Tomatillos are those little green veggies that look like tomatoes but have some special characteristics all their own. You might use them in salsa or pico de gallo as a replacement for tomatoes, and they work well in sauces and garnishes too.
The taste is similar to tomatoes as well, with a sweet but slightly acidic flavour to them that makes them great for adding some depth of taste to your dishes. There are lots of traditional ways to use tomatillos, but you may find some unconventional uses as well once you get used to how they taste and their texture.
Did you know that tomatillos are not always green? They can be purple or yellow as well. All of the colours taste pretty much the same but may have a slightly different hardness to them.
To pick the best tomatillos, make sure the husk or outer, papery shell is still intact. The husk can be open a little and some of the tomatillo can be poking out of the bottom and the tomatillo will still be fine, but the husk should be mostly intact. That husk provides protection for the veggie, ensuring it stays fresh and isn’t damaged.
How do you tell if a tomatillo is ready to eat and is still fresh? It should be firm when you give it a little squeeze, but not necessarily as hard as a rock. If it is squishy when you squeeze it slightly, then it is overripe and not very good to eat. Be sure to take off the husk when you are ready to cook the tomatillos or eat them. You can leave the husks on until that point, though.
If you are trying to pick out fresh, ripe tomatillos, then the colour will give you slightly different things to look for. Each colour has its own characteristics. The green tomatillos should be dark green, and there should be no lighter areas or patchy-looking spots.
The purple ones should be firm and have a marbled quality to them. Once the husk has been taken off the purple ones, they become darker and darker.
For the yellow tomatillos, you will notice that they start out as green and then slowly turn more yellow in time.
What to do with tomatillos? If you aren’t very familiar with this veggie, then you might not have any idea. We have a few great ideas you might want to try, though.
If you have never fried up tomatoes and had them this way, then you are missing out. You can do the same thing with tomatillos. Just fry them in a small amount of oil in a skillet, and any kind of oil will do. You don’t need much oil- you’re not trying to deep fry them.
Fried tomatillos make a great addition to Chinese stir fry, and you can add them to sandwiches, soups and garnishes or just have them on their own as a side dish. To enhance the flavour of fried tomatillos, you can add a little salt and pepper, garlic salt, or soy sauce. They only need to be fried for a short while, just until they start to get soft.
Use as a Garnish
What to do with canned tomatillos that are already chopped? These make for a great garnish on salads, soups, beans, mashed potatoes, and just about any Latino dish. The zingy, slightly acidic flavour and subtle sweetness will add some flavour to your dish and help you to not need to use as many spices.
We love the notion of using fresh or canned vegetables instead of dried herbs to spice up a dish. Tomatillos are a perfect candidate for that kind of cooking, as they are small and flavourful. Best of all, they add some colour to your dish, which can enhance the dining experience more than most people realise.
Eat Them Fresh
There is something to be said for eating raw tomatillos, and you get to enjoy the more acidic side of these veggies. If you cook them, they become sweeter, so if you are ready to try a different flavour, try eating them raw. Just wash them and cut the tomatillo into bite-size pieces or eat it whole.
Raw tomatillos can be used as a garnish, if you like, and they are excellent in chow-chow. How do you make chow-chow? Just slice your tomatillos and add salt pepper and pepper sauce. You can let the veggies soak in a small pool of the seasonings for an hour or so to marinate it or eat it as soon as you throw everything together.
Chow-chow can also be made with pineapple, mango, cucumber and other fruits and veggies.
Make a Salsa
Probably the most popular way to use tomatillos is to dice them and turn them into a salsa. Mix them with tomatoes, if you like, and add bell peppers, onions, cloves, garlic, and cilantro for a tasty dish. Making it on your own from scratch with fresh ingredients is so rewarding, and you can ensure that you get the thickness just right. To make this into a thick, heavy salsa, just pulp some of the ingredients and mix them in with the rest.
You can control the heat of your salsa when you make it yourself, adding spicy peppers or hot sauce as you like. To dilute the salsa a bit, just add some water, and if you want more salsa but don’t want to make the flavour any stronger, you can add in extra tomatoes or tomatillos.
Make a Soup
You like tomato soup, right? Well, tomatillo soup is every bit as good but it will give you a different flavour for the soup when you use tomatillos rather than tomatoes. You can puree the tomatillos and add some spices and garnish for a very simple soup, or you can add in some onion, green peppers, potatoes, and even pasta to your soup to give it some texture and make it more filling.
If you would like to have a little meat in your soup, you can go with something as simple as bacon bits on top or mix in some slices of spicy sausage, pork, or ham. If you want to take way some of the acidic flavour of the tomatillos, you can use strips of chicken or beef to absorb the acidity and make the soup a little subtler.
Mix Them in a Smoothie
What to do with tomatillos besides salsa? There is so much you can do, and we have given you a few suggestions already that may inspire you how to use them. However, one of our favourite ways to put tomatillos to use is to blend them into a smoothie.
The acidic, almost tart flavour is a good counterpoint to something sweet, so try mixing them into your mango or pineapple smoothie. If you have some tomatillo in your smoothie, we think a good addition for flavouring would be to add cilantro and jalapeno and then use fruit juice as a base.
Have you been passing tomatillos by when you go shopping for produce because you have no idea what to do with fresh tomatillos? There is no need to keep avoiding this vegetable in the market once you have a few ideas about how to prepare it and which dishes it goes best with.