Tomatillo Chicken Stew

Spicy tomatillo chicken stew puts tender chicken thighs and tomatillos to good use. Use canned or fresh tomatillos in this chicken stew recipe.

Tomatillo Chicken Stew
Elise Bauer

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

Why Roast Tomatillos

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).

Elise Bauer

Controlling the Heat in This Recipe

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.


Watch This Tomatillo Chicken Stew Recipe

Make a Vegetarian Tomatillo Stew

To make a vegan version, swap out the chicken broth with vegetable broth. Readers suggested swapping chicken for jackfruit as well.

If you don't have access to canned jackfruit, you can also replace the chicken with your choice of beans, like pinto, navy, kidney, black, or any combination of your favorite beans.

Shortcut Chicken Tomatillo Stew 

You could make this dish easier by using meat from a rotisserie chicken or using any cooked leftover chicken (or even turkey) you have leftover.

Skip step 2 in the recipe below, and add the cooked poultry in step 4.

Want More Heat? Try This!

If you like a little extra fire in your stews, add more jalapeños and/or serranos, including the seeds. Or you can put in roasted habañeros or bonnet peppers, if you're feeling really adventurous. For less heat, leave out the peppers, or try a milder poblano, hatch or anaheim pepper.

You can also add paprika, chile powder, or cayenne with the cumin and coriander while cooking the onions for a different type of heat.

Tomatillo Stew for Later

Got a bumper crop of tomatillos? Double the recipe and freeze. Or make the tomatillo sauce and freeze as a base for future stews.

You can store any leftovers in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. For longer storage, freeze the stew in airtight container for up to 3 months.

Best to defrost in the refrigerate overnight before reheating. But you can also heat directly from the freezer. Just microwave it a little bit to loosen it from its container, then reheat over medium-low heat in a pot on the stove-top. Stir, occasionally to make sure any frozen chunks are distributed and to keep the bottom from burning.

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Tomatillo Chicken Stew

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 60 mins
Servings 4 servings

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

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


For the Tomatillo Sauce

  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos

  • 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, or 2 to 3 serrano peppers (include the seeds if you want the heat, remove them if you don't want the heat), chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons lime (or lemon) juice

  • Pinch sugar

For the 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 medium yellow onions, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock

  • 2 cups tomatillo sauce (see above)

  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped

  • 1/2 cup packed chopped cilantro

For Serving


  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 to 7 minutes until blackened in spots. Let cool enough to handle.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer

    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, brown the chicken pieces on two sides. Add more olive oil when necessary.

    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.w

    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.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer

    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 spices, then 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.

    Elise Bauer
  4. Make the stew:

    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.

    Elise Bauer
  5. Serve over rice with optional sour cream:

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

Tomatillo Chicken Stew
Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
569 Calories
25g Fat
29g Carbs
61g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 569
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 25g 32%
Saturated Fat 7g 33%
Cholesterol 279mg 93%
Sodium 1859mg 81%
Total Carbohydrate 29g 10%
Dietary Fiber 7g 25%
Total Sugars 15g
Protein 61g
Vitamin C 45mg 226%
Calcium 85mg 7%
Iron 5mg 29%
Potassium 1620mg 34%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.