comes in a cute little 4 oz bottle; if you can find it, buy it. It can put blisters on a baseball.

James (pseudo-geek) (author)2007-07-20

I've made this before (withuot the beer or limes) and I can tell you its GREAT. best salsa you'll ever eat.

Blaine (author)2007-07-03

aright kool thanks. yeah im makin more tonite for the 4th of july tomorrow and i wanted it spicier. again, gracias lol

stefers (author)2007-06-27

Tomatillos can be found in Iowa and the Dakotas. There are many cities with large hispanic populations.

raccoon (author)stefers2007-06-28

So much the better. I just don't know that much about that part of the country...and it's a cinch you'd know more about Iowa than I do. Thanks for the comment.

sonofabum (author)2007-03-26

your instructible was as informative as it was entertaining. I tried you recipe but somewhere along the line it came out incredibly sour. It tasted almost like someone snuck a whole lemon into the mix even though i dilibrately left out the lime. I love salsa verde though this was my first attempt to make it. I was wondering if this ever happened in your expiriments with this?

raccoon (author)sonofabum2007-03-28

Did you skip the tequilla step, by any chance? For what it's worth, I have never skipped it, and have never had this happen. Another possibility: the tomitillo can sometimes be somewhat tart (being, as it is, a kin to the gooseberry, which is always tart) and you may have incorporated more than a few tart ones (there is no way to know in advance) in the batch you cooked. Try to pick firm tomatillos, preferably still in the husk, and make sure you cook them for a full ten minutes. I have never added sugar, and never will. Olive oil would be, in my opinion, a bit over powering, but a little canola oil might very well smooth it out.

daishi (author)sonofabum2007-03-27

I've seen a few recipes out there where a few pinches of sugar are added. Some people throw in a little bit of olive oil as well. I've tried it both ways, I like the olive oil although a little bit goes a long way, the sugar just didn't do it for me. But, either of these should smooth out the flavor for you a bit.

lemonie (author)2007-03-08

can you suggest a substitute for tomatillo (I cannot source these)? L

raccoon (author)lemonie2007-03-08

lemonie - I am afraid the only suitable fresh substitute would be the gooseberry, but if you can not find tomatillos wherever you are, gooseberries would likewise be out of the question. I have, on occasion, used canned tomatillos. EMBASA and LA COSTENA brands are pretty good, and if you use canned, you simply add them to the other cooked and fresh ingredients right from the cooking required. If you can not find the canned variety wherever you live, try which carries both brands. And, if you can source the other ingredients and tomatoes, I hope to post a Pico de Gallo instructable shortly. It is easier to make and just as good with chips and beer, and tomatillos are not required. Hope this helps.

ninjaman (author)raccoon2007-03-26

I LOVE Salsa Verde. I had to make it for a party once, but I think I'll try this nethod someday. Oh yeah... what exactly does a gooseberry look like? I just want to knoow for future reference.

raccoon (author)ninjaman2007-03-28

The gooseberry is smaller than a tomatillo (about the same size as a cherry tomato) and has several light colored lines just under the skin. There is no husk, and you should never bite a raw one. I do not know how to attach an image to a reply, or for that matter, if it can be done. But you can see a picture of a gooseberry, or more accurately, several gooseberries at Wikipedia

Run N Gun (author)2007-02-22

I am speechless. I just made your salsa verde and it was delicious! I really love it. I made a huge batch and I think I will have a party using it as an appetizer/snack. Oh my gosh, I think I'll have some now. MMM,mmm,mmm!

Run N Gun (author)2007-02-21

Wow, definently well documented. I saw the Instructable on making an Instructable also. I thought it was too much work and pointless. But you have definently changed my point of view. I am going to start making my Instructables as well documented as yours. Also, the salsa looks muy bien! I think that I will try and make it. I just got some proffesional knives too for my mom's present (christmas). Sounds like fun, and sound like some good eatin'. Oh yeah, would be able to make an Instructable on how to make Pico de Gallo? =)

raccoon (author)Run N Gun2007-02-22

OK, Run. The next time I make Pico I'll take a few pictures and whip up an Instructable. Pico is much easier to make (no cooking; the tequilla step can occur at any time). An Instructable should not be too hard to put together, now that I have a little better understanding of how to do one.

canida (author)2007-02-15

That looks great! I've never made salsa verde before, but we'll certainly try it now. A fantastically well-documented first Instructable - thanks for posting! Interestingly enough, we seem to have the same taste in tablecloths and cutlery.

raccoon (author)canida2007-02-16

Thank you; glad you liked it. I have never put together anything like this before, but the Instructable on Instructables was helpful, and I will freely admit that I studied a few of your Instructables closely before starting. Your other observation is accurate as well. I used a Henckels 6 inch Chef this time. I, too, rely upon my Wusthof Classic 3 inch paring knife several times a day, but never on peppers. I do not recall where I got the tablecloth.

ewilhelm (author)raccoon2007-02-16

That's great that you found the how to make an Instructable Instructable useful. You did a great job!

supes (author)2007-02-16

Great job. Well documented. I will definitely try this one day.

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More by raccoon:How to Make a semi-authentic Pico de Gallo to Serve with a semi-authentic Salsa VerdeHow to Make, Serve and Store a semi-authentic Salsa Verde
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