Tomatillo Chicken Stew

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).

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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

  • 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

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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. 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.

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2 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 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.

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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

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46 Comments

  1. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    If you added a bit more chicken stock, you could cook the rice in with the stew, making it more of a casserole dish. I love tomatillos, but seldom find them at farmstands here in Rhode Island, so I often ask friends with vegetable gardens to grow some for me.

  2. Jennifer Miller

    I have some Chile Verde in my crock pot as we speak. However, it’s too hot to use the oven and I have two small boys that don’t allow me to work in the kitchen for too long. So, I use canned tomatillos, this allows me to make a sauce without roasting/peeling husks. Works great!

  3. annie

    This not only looks delicious, but pretty darned healthy. I’m wondering whether it would be good over quinoa instead of white rice, which now permanently removed from our dance card. It can’t be too bad to pair the “grain of the Aztecs” with a Mexican dish, right?

    I bet this would be great with quinoa. ~Elise

  4. Tom

    This makes me very mad. :) I made up a recipe and this is almost identical. Do you have access to my computer? It is an amazing tasting dish. I usually brown the chicken (or a turkey breast) and then cook it in the juice in the oven.

    I’m thinking about maybe some dumplings in it.

  5. Beth

    Hi Elise, how much salsa verde would I use in place of the tomatillos. Not the easiest thing to find in Cinti.

    2 cups. 16 fluid ounces. ~Elise

  6. Betsy

    I am drooling over this. But I’m confused, how much Tomatillo sauce does it make? The stew then calls for 2 cups of it. Is that all there is? I may make this on the weekend.

    The tomatillo sauce recipe makes 2 cups of the sauce, which is all you need for the stew recipe. ~Elise

  7. Charlene

    This was dinner tonight along with your Sonoran quesadillas. Very good! Wonderful flavor and the chicken (thighs) were very tender. Thanks, Elise!

  8. Alex

    I made this tonight and it was simple, easy, and quite good. However, I felt like it was lacking a little bit…of substance or something along those lines. But, it was still good and will be made again!

  9. Tina

    Do you think this is a recipe that can be translated to a slow cooker? I’m looking for a non-usual tasting chicken stew recipe I can throw into the throw cooker before I head off to work.

    No, the chicken cooks very quickly. This recipe isn’t a slow braise and wouldn’t be the best candidate for a slow cooker. You might try the chile verde recipe though, with pork shoulder, which needs several hours of slow cooking. ~Elise

  10. Amy

    Hi Elise, this looks fabulous. I am wondering where you get your tomatillos? I have found them at one of the supermarkets here in Amador county, wondering if you have a better source? (I get down your way about once a month)
    Thanks for all your yummy goodness!

    Hi Amy, we grow our own, and I’ve found plenty of them at our local Raley’s and Whole Foods. ~Elise

  11. Becca

    I’ve been dying to try this ever since you posted it, and last night was the night. Our tomatillos didn’t do so well this year, so I used half tomatillos and half green tomatoes. And I didn’t have any peppers on hand, so I used red pepper flakes. I used brown rice, and I made the Sonoran quesadillas that someone recommended. They were the perfect complement. My family went crazy over the stew … even my kids who took one look at the color and said, “eew!” but then tried it and LOVED it! Elise, I check your blog regularly and I use many of your recipes on a regular basis! Thanks for such a fantastic site!!!

  12. Jessica

    I have eaten them, but I have never cooked with tomatillos before. I made this recipe last night and enjoyed it. I went on the conservative side with my jalepenos and got just the right amount of heat for my tastes. Thanks, Elise!

  13. Debi (Table Talk)

    I absolutely love the flavor of tomatillos…this is another great weeknight meal the whole family will enjoy.
    The blue bowl in this photo was such a nice choice against the against the colors in the stew.
    –I’m a “dunker” when it comes to soups and stews—a few crispy torilla strips on top would do the trick for me.

  14. Del

    Wonderful Dish! We made this dish a few days ago. We didn’t have any cubed chicken so we substituted lamb instead. It was amazing. Thanks!

  15. gina

    One word…DELIciOUS! I made it today. Its colorful, hearty and good for you. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Diane

    This looks wonderful & I can’t wait to try it! Soon. The weather just turned cool & this looks like some fall comfort food. My husband often roasts peppers & I wonder if we can roast the jalepenos for the recipe, we have lots from the garden. mmmmmmm :)

    Sure, why not? They end up getting cooked anyway. ~Elise

  17. Olivia

    I made this tonight, and mm-boy, it’s good. The coriander and lime really adds a nice touch. Thanks for sharing your family recipes with all of us!

  18. Dennis

    Your websites has some very ineresting recipes. The only problem that I see sometimes is when recipes call for onions no one indicates what size. Onions come in some many different sizes and I wish someone would start indicating either the size of the onions or how many cups. I almost ruined my Chili Verde recipe from your website.

    THX – CD

    Hi Dennis, I think people usually don’t mention the cups or the size because onions are for the most part pretty forgiving in recipes, especially if you cook them enough so that they have sufficiently softened, or better yet caramelized. If a recipe doesn’t indicate size, you can safely assume that the recipe author means a “medium” sized onion. Around here, that would produce a cup to a cup and a half of chopped onion. ~Elise

  19. nikkipolani

    Elise, this was fantastic! The weather had finally cooled here in So Cal and I enjoyed the heat of this hearty stew. I added more chicken broth and served it with corn tortillas (rather than serve over rice). Avocados made a nice accompaniment. Thanks for the post.

  20. Kristi

    I made this for the first time yesterday, and it was very easy to do.

    All my friends who tried it were amazed that I could make something restaurant-quality.

    This is totally tasty, warm, and filling… definitely will be my #1 pick for a potluck dish or family dinner.

  21. Anne

    It’s supposed to rain today and tomorrow, so I made this soup to comfort me through the storm. I wanted to note that this is a great recipe to use when cleaning out the produce bin. I tossed a few “aged” tomatoes, sliced and de-seeded, into the roasting pan with the tomatillos, along with a couple of our more questionable onions (diced). The smell was magnificent and added a red tint to things. My salsa ended up on the “sweeter” side of things but still quite yummy! LOL Also added diced carrots into the stew, along with anything else that looked like it needed to be cooked this week. Nothing goes to waste in my house! Extra filling and perfect for a cold, rainy day…..

  22. Elaine

    Made this for dinner on Sunday using Trader Joes salsa verde. Everyone loved it and it will become a regular part of our dinners. Thanks for all of your great recipes, Elise!

  23. Jeannie

    This is a great recipe. I made a version of this soup last night wherein I substited crab and corn for chicken. It was great garnished with tomatoes and 0% Greek Yogurt and eaten with corn tortillas!

  24. David

    If people get worried about the heat of a jalapeno which can go from sort of hot to very hot pepper by pepper.

    I highly suggest using 1-2 Poblano peppers in such a dish when that many jalapenos are called for. However to keep any surprise heat down, just cut them in half, remove seeds and ribs (ribs = most heat in peppers, then seeds).

    Also highly suggest that you broil or roast them with your tomatillos at the same time. Just slightly oil the skin of the cut in half peppers. Place cut side down in same tray with them. Removing any charred skin is optional. Much better taste though and the heat level is very safe.

  25. Karen

    Finally got to making this, and it was really worth the wait! The kids loved it, which is always a bonus. That tomatillo sauce was da bomb. I actually added even more to my serving. It reminds me of that tangy green tabasco sauce I love, only with a much fresher flavor. I had extra that I’m keeping in the refrigerator to serve with some flank steak I’m grilling up this week. If it lasts that long. I’ve been sneaking some to dip tortilla chips in. ;)

  26. Hillary

    Whoa! This was SO good. We had it for dinner tonight and both my kids ate their hearts out. Instead of having it over rice, we ate it with corn tortillas (we’re in Mexico and tortillas are abundant, cheap, and seemed like a good pairing).

    I don’t have a broiler on my oven here, so I roasted the tomatillos at high temp. They browned (did not blacken) but tasted great none the less. This will be a welcomed addition to our dinner repertoire. Thanks!

  27. Kristin G

    This stew is AMAZING! I tested this recipe out last weekend as an option for a lunch party that is upcoming, and it was a DEFINITE winner. I will be making it for my friends and am so excited to share it with them! I will also be making the salsa verde alone in the future, it was delicious!

  28. MartaLee

    I’ve made 3 versions of this – my 3rd was the best. Instead of the stew – I used the sauce for chicken enchiladas. MMMMM!! Also – I am sure it was the tomatillos that were available. They were very large and juicy which made a huge difference – sweet not sour.

  29. Gayane

    Oh my gosh. This turned out so awesome. Hot and sour. Loved it. Thanks

  30. Katie @ goodLife {eats}

    This was fantastic! I subbed 1 lb. of the chicken for some black beans, but other than that I didn’t make any changes. I served sour cream and homemade baked corn tortilla chips with it. I definitely want to grow tomatillos this summer. Thanks!

  31. Bonnie

    I think this is a MOST wonderful twist to anything I have cooked in my kitchen for a long time! It was a brand new taste treat and my family absolutely loved it! I added diced potatoes to it to make it more Canadian friendly ;) Yum Yum!

  32. Jenny

    I just made this stew for dinner and thought it was delicious! The only problem I had was the chicken breast being a little dry. I used a mix of breast and thighs and found that the thighs were more tender. Next time I’ll make it with all thighs. I also added a bit more sugar to the tomatillo sauce, than the recipe calls for. I thought it was a bit too tangy for my taste. Other than that, it was a great dish, served it over rice, yum!

  33. Jason

    Thanks for the great recipe, pictures, etc. Just made this for dinner tonight and it was a big hit. I used two Anaheim chiles instead of the chiles called for in the recipe (what I had in the refer) and it turned out great. I roasted them along with the tomatillos and threw all of it in the cuisinart. I think I am going to use half butter and half oil next time I saute the chicken, as I think a little richness would make this incredibly tasty dish even a little better. Thanks!

  34. Carole

    I really like the beautiful step by step photos. They are asthetically pleasant, mouth watering and give me the clear answers to the procedural questions I had in mind! Thank you so much.

  35. Glenn

    I’ve always wondered, and I see this a lot, why these recipes always recommend slightly more serrano peppers than jalapenos, when in fact the serrano is actually a “hotter” pepper.

    At least for the serranos that I grow, they tend to be a quarter of the size of a jalapeno. ~Elise

  36. Dawn, Putnam County New York

    The first time I made this all of the neighbors wanted to know what I was cooking because it smelled so good. Once they tried it we were all hooked. I had never had tomatillos before but now I make this about every 3 weeks. It is also a great for serving to a group of people with rice. Thank you for sharing this absolutely wonderful recipe.

  37. Monica

    This dish was wonderful! I received a bunch of tomatillos in my CSA box and didn’t know what to do with them! This recipe was very easy to follow and didn’t require any other special ingredients. I made the stew along with some Organic Brown Rice from Trader Joe’s. This one is definitely a keeper! Thank you for sharing!

  38. Rick

    My goodness, this is fantastic! I especially love the brightness the lime juice adds to the dish. Great stuff, as always.

  39. Sharon

    Thank you so much for this recipe. It looked too good not to try & was even better than I imagined. I also added a can of Cuban Style beans from Trader Joe’s. Both my husband and I would’ve eaten the entire pot but forced ourselves to show some self control. Absolutely wonderful in taste & appearance. Your pictures & directions make it all the more enticing. Without a doubt this will be a regular on the menu.

  40. vero

    I did not have coriander but otherwise this was a big hit in my house. My husband made me make more tomatillo sauce for salsa a few hours after we finished this up, my kids ate with ease and my fil even liked it. A+++

    I used two serranos and one jalapeno and removed the seeds for my kids.

  41. Rachel Perlow

    I haven’t made this yet, but I was looking for a green chicken chili type recipe to use as a tamale filling. I plan to use skinless chicken legs on the bone and less stock during cooking. Cool it. Debone and shred chicken and use it as a tamale filling for a party (with a bit of mexican string cheese). I think they’ll be a big hit. Since I need a mild version and a hotter version, I’ll make it as is with one deseeded jalapeno. Then, after filling the mild tamales, I’ll add a can of chopped green chili and maybe some hot sauce to spice things up for a hotter tamale. I can tell just from reading the recipe and comments they’ll turn out great.

    For the person looking to make this in her slow cooker… I think if she uses on the bone skinless legs and doesn’t roast the tomatilloes, but just cut them up, it would work in her slow cooker. Just don’t use breasts in the crock pot! They’ll be totally dried out.

  42. Nina

    When looking for something different to do with boneless chicken breasts out of the freezer and to use up a jar of Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde before its “use by” date, I came across this recipe. It was really, really good and something I will try again making the tomatillo sauce from scratch one day.

    Served it with some cheesy mushroom quesadillas on the side and a spinach salad with avocado, pepitas and a lime vinqaigrette. All around a yummy dinner, inspired by your recipe, Elise.

    I wonder if there is a significant difference in the liquidity of the from-scratch sauce vs the jarred, because it was a bit brothy. But, hey, that’s what spoons are for!

    Really good – thanks for the recipe!

  43. Sonja

    I found this recipe because I had some Salsa Verde that I needed to use up and it has become a family favorite. Last time I made it I threw in a couple of cubed potatoes and everyone at the table gave it 5 stars! Thanks so much for posting it.

  44. Sheri Birch

    One day I came to my girls garden with them and I found Some odd looking plants that smelled like tomatoes. I asked them if they knew what it was. They said they didn’t know. A few weeks later I found out what it was. My daughter went to google just to make sure they were tomatillos and they were.

  45. amanda

    elise, this was delicious! i was given 4# tomatillos and some garlic from a friends garden, and had jalapenos and oregano from my own. i also spent the day today making your chicken feet stock, so at the end of the night i just threw all of those things together and this was just delicious on a chilly autumn evening, especially since im nuring a cold. thanks so much! and, the tomatillo sauce is PHENOMENAL just on its own, too. best ive had, and ridiculously simple. youre the best. thanks.

  46. kim

    Excellent recipe. Although it was my first time cooking with tomatillos and the recipe required some preparation time, it was well worth it!!! I would highly recommend this to anyone and I plan on cooking it again. Thank you so much for sharing!!

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