Tomatillo Salsa Recipe | Grilling

Tomatillos on the grill, and a bowl of grilled tomatillo salsa.

With the amount of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes I've served up here, it should come as no surprise that Cinco de Mayo is probably my favorite cooking holiday. I start trying out party menu items weeks in advance, taking every opportunity to whip up some fine Mexican foods. Of course no Cinco de Mayo affair would be complete without salsa, and my current favorite is Rick Bayless's roasted tomatillo salsa.

Although the original recipe has the tomatillos cooked stovetop in a skillet, it's easily adaptable to the grill, and I actually find it cleaner and easier to make this over the flames. I grill tomatillo halves until they're completely soft, then pulse them together with some garlic, chiles, cilantro, and water. After adding in chopped onion, I adjust the seasoning with sugar and salt, and so quickly a beautiful and fresh salsa with a complex mix of tart, sweet, and spicy is ready to go. I always make a double recipe of this, because I usually finish a single myself before anyone else even gets a chance at it.

Adapted from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless.


  • 8 ounces husked, rinsed, and halved tomatillos
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 jalapeño or 2 serrano chiles, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Sugar
  • Salt


  1. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals out evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and lightly oil the cooking grate. Place tomatillo halves on the grill, cut side down. Grill until browned and they begin to soften. Flip and continue to cook until completely softened. Remove the tomatillos to the work bowl of a blender or food processor. Let cool to room temperature.

  2. Add garlic, chiles, cilantro, and 1/4 cup of water to the bowl and pulse until coarsely pureed. Pour salsa into a small dish and stir in the onion. Thin the salsa out with more water if necessary. Taste and add sugar to if the salsa is too tart. Season with salt to taste.