Chicken Stew with Tomatillo Sauce

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

Tomatillos are those green “tomatoes” with the papery skin you often see near the chili peppers in the produce section at the grocery store. They have a bright, tart flavor and form the foundation of many Mexican sauces.

This easy stovetop chicken stew with corn and potatoes uses just such a sauce. It’s a perfect meal for right now – all the fresh flavors of summer, but so warming on a crisp fall day.

Tomatillo Chicken Stew with Potatoes and CornDon’t balk at making your own sauce for this recipe; it’s a matter of about 15 minutes.

First, remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinsed off the sticky sap. Then pop them briefly under the broiler with a poblano pepper or two and some garlic for company. Whiz in a blender and you’re done.

By the way, poblanos are generally fairly mild, but every once in a while along comes a fiery one, so snip a piece off and taste it if you are worried about the heat factor.

Tomatillo Chicken Stew with Potatoes and CornOnce you have finished making the sauce, you’re practically home free. Brown the chicken on one side to crisp the skin. If you can still find corn on the cob this late in the season, just cook it briefly in the microwave while you start the peppers and potatoes on the stovetop. If fresh corn isn’t available, frozen corn makes a fine substitute.

When you assemble the stew, make sure the chicken is about halfway submerged in the sauce. This keeps the skin nice and crisp while the meat stays moist and cooks through.

Chicken Stew with Tomatillo Sauce Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings


For the tomatillo sauce:

  • 12 tomatillos (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 large or 2 small poblano chiles
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 large white onion, sliced
  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • Salt to taste

For the chicken:

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 medium ears of corn, or about 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound small creamer potatoes (small Yukon gold or red potatoes), halved
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup or more water
  • Cilantro, for garnish
  • 1 lime, quartered, for garnish
  • Tortillas or rice, for serving

Special Equipment:


1 Turn on the broiler: Set an oven rack about 4 inches from the broiler element. Turn on the broiler.

2 Broil the tomatillos, poblano chile(s), and garlic: Remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse them under cool running water to remove the sticky residue. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet, then place the tomatillos, chile(s), and garlic on top. Broil for 4 to 5 minutes on a side, or until the skins are splotchy with black spots and the tomatoes are soft. Cool briefly.

Tomatillo Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Corn

3 Make the sauce: Scrape away any loose blackened skin from the chile(s). (Don’t worry if you can’t scrape off all of it.) Cut in half and remove the seeds. Combine the broiled tomatillos, chiles, garlic, onion, cilantro, salt, and the accumulated juices from the baking sheet in a blender. Pulse until you obtain a coarse puree. Set aside. (Sauce can also be prepared a few days ahead and kept refrigerated.)

Tomatillo Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Corn

4 Prepare the chicken and corn: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Sprinkle the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. If using corn on the cob, microwave the corn in their husks for 5 minutes at full power (see the video). Set aside to cool. Peel away the husks and silk. With a sharp knife, remove the kernels.

5 Brown the chicken: In a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the chicken thighs with the skin side down. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown and crisp. Transfer to a plate.

6 Begin cooking the peppers and potatoes: Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the pan. Return the pan to the heat and add the potatoes, peppers, and 1/4 cup of the water. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until the potatoes are almost tender. If the vegetables start to stick to the bottom of the pan, add more water, 2 tablespoons at a time.

7 Add the sauce and chicken to the pan: Stir the tomatillo sauce, fresh or frozen corn, and stock into the skillet. (If you're using fresh corn, you can reserve some of it for garnish, if you like!) Bring to a simmer and taste. Add more salt and pepper, if you like. Nestle the chicken into the skillet with the skin side up. The chicken should be partially submerged, with the skin rising above the sauce.


8 Bake the chicken: Bake for 20 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers 165F. Remove from the oven.

9 To serve: Spoon the vegetables and sauce into 4 shallow bowls and top each with 2 chicken thighs. Sprinkle with cilantro. Garnish with lime wedges and serve with rice or tortillas, if you like.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of two cookbooks (Food for Friends and The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

More from Sally

Tomatillo Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Corn


  1. Jeff

    I cheated and used a store bought tomatillo salsa. Also used a whole broken down chicken. Result? Insanely tasty. Felt light yet had so much flavor. Thank you!

  2. Mary Pisarkiewicz

    this is amazing! stew season is around here too!

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