Tomatillo Sauce

This smooth, tangy sauce is great with tortillas, polenta, and just about any dish made with corn.  The tart taste of the tomatillos mellows as they simmer with onions, green pepper, and chilies.  For a hotter sauce, add another jalapeno or serrano chili, or try a smoky, dark green poblano. You can make the sauce a few hours ahead of time, but no earlier or it will lose its fresh, clean flavor.  We serve it with enchiladas and Masa Harina Crepes with Summer Vegetables, Chilies, and Cheddar or Roasted Winter Vegetable Enchiladas.

Makes about 2½ cups

½ tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
½ medium yellow onion, chopped, about ¾ cup
Cayenne pepper
½ medium green pepper, coarsely chopped, about ½ cup
1 or 2 jalapeno or serrano chilies, seeded and chopped
1 pound tomatillos, husked and chopped
Sugar (optional)

Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan and add the onions, ½ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of cayenne.  Cook over medium heat until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add the pepper and chili and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatillos, cover the pan, and cook over medium-low heat until the tomatillos break down and release their juices, 15 to 20 minutes.  Puree in a blender until smooth.  Adjust the seasoning with salt, cayenne, and a pinch or two of sugar, if needed, to round out the flavor.


Soak the tomatillos in a bowl of warm water before you husk them.  The warm water will soften the husks and loosen them from the sticky skin of the tomatillos.  Peel them a day ahead if you like.

The ripeness of the tomatillos makes all the difference in the flavor of the sauce.  Sometimes you can find really ripe ones in the market; they take on a yellowish color and there’s a wonderful lingering taste that’s just like bananas.  If the sauce is sharp, add a spoonful of crème fraiche to smooth the flavors.