Tomatillo Chicken Stew

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

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


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


  • 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)


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.

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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.

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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.

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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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  • Jess Spillane

    So delicious! I used shredded chicken (done in the crock pot) instead of chicken pieces. My picky family loved it.


  • lisa

    this was beyond amazing. my family loved it. i served with corn tortilla and cilantro lime rice. omg just thinking about it now makes me want to have it tonight. thank you


  • Vicki

    Amazing recipe! I did the fresh tomatillos the first time, but now I just use a large jar of tomatillo salsa. To me it tastes the same and so much easier. I’ll also dice in leftover roasted or grilled bell peppers if I have them. My family asks for this on a regular basis! Thanks!


  • Tarra

    So easy and delicious! I didn’t have quite enough tomatillos so I subbed a few red tomatoes and they added some sweetness to the stew. I would probably do that if I made it again. I might even add some potatoes and carrots in and make this a whole meal. Highly recommended this one!


  • Rebecca

    Loved it! Reminds me of the exact recipe I use for chicken posole. The only thing missing is the hominy. So good browning the onions and chicken! A keeper!


  • Kelly McManus

    Definitely one of the best recipes I’ve ever made. I’ve been a chef for almost 10 years and I can easily say this is one of my favorites. The perfect amount of prep and cooking time as well. Can’t wait to make it at my next dinner. Thanks Simply Recipes


  • Chad

    Easy and delicious. Put an extra batch in freezer. We served w corn tortillas vs rice


  • Rachel Hendrickson

    I just discovered your blog with this recipe! I made the stew for a Sunday family dinner, and it was FABULOUS! I added a 7-oz drained can of fire-roasted Ortega diced green chilis to the Tomatillo Sauce because no one other than me can tolerate chili peppers; I used the fresh tomatillos broiled as you suggested and everyone raved that the sauce was so bright and fresh-tasting. I used chicken tenders and generously sprinkled epazote on them as well as kosher salt and black pepper before browning them whole; then I chopped the tenders up into 1/2″ pieces. This made the browning process much easier for me. In Step 4 I added 2 bay leaves to the browned chicken, tomatillo sauce etc and, as another reviewer suggested, served the stew over brown rice, with warm corn tortillas, and garnished with avocado slices and a cilantro sprig. Everyone voted this #1 fave for family Sunday dinners; but this week I’m trying your Tilapia with Olives, Mushrooms & Tomatoes and I’m betting it will be another winner. Thanks for your blog!


    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Rachel, thanks so much for your comment! I’m so glad you like the recipe. I love the idea of serving the stew over brown rice. And of course avocado slices and cilantro are a must!

  • Kimberly

    I wish I would give this a 10! I made this today and omg! There are soooo many flavors. The recipe was easy to follow and my stew came out perfect. I used two jalapeños with the seeds and it was just the right level heat. GREAT recipe, thank you!


  • LindaWood

    You’ve heard the term “Flavor Explosion”? Wow – I just tasted the stew to see if it needed anything. Nope. Nothing needed. Incredible flavor, perfect heat, just amazing. Thanks, Elise! I knew you would have some great ideas for my tomatillos! xoxo


  • Deanna

    Yummy! My whole family really enjoyed this (kids too – I de-seeded both the jalapeños!). And the smell of the onions cooking in the chicken pan, with the cumin, coriander and garlic was seriously swoon-y! Thanks for the great recipe and the clear instructions. :-D


  • Daniel

    Awesome! One of the best recipes I’ve ever tried. So many flavors! Thank you!


  • Paul

    Super easy, especially with a 28 oz. can of tomatillos! I added some pimientos for a little color and should have included the seeds/ribs from the jalapenos for more heat. I ended up using corn starch to thicken it and avoided the rice. Topped each bowl with a half of an avocado and cilantro and a tortilla on the side: Delicious!


  • Vero

    Made this, only I altered it a bit so I could make it in my Instant Pot. I tossed my frozen chicken in so I didnt get to brown it, but it was so delicious. Adding this to the rotation. Thanks!!


  • Jenn

    How many cups of tomatillo sauce does the recipe yield?

  • 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!

    • Elise Bauer

      I’m so glad you like the stew Poppy! And I do believe that cooking is more fun when you create something you really love to eat. :-)

  • 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.

  • Kelly

    This is one of my family’s favorite dinners. My husband requested it for his birthday! The last time we made it, we only had purple tomatillos that we had grown in our garden and it turned out just as good as the stew that we made with the green tomatillos, just with a slightly sweeter taste. Thank you for such a great recipe!
    One way that I have cut down on hands-on prep time is by roasting the chicken thighs in a pan in the oven. When they have browned and cooked on both sides, I take them out and cut them up to put in the stew.

  • Jessica

    I just made this tonight and loved it! Even my picky husband liked it though he’d have preferred it a little spicier (2 jalapenos is just about my limit though!!). Didn’t make any changes except for omitting the ground coriander as my supermarket didn’t have it. Would definitely make it again!

  • 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!!

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Rick

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • Gayane

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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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. ;)

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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…..

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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

  • gina

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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!!!


  • 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

  • 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

  • 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!

  • Charlene

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


  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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.