Small, round fruits encased in a delicate, papery husk, tomatillos can ripen to various colors, from yellow to red and even purple. But they’re most flavorful if harvested just before ripening, when they’re vibrant green. Indigenous to Mexico and Central America, tomatillos (“little tomatoes” in Spanish) are also known as husk tomatoes or tomates verdes (green tomatoes). This distant relative of the tomato is a staple of Mexican cooking, lending a tart, zesty flavor to sauces and salsas. Previously available only in Latin-American markets, tomatillos are now popping up in grocery stores across the country.
It’s hard to resist their tangy, almost citrusy flavor, which turns slightly sweet with cooking. Tomatillos are a perfect match for chile peppers, onions, and cilantro, all of which are key ingredients in salsa verde, a popular Mexican sauce for grilled meats and fish. Tomatillos are also good with avocados, corn, lime, and scallions in salads or sauces to serve with seafood or grilled meat.
Look for firm fruits without blemishes and with their papery husks firmly attached. When fresh, tomatillos are a vibrant green color. Don’t buy ones that have turned a yellowish green, as they’re past their prime.
To prep tomatillos, peel the husk and rinse off the sticky residue it leaves behind. You don’t need to remove the seeds. If eaten raw, tomatillos can be a little acidic and sharp-tasting. When cooked, their flavor tends to mellow, letting their sweeter side shine. Toss raw chopped tomatillos in salads, or roast or grill them whole and add them to salsas and dips. You can also cut them into wedges before stirring into stews and braises, or sauté them in small chunks and add them to omelets or scrambled eggs.
Store tomatillos with their husks on in a paper bag and refrigerate for up to a week.