Turkey Chile Verde

Chile VerdeTurkey

Chile verde made with turkey thigh meat and homemade tomatillo salsa verde.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

We have an abundance of tomatillos in our garden this year. Whereas the tomatoes have been suffering from too much water early in the season, too little heat, nematodes and wilt, the tomatillos we planted are vigorous. A couple volunteers from last year’s crop that are having a good time of it as well.

Are you familiar with tomatillos? They look like small-ish green tomatoes, but surrounded by a papery husk.

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It’s best to pick tomatillos while they are still green, if you wait too long, they can lose their distinctive tartness. The best thing to make with them is salsa verde, or green salsa, which you can then use in all sorts of dishes.

Garden Tomatillo

With this weeks bounty we decided to make a Mexican chile verde, but instead of using pork which is traditional, using turkey thighs instead.

By the way, chile verde made in state of New Mexico is made with Hatch green chiles. Chile verde made in most of Mexico is made with tomatillos. It’s the tomatillo salsa verde that makes the dish green.

So, same name, different dish. The dish we’re working on today is the tomatillo variety.

I have found that turkey needs more help, when it comes to seasoning, than pork. It also greatly benefits from a little smoky flavor.

So, I’ve added more spice than I would normally with a pork chile verde, and also included some chipotle chile powder for a touch of smoky flavor. But the amounts are just guidelines, and depend so much on your specific ingredients, and taste.

By the way, my dad says “let your readers know that this food critic gives it 5 stars.” My mom just brought over a huge bowl of tomatillos from her garden (as if I don’t have enough) and wants me to make it again. Enjoy!

Turkey Chile Verde Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 4 hours
  • Yield: Serves 8


Salsa verde:

  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh green tomatillos
  • 5 cloves garlic, peel ON
  • 1 jalapeno, stems and seeds removed, chopped*
  • 2 poblano chiles
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, rinsed, roughly chopped, including stems
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • Pinch sugar


  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless turkey thighs**
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch of ground cloves

* You can moderate the heat of this dish with the seeds from the jalapenos. Taste the tomatillo sauce after you blend it. If it needs more heat, blend in some of the jalapeno seeds.

** If you can only get bone-in, skin-on, that's okay. Remove the skin and discard or save it to use it to make turkey bacon. Cut as much meat as you easily can away from the bone, and then cook the meaty bone with the turkey chunks. Remove the bone when the meat is cooked and shred the meat from the bone.


1 Roast the poblano chiles: Roast the poblano chiles over a gas burner or under a broiler, until blackened almost all over. Place chiles in a paper bag, close the bag, and let the chiles steam in their own heat for a few minutes.

Remove the chiles from the bag, remove the charred skin, the stem and the seeds. (For a step-by-step, see How to roast chile peppers over a gas flame.)

2 Broil the tomatillos: Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos. Rinse the tomatillos with water (they may be a little sticky).

Slice the tomatillos in half and place cut-side-down on a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil. Toss the garlic cloves (peel on) in with the tomatillos.

Cook under a broiler until lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes. Let cool to the touch, then remove the garlic cloves from their skins.

3 Make the salsa verde: Place tomatillos, garlic, jalapeño, poblanos, cilantro, salt, lime juice, and sugar in a blender. Start on a low speed and then increase the blender speed and purée until smooth. Set aside (can make a day ahead and refrigerate until needed).

4 Prepare the turkey thigh meat: Cut the turkey thigh meat into 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks, cutting away and discarding any tough gristly bits or big pieces of fat. Pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

turkey meat for chile verde

5 Brown the turkey: Heat olive oil in a large (6 to 8 qt) Dutch oven or high-sided sauté pan on medium high or high heat (hot enough to sear the meat).

Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan (a crowded pan will make it harder for the meat to brown), sear the chunks of turkey on all sides (do not stir the meat in the pan until they have browned well). Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

brown turkey meat for chile verde

6 Sauté onions, add garlic: Add the chopped onion and the cumin to the pot, and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).

Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds more.

saute onions for turkey chile verde

7 Add turkey, tomatillo sauce, stock, spices to pot: Return the turkey to the pot. Add the tomatillo sauce and the chicken stock.

Add the chipotle powder, oregano, bay leaves, and ground clove. Add a teaspoon of salt, and a little freshly ground black pepper.

add salsa verde to browned turkey in pan for chile verde

8 Simmer 3 to 4 hours: Bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to low (enough to maintain a low simmer), while the pot stays uncovered. Cook for 3 to 4 hours, uncovered, until the turkey is tender.

If at some point you think that too much liquid is going to evaporate, cover the pan. Otherwise keep it uncovered. You want the sauce to become more concentrated. Adjust seasonings to taste. You may need to add more salt than you would expect.

Serve in a bowl, with chopped fresh cilantro, and sides such as chopped avocado, thinly sliced lettuce that has been seasoned with vinegar and salt, sliced radishes, thinned sour cream or crema fresca, and with fresh heated tortillas or tortilla chips. Or serve with rice and beans, or wrapped up in a large flour tortilla, burrito style.

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Pork chile verde from here on Simply Recipes

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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13 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Olivia

    I really enjoyed this recipe. I had to substitute Serrano for Anaheim/Poblano since our grocery store was out. I also used left over thanksgiving turkey breast. Since it was already cooked and tender, I skipped the turkey frying steps (steps 4 & 5) and added the chopped turkey directly to the tomatillo salsa with spices. I cooked for about an hour on low heat and it was DELICIOUS. I like the addition of chipotle which was not something I have tried in the past. Thanks for the great recipe- will def be back for more.


  2. L

    I’d like to try with chicken or with ground turkey – what would be a conversion to an instant pot or slow cooker?

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Mary

    Made this yesterday! I used chicken thighs and upped the cumin to a tablespoon! It was a perfect pot of verde! Thank you so much!


  4. Upstate Chili Man

    AWESOME RECIPE!! I made this and won our community chili cook-off two years in a row for best non-traditional chili. The first time I made it, I followed the recipe exactly except I used leftover smoked pulled pork I had in the freezer. To serve as a standalone chili, I also added black beans and corn near the end of the cooking time to make it a bit more hardy and stretch to feed the masses. I now find myself smoking pork butts all the time just to make this. Our chili cook-off is coming up this Saturday and I am smoking the butt tomorrow. I find making this a day ahead, it is even better the next day. Need to defend my (and Elise’s) title! Thanks.


  5. Kristen Smith

    Absolutely delicious. I substituted with ground turkey, and this was just excellent! Hanging on to this recipe!


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