Tomatillo Chicken Stew

ChickenTomatillo

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

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.

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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

  • 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 pounds 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 tablespoons lime (or lemon) juice
  • Pinch of sugar

Stew

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra virgin 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.

Tomatillo Chicken Stew

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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78 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Holli

    This soup had wonderful flavor, even after I discovered that my cilantro was not fresh enough to go in the pot! I imagine it would only have been that much better with the cilantro in it! Delicious recipe!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. amy

    5 plus stars!!! This recipe has been one of our favorite regular recipes for several years. I usually have 1 or 2 tomatillo plants in my garden each year. I make tons of this and freeze it in 2 cup portions. It is one of my favorite ways of having a taste of summer in the cold winter. Easy weeknight dinner, filling and fantastic flavors.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Sharon

    I purchased a produce box from the farmers market and inside were tomatillos. I had never made anything with them myself. I did a search for tomatillo recipes and this one popped up right away. Coincidently, I had all the other ingredients and after reading all the reviews, thought I’d give it a go. Wow! Every bit as wonderful and delicious as all the reviews stated! I was thrilled something I made tasted THIS good! (I don’t consider myself a very creative nor terrific cook.) I’ll definitely be making this again!

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
  4. carol

    VERY GOOD!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Roman

    This was delicious!!!! This was the first time I used tomatillos and it turned out amazing.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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