Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Sep 19, 2008 09:49 AM

Chili Verde, Tomatillos or not

Thoughts on the preference of tomatillos in chili verde or straight up chilis only. What is more authentic? What is preferred?

I've seen several chili verde recipes in the internet that look delicious. Some call for tomatillos and some just call for chilis only. I've tried a recipe that called for tomatillos and it turned out great but was pretty sour so I balanced it out with a little sugar.

Just curious on what others think?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I am by no means an expert and I plead ignorance right from the git go...
    First I think if its a matter of making it for tastes sake, then use whatever you like to get whatever results you're looking for.

    However, for authenticity sake, I am guessing that chili verde contains no tomatillos. However, salsa verde many times has tomatillos - but thats just a gringo's take on it.

    I'll look forward to what the experts have to say ;/)

    1 Reply
    1. re: porker

      I couldn't agree with you more. Purist or not, you have to make what you like. I don't know if the original chili verde contained tomatillos or not but they are my best friend. As you said, the tomatillo makes awesome salsa. Won't go back to red nor ever use a store bought salsa again. It's just wrong. lol
      P.S.- Tomorrow, it's chicken enchilada casserole...salsa verde style, of course! :-)

    2. When I make a pork stew using tomatillos I often add a small piloncillo (raw brown sugar) cone. As you say, this balances out the sour. I also use a light touch with spices like cloves. But I draw more inspiration for this from the Andean 'seco de chivo' (goat stew) than from a competition chili verde.

      Do you have a New Mexico, Colorado, or Mexican 'verde' in mind? As with the red chili there are purists who only use the New Mexican green chiles. There is a Mexican salsa verde which uses tomatillos. I'm not sure if there is a Mexican pork stew that uses them.

      2 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        In Chihuahua they do a Chile Verde Pork Stew that features Chilacas (no tomatillas)... as well as a version with Serranos & Tomatillos.

        As you go further south in Mexico, the name "Chile Verde" disappears (although it is used in Michoacan)... and is replaced with Calidillo Verde, Mole de Olla Verde or Salsa Verde.... usually its more of a Braise with a thich sauce as oppossed to the thinner stews up North.

        There is deliciousness in all styles... but when I make it... I tend to either do it Central Mexican (Ribs instead of Stew Meat, Tomatillo-Serrano for the sauce + greens like Verdolagas or Quelites etc.,) or Eastern Mexican (Ribs, Espinazo & Pork Leg in a Tomatillo-Jalapeno-Hoja Santa sauce with sliced Chayotes).

        1. re: paulj

          I have on hand - poblanos, fresh Hatch green chilis, Anehiem chilis and tomatillos and was thinking about leaving out the tomatillos. Can't decide what recipe to use.

        2. I make chile verde tamales every year and I've never used tomatillos. To complicate things: I do use a tomato or two in my chile verde, but never tomatillos.

          1. This is a great topic on the variations of chile stew, which obviously are both regional traditions and The Way Your Mom Made It.

            The chile verde recipes from New Mexico that I've seen over the years usually contain a modest amount of tomato; the availability and use of tomatillo seems to be a recent development. Dave Dewitts site is a good place to start for recipes:

            Chile stew using green New Mexico chiles has to be a recent variation because the New Mexico chile family is an early 20th century development at NMSU. See the NM chile cultivar history here:

            If you really want to see the incredible variations in chile around the world, check this database out:

            Now, if local markets only cared more about Mexican herbs like hoja santa I'd try that eastern Mexican stew in a flash. Buen provecho!

            EDIT: fixed chile database link.
            BTW has anyone seen a recipe using the now endangered chile chamayo, likely one of the ancestors of the NM chile.

            6 Replies
            1. re: DiveFan

              Hey DF, that last site doesn't seem to work...

              BTW, like the avatar.

              1. re: DiveFan

                Forgot to mention, I prefer the NM style chile verde con puerco made with a modest amount of tomatillos instead of tomato. Canned tomatillos have been available in Cali since the 1960's. Perhaps this is a Colorado or California style??

                I don't consider tomatillos 'sour' or even that tart, especially in a cooked dish. The acid does balance the fat from the pork and improves the stew/sauce.

                1. re: DiveFan

                  Hmmm, I wonder why my original stew was a bit tart. I didn't roat them before I put them in the stew. It did turn out delicious anyways. Just not what I was expecting. Thanks for all the info. Very informative feedback.

                  1. re: foodiefromfl

                    The tartness of tomatillos depends on their level of ripeness. The riper they are, the sweeter they will be. As they ripen they also turn more yellowish in color.

                    I recently made a chile verde with tomatillos and it was a bit too tart. There was also poblanos, onions, garlic and pork in the recipe. I added some ground cumin, which gave it an earthiness that contrasted the tartness well. This is probably non-authentic, but it tasted good to me!

                2. re: DiveFan

                  Re: Hoja Santa... you should try to grow it yourself it is a very generous herb.. some would even consider it an invasive. If not then just try useing Fennel Tops & Anise seed as a substitute.. you will still get a great (if slightly different) result.

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    Will look for the herb.....Sounds interesting!

                3. Tomatillos - si!

                  Posole may have some red tomato in it, but Chile Verde normally has only green chiles, tomatillos and spices. Of course YMMV and a zillion regional variants exist...