Tomatillo Chicken Stew

Spicy Chicken Stew with Tomatillos! Also jalapeños, onions, garlic, cumin, oregano, and cilantro.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

September is tomatillo season around here. Little green lanterns hang from our tomatillo plants like ornaments on a well decorated Xmas tree.

Do you ever cook with tomatillos? They look like smallish green tomatoes, and are even called “tomate verde” in Mexico, and are used for making salsa verde and chile verde.

Tomatillos are typically boiled with some chiles to make the green salsa, but roasting them, as I’ve done in this recipe, will bring out more flavor.

If you don’t have access to fresh tomatillos, you can use canned salsa verde for the sauce (sort of like using canned tomatoes versus fresh).

Tomatillos

I experimented with the jalapeños; it’s so easy to misjudge how much heat you’ll need. The first time I made this I carefully seeded one chile and the result was that I couldn’t even taste the heat or the chile. The second time I used two jalapeños and kept all the seeds.

Woo boy, big difference.

It was perfectly hot for my father, and I needed a little sour cream to cool it down enough for me. Now both of the chiles were from our garden, and were not overly picante.

If you are working with chiles with lots of striations, check the hotness first. If a tiny bite sets you running for a fire extinguisher, don’t use as much.

Tomatillo Chicken Stew Recipe

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  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

You can make this recipe with fresh tomatillos, or you can use canned chile verde tomatillo salsa as a substitute for the tomatillo sauce.

Ingredients

Tomatillo Sauce

  • 1 1/2 lbs tomatillos
  • 1-2 jalapeño chile peppers, or 2-3 serrano chili peppers (include the seeds if you want the heat, remove them if you don't want the heat), stems discarded, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tbsp lime (or lemon) juice
  • Pinch of sugar

Stew

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cups tomatillo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped
  • 1/2 cup packed chopped cilantro (about one bunch, rinsed and chopped, stems and leaves)

Method

1 Make the tomatillo sauce: Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos and rinse well. Cut the tomatillos in half and place them cut-side down on an aluminum foil-lined roasting pan.

Broil for 5-7 minutes until blackened in spots. Let cool enough to handle.

tomatillo-chicken-stew-method-1 tomatillo-chicken-stew-method-2

Place the tomatillos, any juice they have released, chile peppers, garlic, salt, lime juice and sugar in a blender, and pulse until well blended. If you make ahead, refrigerate until needed.

2 Brown the chicken: Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot on medium high heat until almost smoking. Pat dry the cubed chicken parts with paper towels. Sprinkle salt and pepper over them.

Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, and adding more olive oil when necessary, brown the chicken pieces on two sides.

When you place the pieces in the pan, make sure there is room between them (otherwise they will steam and not brown), and don't move them until they are browned on one side.

Then use tongs or a metal spatula to turn them over and don't move them again until they are browned on the other side. Do not cook through, but only brown.

Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and lower the heat to medium. There should be a nice layer of browned bits (fond) at the bottom of the pan.

3 Cook the onions, add cumin and coriander, add garlic: Add the onions to the pan, and a tablespoon or two more olive oil if needed (likely).

Add ground cumin and coriander. Cook a few minutes, stirring occasionally until onions are softened and the browned bits from the chicken have been picked up by the onions and are no longer sticking to the pan.

Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, until fragrant.

4 Add the browned chicken, the tomatillo sauce, chicken stock, and oregano to the pan. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

Cook, partially covered, for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Add the cilantro to the stew in the last minute or so of cooking.

Serve over white rice, accompanied with sour cream if needed to offset the heat from the chiles. The stew will thicken as it cools.

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Recipe inspired by a recipe in Eugenia Bone's Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods.

Links:

Pepian Guatemalan Chicken Stew (with Tomatillos) from At The Farmers' Market

Tomatillo Chicken Stew

Showing 4 of 50 Comments

  • Julie

    We had this tonight and it was excellent! I had searched for a “Tomatillo recipe” as my neighbor had given us a bunch and I needed to figure out what to do with it. We used whatever pepper we were given as well which didn’t have much heat, but was perfect for my family and kids. We will make this again!

  • Poppy

    Made this for dinner and my kids loved it. It was absolutely delicious. So delicious, I had to share with my neighbor who loves food like me. I used to hate to cook but your recipes that I’ve tried are easy to follow and full of flavor. I enjoy cooking now…most of the time!

  • Jeanne Marie

    Made your recipe last – it was excellent! My mom and my husband (both with very different taste) loved this dish. I literally had the last 20 oz of fresh tomatillos from our garden and Mexican oregano we grow, plus some Siciliano garlic that is supposed to be perfect for salsas and pestos (also from our garden), and one last jalepeno – I did double the amount of garlic though, because I love garlic. I made two other very slight changes as I went along – I heavily sprinkled the chicken with Epazote before browning, and I used homemade chicken stock increasing the amount to 2 1/2 cups. We were looking for more sauce, and it was great. What a fabulous dish!

    This recipe is definitely a keeper. It was not difficult, everyone liked it, and it was delicious. With the extra sauce, we served it more like a soup. Then we cooked up some Arepas de Queso with it to use as a dipping bread. I had made some masarepa and had just enough to do a batch of these.

  • Radhika

    Just made this tonight and it’s absolutely delicious!! I added more jalapeños (love spice) and used roasted tomatillo sauce from Whole Foods. Still great! Looking forward to trying this with fresh tomatillos during the season.

  • Judith

    Sub tofu and veg stock for chicken and this makes an amazing veg/vegan dish.

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